This month’s Superlatives is a Brasilian that you might find very different from most others — full of fruit and sugar cane sweetness, Obatã is another hybrid varietal that is distinctly unique, roasted by Five Elephant in Berlin.
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About the coffee:
Farm: Novo Canaã
Producers: João Hamilton, in collaboration with Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza
Harvest Season: Current Harvest (2017)
Plant Varietal: Obatã
Coffee Type: Natural Process
Drying Method: Raised Beds
Farm location and other characteristics:
Province: Caconde, São Paulo
Growing Altitude: 1300 – 1380 masl
The bean: Obatã
Obatã is another hybrid, developed at the IAC (Instituto de Agronomia de Campinas) in the city of Campinas, São Paulo. The IAC researched and developed Obatã over a number of years, before releasing the varietal commercially in 2000. In the never-ending fight against leaf-rust disease, to increase yields, and combat climate change, Obatã is yet another arrow in the quiver.
There is a long genetic trail of crossings behind Obatã, beginning with the original Hibrido de Timor crossed with Villa Sarchi. This was followed by crossings with Sarchimor and Mundo Novo, which after several attempts led to Tupi, which was crossed with Red Catuai, leading to the varietal Red Obatã. This is around 95% arabica, with the remaining 5% robusta. Obatã has quite the varied history.
Obatã is a difficult plant to grow, taking around 330 days to reach full maturation. However this is well suited to the sometimes colder and wetter climate around the North Eastern regions of Brazil. High yielding, leaf-rust resistant, and with an ability to grow lower while still producing quality coffee — Obatã fulfils the promise of hybrids as a valid direction for the future of specialty coffee.
The story of how Five Elephant became involved with this bean is beautifully told here, compiled from the notes of Felipe Croce of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. It’s a fascinating story! And so are the farmers!
The farmers: João Hamilton
João, along with his brother Ivan Dos Santos, originally planted coffee on their farm destined for the commodity market. This was, and remains, a market based on securing yields based on quantity without thought for quality, usually achieved through heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. These unsustainable farming practices along with the reality of variable and unsustainable commodity prices, led João and his brother to instead look to the specialty coffee market for a solution.
Here they wholeheartedly embraced science. They separated their beans into distinct micro-lots based on varietals, employed a systematic approach to cupping and testing all areas of their production, while monitoring and documenting every step they took.
With the Obatã they took what Five Elephant considered a revolutionary step — they fully controlled the natural process of drying, allowing them to double the drying time to over 30 days. This was achieved without any kind of fermentation usually associated with the natural drying process, especially when stretched out over this period. The results are a clean cup, no funk, with explosive tropical fruits and sugar cane.
Five Elephant have some beautiful words to say on the brothers, while Marcos from Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza translated their amazing story while at Nordic Roasters Forum in 2012.
Five Elephant roasted and cupped the Obatã to a different water profile than what’s achieved with the Barista Hustle water recipe. If you’d like to replicate this using our BH concentrations, follow the recipe to make your buffer and magnesium concentrates here, then use this recipe:
- 62.5g Buffer
- 30.5g Mg
- 907g DI water
Brewing and tasting notes:
Five Elephant went above and beyond with this video content; it’s truly inspiring.
German Barista and AeroPress Champion Chloe Nattrass walks us through her aeropress routine here.
Latvian Barista and Cup Tasting Champion Jānis Podiņš shows us his pourover style with a Kalita here.
Five Elephant’s Head Roaster Wojciech Białczak shows us the importance of the red button to his roasting philosophy here.
There was a clarity to the cup with the Obatã that was incredibly pleasant — this really is a fun coffee! Same brew parameters as the Tabi from Koppi and The Illubabor from Talor & Jørgen. However this coffee never really suited a gushing 20 second shot — it needs a little extra time to extract from frozen beans. Around 30 seconds I found a beautiful balance of tropical fruit, with the sugar cane sweetness and body really shining if I stretched the shot out to 40 seconds. As the cup cooled the flavours changed to a mellow fruit flavour with an incredibly balanced acidity. Again, this really is a fun coffee!
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