As a specialty coffee drinker you're probably familiar with coffee varieties like Bourbon, Caturra, Typica, or SL28. But how about Marsellesa and Starmaya?
Two of our most recent single-origin offerings are not only new to our lineup, but new to the coffee industry as a whole: these hybrids were bred in Central America over two decades beginning in the late 1990s and were only recently made available to commercial coffee growers.
The results have been very promising.
Both Marsellesa and Starmaya were bred by ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. in collaboration with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). Since 1999, the mission of ECOM's Sustainable Management Services arm has been "to improve the economic, social, environmental, and health conditions of coffee growers and their families." In keeping with that mission, these hybrids combat common hurdles for coffee growers that can make coffee production a money-losing operation: low or inconsistent yields and susceptibility to pests and coffee rust disease.
This Timor/Villa Sarchi cross was created in Nicaragua specifically for resistance to coffee rust. The small plants are high-yielding at medium altitudes and produce a coffee with prominent acidity.
Our Marsellesa Honey from Las Promesas in northwestern Nicaragua (pictured above), is light-bodied and pleasantly sweet-tart and lightly floral. The honey process mellows its acidity for a well-rounded cup with notes of Swiss chocolate, honeycomb, and rose hip.
Starmaya is a cross between Marsellesa and Ethiopian/Sudanese natural mutants found on a farm in Nicaragua in 2001—and the first-ever F1 (first-generation) hybrid able to be propagated by seed instead of in a lab. Consequently, World Coffee Research has said that Starmaya "may dramatically shift prospects for coffee producers in the years to come," while Daily Coffee News has written that it marks "a potential sea change in accessible coffee breeding."
Why? Basically, an easily-propagated, high-yielding plant that is resistant to coffee leaf rust and produces a high-quality cup lowers small farmers' barrier of entry into the specialty coffee market and increases their chance of long-term success.
Our Starmaya Red Honey was grown by Villa Triunfo in Costa Rica's Naranjo region (pictured at top of page) and processed at Pitalillo Wet Mill. The Red Honey process lends the coffee a fruit-forward profile—think marmalade and grape—and a creamy body. Semi-sweet chocolate is present throughout, and a note of cooling sage emerges in the finish. A beautifully balanced cup.
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As we know from our Direct Trade program, producers who can rely on steady income above C-market prices for quality harvests are able to invest in infrastructure, sustainability initiatives, and workers' pay over the long run.
But the proof is always in the cup. So far, we're duly impressed with the quality of Las Promesas' Marsellesa Honey and Villa Triunfo's Starmaya Red Honey—clearly the honey process is well-suited to these hybrids. And their future is bright.