1850 - 2040
Neira, Caldas Colombia
Dulce Misterio (Sweet Mystery).
Dulce Misterio is one of our newest providers, coming from a very different background than most other specialty growers.
Mauricio Duque, 51, used to have a conventional coffee exporter - a big company. With the changing world order brought by the pandemic, in 2020 his company went out of business and he all of a sudden had the most priced resource available - time.
He decided to fulfill his lifelong dream: producing the best Colombian specialty coffee. He wanted to achieve this in a sustainable and clean/natural way - something very conspicuous when observing his processing and crop management.
In 2016 he started to look for a farm that met his needs - especially those regarding soil characteristics and elevation. In 2019 he bought a farm near Neira (Caldas), that surpassed his expectations - hence the name of his business: Dulce Misterio (Sweet Mystery). The complete farm has 13 hectares and is 100% coffee, ranging from 1,850m to 2,040m. He says that particular mountain has very unique soil characteristics, where every single crop has sweeter than usual attributes, that can also be confirmed when measuring Brix Degrees in oranges, sugar cane and other fruits. To choose the farm he analyzed historical data from different competitions in Caldas, where he wanted to see if there was a specific area where most winners came from. It came down to two mountains, where Neira was his choice since, besides having great soil and altitude, it was just one hour away from his home.
He is a firm believer in clean and simple coffee processing - emphasizing that processing should enhance the attributes - the terroir.
During the different stages of the process he controls the following variables:
Brix degrees of the coffee that will be picked: every time coffee is going to be picked, the target ripeness for each varietal is defined using a refractometer to measure Brix degrees and establish the ideal picking color for the day.
During the fermentation phase the following variables are measured and controlled:
During the drying phase the following variables are measured and controlled:
Temperature: it must remain below 38 C°. To lower the temperature, they can open the sides of the parabolic drier.
Moisture: the person in charge of drying the coffee measures the moisture every few hours with an electronic moisture-meter.
Most of his coffee is processed as fully washed coffee in the following way:
1) The coffee is picked only in its optimum ripeness. For this, he has a set of growers that work with him year-round. These growers are trained on picking and they have a fixed amount paid, regardless of how much or how little coffee they pick in a day's work. This implies pickers don't have pressure or a need to pick large amounts of coffee where unripe cherries would probably be present.
2) The coffee is hand sorted, where under and over ripes are set aside and processed separately.
3) The coffee is floated/washed to get rid of unwanted materials and poor-quality beans, and to have cleaner coffee for the rest of the process.
4) The cherries are moved to closed plastic tanks where a 48-hour cherry fermentation takes place. The tanks are filled with 70kg of cherries and have a special valves so excessive gas pressure can be released.
5) The coffee is moved to the pulping machine, where it is pulped with a very small amount of water in order to take care of the mucilage that is very important for the next phase.
6) The coffee is moved to the same fermentation tanks in mucilage state, for a 48-hour mucilage fermentation.
7) The coffee is washed only once with a good amount of water and moved to the drying station.
8) Drying: the coffee is dried in African beds inside a parabolic drier, where every "lot" is separated. This implies that the coffee out of every fermentation tank is dried separately from the one in the next tank, in order to have better control and decide whether certain "lots" should be mixed or not (from the same varietal). For this, every African bed is marked with a piece of tape and a lot number that will be carried until the end of the process.
9) The coffee is dried until target moisture is reached (10-10.5%).