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Colombia Mesa de Los Santos and MDLS Special Reserve 100% Bourbon

May 10, 2005
Bob Yellin

I received two samples of MDLS for evaluation and comparison; one was a "Special Reserve 100% Bourbon", and the other, a non-reserve version. The reserve coffee was much the better of the two but there was nothing really negative to say about the non-reserve version, so I am showing the two reviews just as I cupped them; side-by-side, for comparison purposes. Mesa de los Santos is well known in the coffee world for being socially progressive and dedicated to environmental improvement (sustainability, bird-friendly, organic, etc.), and having cupped its products at various times in the past, I have found that it has its quality ups and downs, like many other coffees, ranging from good (average) to excellent but it never seems to fall below that range.

The prep on both samples was outstanding with very few defects evident in the more than a pound of each that I checked. I roasted the two samples with identical profiles for 8 minutes, stopping at 425F for cupping and re-roasting to 435F for further evaluation. The non-reserve coffee roasted more evenly of the two, hitting first crack at 398F and the reserve at 403F. The coffees were rested for about 14 hours before cupping. For more information on my roaster and method, see our reference page.

Before this evaluation began, I wasn't expecting a lot of difference between the two coffees, but was surprised to find that a difference there was, even though I had pre-programmed myself that they would probably cup about the same. I cupped them blind and found a depth and richness in the reserve coffee that wasn't present in the other. After mentioning the difference to Jim and out of curiosity, I re-roasted and re-cupped them blind, again, with fairly consistent results. The scores below reflect the second cupping. The roast recommendations below could apply to both.

The non-reserve coffee is very clean, very classic Colombian; a real "coffee"-tasting coffee with no sharp bends or anything out of place. It is medium-bodied, mild and sweet with good overall acidity and would satisfy all but the most discerning drinkers. But at the same time it was not very spectacular; just a good clean cup. I would recommend it as a solid "house" coffee or basis for a more complex blend.

The reserve coffee, on the other hand, has a complexity and depth not present in the other. This coffee is more intense and very sweet with deeper floral/fruity notes, medium body and higher acidity than the other, becoming tangier as it cooled, but never unpleasant. Roasted to full city, it shows caramel and spice with bitter-sweet chocolate notes. It was especially good as a french press and vac pot brew.

This is an excellent example of a fine Colombian. Tried as a straight shot espresso, it was quite zippy, very buttery with that malty/caramel flavor in the forefront though not much crema. As espresso I would use it as a decent mid-range blender with other less tangy, more crema-producing coffees in the blend.

Dry Fragrance: 4.1
Wet Aroma: 4.0
Flavor/Taste/Depth: 7.0
Finish/Aftertaste: 6.9
Brightness/Acidity: 7.6
Body/Movement/Mouth-Feel: 7.3
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 86.9

MDLS Special Reserve 100% Bourbon
Dry Fragrance: 4.6
Wet Aroma: 4.3
Flavor/Taste/Depth: 8.1
Finish/Aftertaste: 7.9
Brightness/Acidity: 8.2
Body/Movement/Mouth-Feel: 7.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 90.6

  • Lighter Roasts: Balanced, sweet, lively acidity.
  • Darker Roasts: Caramel, spice and bitter-sweet chocolate.
  • As Espresso: Not much persistent crema by itself. Could be used in a blend to provide livelyness and depth of flavor.


UPDATED: June 27, 2005