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Rosé Bourbon: The New Favorite of Specialty Coffees?

New Favorite of Specialty Coffees

New Favorite of Specialty Coffees: It’s no secret that the specialty coffee industry loves exciting new Arabica varieties. This is especially noticeable in competitions .

At the 2023 World Barista Championship we saw two participants use Pink Bourbon. Interest in this variety, known for its light pink hue and complex flavor profile, has been growing for some time.

Despite this, very little verified information is available about the origins of rosé Bourbon. Of course, that limits our understanding of this unique variety.

Given that more and more roasters and cafes have started offering it in recent years, could it reach the success of Geisha or other similar varieties?

To find out more, I spoke with Rodrigo Sánchez Valencia, producer at Finca Monteblanco and Aromas del Sur ; Boram Um, co-owner of Um Coffee Co. and Fazenda Um , and with Isaiah Sheese, owner of Archetype Coffee . Keep reading and find out what they told me.

What is Pink Bourbon and where does it come from?

As with many other new or rediscovered varieties (or even species) of Arabica, the exact origin of Pink Bourbon is unknown.

Rodrigo is a producer and owner of Aromas del Sur, a cooperative that brings together all the farms he owns and manages. He is often credited with helping discover the rosé Bourbon variety.

As part of a joint effort between importers and exporters we were working with at the time, the Aromas del Sur team found the Pink Bourbon in 2013.” he says. “We believe it is originally from southern Huila, in Colombia .”

According to Rodrigo, the variety appeared for the first time in the San Adolfo area of ​​the municipality of Acevedo, in Huila, during the 1980s.

There is no verified information about their specific origins” he says. “When rust appeared in the region in the 80s, many producers began to grow this variety without knowing it. “It was resistant to disease, adapted very well to its environment and produced better crops.”

“We were one of the first producers to grow pink Bourbon as a commercial crop, so we started looking for other farmers who were growing smaller quantities and were unaware of its quality potential,” he adds.

Debunking Previous Allegations About Rosé Bourbon

It is common to hear that Pink Bourbon is a natural hybrid of the red and yellow Bourbon varieties ; However, recent research seems to have disproved this theory.

At the end of September 2023, Café Imports published an article in which they stated that, after carrying out genetic testing in collaboration with RD2 Vision, the Bourbon Rosado comes from an indigenous Ethiopian variety.

It is important to note that this research has not been scientifically verified, so the origin and heritage of the variety is not known with certainty.

Growing Pink Bourbon

Even under optimal environmental conditions, Bourbon rosé is difficult to grow properly. Growers not only have to meticulously care for the plants, but isolate them from other varieties to ensure successful cross-pollination .

Rodrigo, for his part, affirms that the resistance and productivity of rosé Bourbon are beneficial. “To date, we don’t know of any disease to which it is susceptible” he explains.

Boram is the 2023 World Barista Champion and in his winning routine he used Rosé Bourbon from his farm in Brazil. He says that his experience in growing this variety is different from Rodrigo’s, possibly due to the difference in terrain between Brazil and Colombia.

Pink Bourbon is very susceptible to certain diseases and fungi, so we grow it in a controlled and safe environment.” he says.

Isaiah Sheese placed fourth at the 2023 World Barista Championships and also used Pink Bourbon. He says he has noticed subtle differences in the variety’s physical characteristics.

“Some cherries are longer and thinner, like Geisha or Ethiopian landrace varieties ,” he explains. “Also, we have seen rounder, and therefore denser, cherries, which could be a result of their cultivation at higher altitudes.”

One of the most distinctive features of the variety is, of course, its light pink hue. “Cherries are orange or salmon colored,” says Rodrigo. “The plants also have more elongated leaves, light green or greenish yellow. “The younger leaves have a more orange color.”

What does it taste like?

Pink Bourbon not only stands out for its striking pink cherries but also for its sweet and complex flavor profile.

“It tends to be more acidic, like citrus flavors, with delicate white flower notes and a honey-like sweetness” Boram says.

