The coffee profile is a classic antigua profile. It’s sweet, with lots of milk chocolate, malt and oatmeal notes. But it also has moments of berry notes, with sweet spices and orange undertones. It’s a coffee that I can’t imagine many people not liking - it’s the ultimate crowd pleaser.
If you want to read more about Tono and Bella Vista, well, I ain’t gonna stop you!
I first discovered this coffee from Tono Hernandez in 2013, and saw a lot of potential in it. Tono’s small lots of coffee are processed at Bella Vista mill, so in 2014 I worked with Luis Pedro Zelaya - owner of Bella Vista - to tweak the fermentation process. In 2015, Luis Pedro improved the drying - changing from the traditional concrete patio drying to raised beds.
Luis Pedro singled out Tono because of the exquisite coffees he was producing. But there were still improvements to be made. So, Luis Pedro started to work with him to improve the tree maintenance program on his farms. With Luis Pedro’s help, Tono was able to pre-finance fertilizer to apply the right amounts at the right time, not an easy task when you only get paid for three or four months of the year. This, along with technical advice on pruning, has helped Tono maximize his yields and quality.
When Tono delivers his coffee cherry to the mill, each lot is inspected and scored according to the percentage of ripe cherries. This determines the price that Tono receives and provides a financial incentive to improve the picking of cherries. Because Tono’s coffee is sold as a single producer coffee (as opposed to the blend), we pay him more for his coffee than he would have received as a blend member.
Once the cherry has been received at Bella Vista, Luis Pedro ferments, washes, and dries the coffee. We love working with him because he is committed to improving the quality of all the coffees that he processes. He is always willing to try new things that might improve the quality, efficiency, or consistency of the coffee.
After successful experiments in 2014/2015, all of Tono’s coffees are fermented in small bins. This helps to improve the quality because it is difficult to get complete fermentation of small lots in the large tanks that the mill normally uses. The smaller bins allow for faster and more controlled fermentation that reduces the chances of fermentation defects developing in the cup.
One of the more recent improvements in this coffee was in the dry-milling. The dry mill is the final step that coffee goes through before it’s packed for export. This is where quality can be easily degraded if top-notch equipment isn’t used or if someone takes their eye off the ball. Over the past few years, Luis Pedro has invested in improving the dry mill equipment and taking better care of the coffee during this fragile stage. He has a new milling machine which greatly reduced the coffee’s temperature rise during milling - the old machine used to cause the green coffee to heat up, which can result in bad consequences for the quality of the coffee. The second improvement was in the colour selection stage - here the coffee goes through a machine which eliminates off-coloured green coffee (these are mostly defective beans that would negatively affect quality). These machines are known as “electronic eye” and there is a huge range in the quality of these machines and Luis Pedro invested in some high end electronic eye machines which have totally improved the final coffee.