Current Roaster’s Pick: The Downshifter Half-Caff Blend
While at the Coffee Roaster’s Guild Retreat back in October, a roaster from St. Louis (Hey, Brian!) gave me the idea to try a half-caff blend at the roastery—equal parts decaf and a fully caffeinated coffee. He personally loved them as a midday cup and said that many of his clients liked the option as well. I immediately thought about our amazing EA Decaf from Colombia and its incredible sweetness. It would be an amazing blender, I thought.
As it turns out, it certainly is. I’ll tell you about it, but let’s start at the beginning.
Always Start with an Adventure: Story Behind the Half-Caff Coffee
In June of 2022, Andrew, Jeremy and I went on a trip to Colombia to meet producers and connect with some of the staff of Coffee Quest USA, a coffee importer that shares many of the same values as Aldea.
We landed in Neiva and spent six long, exciting days driving the red dirt roads of the department of Huila, visiting several coffee producers around Santa Maria and as far south as Garzon. Coffee trees interplanted with plantains and citrus grew more and more plentiful as we drove higher into the mountains. A flow of motorcyclists, always on our flanks, weaved in and out of the heavy traffic. Our driver who is also a coffee producer, Miller, would honk on occasion. A system. Honk once = chill out. Honking twice meant it was safe for the bikers to pass.
All the coffee farms were set on steep, volcanic mountain sides. Some communities had electric pulley systems with platforms strong enough to move a thousand pounds of coffee (or a Coffee Quest director and a couple Michiganders) down to the main roads. Some had gravity-fed tubes connecting two storage containers, allowing harvesters to send coffee cherries to the base of the hillside without having to lug the heavy sacks down the precarious, often muddy, slopes on foot.
It was an incredible experience, meeting so many kind and welcoming people along the way. They all invited us into their homes, and shared meals and music with us, with fried plantains and arepas always in abundance.
We have since brought on two coffees from Huila, Colombia into our coffee line up: a communal lot blend of several smallholders–some of whom we met on our trip–that makes up a third of our espresso blend; and a delicious EA Decaf, which so happens to be the same communal lot, but decaffeinated in a facility that is just down the road from the dry mill in Medellin, Colombia (pictured).
Both coffees are special and great for different purposes. But, together, they make a wonderful Half-Caff blend.
But wait, what does “EA” mean?
Great question. EA stands for ethyl acetate, a naturally occurring vinegar-like solution that is made by fermenting sugar cane, another burgeoning cash crop in Colombia, like coffee. Besides EA being a natural solvent that is safe for human consumption (often used as a flavor enhancer in the food industry), the coffee is decaffeinated right down the road from the dry mill in Medellin, where all the coffee is sorted, rested, and bagged.
For this reason, EA Decaf is also one of the most sustainable decaf processes available as it is decaffeinated at origin instead of far, far away (such as in Canada, where all Swiss Water Decaf is processed), decreasing its transit and overall carbon footprint. On top of all that, EA Decafs tend to keep the “origin” flavors of the coffee intact as compared to other decaffeination processes, making for a better end product as well.
In short, EA = extra awesome.
The Downshifter: Experimental Phase
After a bit of experimenting, I developed an accessible and crowd-pleasing half-caff blend: The Downshifter.
It is a post-roast blend of the two coffees from Huila mentioned above at a 50/50 ratio. I kept the Decaf profile the same, but used our Ikawa Pro100 sample roaster to experiment with the Colombian communal lot at different roast temps.
Although I did enjoy the blend using a lighter roast temp on the communal lot, I found a darker roast helped balance out a bit of the sugary sweetness of the decaf, giving the blend more of toasted marshmallow quality, rather than brown sugar. Raising the roast temp also mellowed the usual citrus notes to that of cherries. After a lot of sipping and enjoying, I’m excited to finally share it with you.
Introducing: The Downshifter Half Caff Blend
Like a cyclist downshifting gears to get up a hill, sometimes we need to downshift to get through a busy day. The Downshifter is a Half-Caff Blend for those needing to take their caffeine intake down a notch. It’s a beautifully balanced dark roast with notes of toasted marshmallows, nuts, and dried cherries.
Having these two coffees highlighted together is special, and their flavors will always take me back to the Coffee Quest dry mill where we first tried them. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Pick up a bag today! Only available in limited supply at our Muskegon and Grand Haven cafe locations.
Head Roaster, Aldea Coffee