Isaiah agrees, adding: “Pink Bourbon typically tastes like washed Ethiopian or Panamanian Geisha, with floral notes of pink lemonade, honeysuckle and jasmine, and a very refined silky texture.”

Rodrigo, for his part, usually perceives more tropical tasting notes. “It’s a very complex coffee, with hints of peach, papaya and melon, as well as more floral notes like jasmine, rose and green tea,” he says. “It is a very balanced coffee in terms of body and acidity.”

Use of different processing techniques to enhance certain flavors

As with other varieties, some specific processing methods can help Rosé Bourbon stand out even more.

Rodrigo explains that he has discovered that Pink Bourbon cherries contain greater amounts of sugar (or a higher Brix level) than other varieties, making them adaptable to different processing methods.

We can use a wide range of processing techniques, from conventional methods to more unique processes, such as cold fermentations and thermal shock.” he says. “Personally, in terms of complexity, I prefer to use cold fermentation.”

For Boram, the strain’s outstanding flavor profile worked well with anaerobic fermentation, leading him to choose it for his World Barista Championship routine.

“I have found that anaerobic fermentation processing methods bring out their best potential, but the key factor is drying the cherries properly,” he says. “We dry the coffee slowly in a dark room with controlled temperature and humidity and without ultraviolet light.”

“This way, we managed to highlight the sweet floral and honey notes more,” he adds. “Pink Bourbon is a fairly new variety in Brazil, so it is necessary that more producers try to grow it.”

For his participation in the World Barista Championship, Isaías used a rosé Bourbon obtained by one producer (Lucy Galíndez, from Finca Bella Vista in Colombia) and processed by another (Diego Bermúdez, from Finca El Paraíso). Diego is known for being the creator of the thermal shock process.

“We’ve always liked fully washed rosé Bourbon,” says Isaías. “When we tested it using Diego’s two-stage heat shock fermentation , the flavor notes stood out even more. “We were surprised.”

Roasting Bourbon Rosé

Roasters are increasingly offering more unique varieties, so they often have to adjust their roasting profiles to get the best results. Rosé Bourbon is no exception.

Isaiah worked with his team at Archetype Coffee to roast their competition coffee, intended for espresso .

“Compared to Washed Rosé Bourbon, the two-stage thermal shock processing method totally changes the way this coffee reacts to heat when roasted. It is similar to a naturally processed coffee,” he says. “Washed coffees usually require a more aggressive and direct treatment but you have to be more careful when roasting coffee processed by thermal shock.”

What’s more, to roast my competition coffee we use the Stronghold S7, a style of roaster very different from a traditional drum machine because it incorporates a halogen heat source” he adds.

Boram also had to adjust the roasting technique for its Brazilian Pink Bourbon, largely due to different weather conditions.

“Brazilian coffees are usually grown at lower altitudes and in a different type of terrain, so they tend to be less dense,” he says. “We roast the coffee for longer using lower temperatures to ensure proper development.”

Could the rosé Bourbon market grow in the coming years?

The market potential for rosé Bourbon is enormous and interest in this variety increases year after year. Equally, as increased production poses a number of difficulties for many farmers, we may not see this variety in as many cafes and roasteries in the coming years.

Rodrigo, however, believes that rosé Bourbon will occupy a permanent place in Colombia’s specialty coffee sector. “Pink Bourbon will continue to be one of the most important varieties in our market.” he states. “We are proud to be the pioneers in the cultivation of this coffee.”

Boram believes that the success that Rodrigo and other Colombian producers have experienced with this variety could help increase their production. “Since Colombia produces such quality rosé Bourbon, I trust that people’s interest in this variety will increase, even in Brazil,” he concludes.

In the specialty coffee sector, you are always on the hunt for the latest “in” variety. Now, more than ever, there are many options to choose from.

Rosé Bourbon is attractive for several reasons, including its complex and desirable flavor profiles. Therefore, this variety has the potential to become a favorite among specialty coffees, although it could take some time.


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