Back in 2021 we were thrilled to be asked by our long-term partners at Daterra if we would like our own plot at the farm on which to run an experiment new to coffee. This experiment was to be of our own devising, and could involve a new variety, a new process, or a longer-term agricultural project.
When devising the project Daterra sent us a list of varieties with which we could experiment. One of these varieties, Arara, displays characteristics of great cup quality, and high resistance to coffee leaf rust, but a susceptibility to parasitic nematode worms.
Around the same time, Tom was reading 'Entangled Life' by Merlin Sheldrake, which tells the story of fungi’s essential role in the natural world, and its huge potential to “change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster”. One passage noted the ability of certain fungi to attack nematodes:
“Some fungi grow adhesive nets or branches to which nematodes stick. Some use mechanical means, producing hyphal nooses which inflate in a tenth of second when touched ensnaring their prey. Some… produce hyphal stalks capped with a single toxic droplet that paralyses nematodes, giving the hypha enough time to grow through their mouth and digest the worm from the inside.”
This moment of serendipity informed the long-term agricultural project that we are undertaking at Daterra, inoculating the soil with different strains of fungi to see what effect it has on an existing crop of Arara that is currently blighted by nematodes.
The plot has been divided so as to receive 6 different treatments, and over the coming years, alongside the team of agronomists at Daterra, we will be monitoring the effects of the treatment in terms of plant health and productivity, nematode population in the soil, and cup profile.
This particular lot comes from the first harvest from Our Plot since the treatments were applied. We cupped the coffees with the different treatments at Daterra after the most recent harvest, and although it is too early to draw any conclusions, one particular treatment was cupping higher than the others. We will be monitoring this with the next harvest to see if a trend develops, and will share any news with you accordingly.
This time round, the crop from Our Plot was harvested together as a whole, and processed three ways - natural, aerobic and anaerobic. We will be releasing each of these processes, with the aerobic process first to take the stage.
The ripe cherries are subject to a 48 hour aerobic fermentation in open tanks before being laid out on patios to dry in the sunshine. The resulting cup is sweet, balanced and juicy, with notes of honey, nectarine and pineapple.