One of the happiest days of my life, apart from the day my twins were born, obviously, is when I heard The Barn Berlin was opening their first international shop in Dubai, where I now live. I was excited because I would have easier access to their coffee, which I have been enjoying for years. And I was excited because I might have the chance to meet the man behind it all, founder and CEO, Ralf Rüller.

And thanks to Gautam, founder of the UAE’s most reputable retailer of coffee equipment, Brewing Gadgets, I did. Not only did I meet Ralf, I had the chance to interview him. And it was the best conversation I’ve had in ages. He was everything I hoped he would be. And so much more.

They say you should never meet your heroes. I’m here to say you should. Here’s why.

So when Ralf invited me to join him for an exclusive tasting of 2 new coffees they are serving in Dubai, I jumped at the chance.

You’ll find clips of my time with Ralf on my instagram page. We chatted coffee trends. The pandemic. The importance of having a relationship with farmers, especially during the pandemic. And I discovered that Ralf was not overstating things when he said these are the most amazing coffees I’ll ever have.

Cerro Azul Gesha Napoleon

The Cerro Azul is in a class of its own.

The Barn has never bought a coffee at this price point before – it was 3 times more expensive than their previous natural Gesha natural from the same farm. I could taste why Ralf expects this rare coffee to sell out very quickly. This is the highest level of competition coffee that will give you an unparalleled coffee experience. Scoring: > 91.5

The Cup

This is the most unusual cup The Barn has ever tasted – a completely new flavour experience. Wild and boozy. Sweet plum, pineapple and cherries are supported by heavy notes of spiced rum. The aftertaste is sweet like brown sugar with notes of red fruits and jasmine. The Barn’s roast team described this coffee as being wild with a silky body.

The Name

Cerro Azul started experimenting with Geshas exposing them to long fermentations to create funky flavours. Their first successful Gesha was called Gesha X.O. as a reference to Cognac that is fermented in oak tanks for more than ten years. Their absolute premium anaerobic Gesha is called Napoleon, like the premium Cognac. The processing is absolutely top notch with a very tight protocol around picking and processing.

The Varietal

Gesha Coffee is rare and it is rated as one of the best coffees in the world. The plant was originally discovered in south-western Ethiopia in the 1930s. Daniel Peterson of Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama famously re-discovered this exquisite coffee plant in 2004. The Peterson family started auctioning off their Gesha coffees and they are breaking world record prices for their lots. In 2018 one of their lots was sold at 340 USD per lbs.

Based on the success of Hacienda La Esmeralda, coffees farmers have bought Gesha seedlings from Panama to recreate the amazing flavour profiles of this coffee on their own terroir.

The Producer

Granja La Esperanza was established in 1945 by Blanca and Juan Antonio Herrera. Many years later, Rigoberto and Luis showed special interest in coffee production and processing. They decided to give a new direction to this product, changing the crops to organic in the late 90’s.

In the year 2007, Don Rigoberto had the chance to lease and manage a coffee farm in the region of Boquete in Panama, called “La Carleida”, and a year later obtained first place in the “Best coffee of Panama”, organized by the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama. At this point he decided to bring some of the Geisha seeds to Colombia, starting a new era in the history of Granja La Esperanza.

It specializes in the production and commercialization of specialty coffee varietals, facing huge challenges as the adaptation of these varietals to the Colombian soil and climate conditions are quite difficult. The profiles that Granja La Esperanza created are highly recognized.

Source: Cafe Granja La Esperanza Cerro Azul

The Farm

Granja La Esperanza manages 3 farms: Cerro Azul, Potosi, and Las Margaritas, across three mountain ranges in Cauca. All of them are unique due to very distinct microclimates. Cerro Azul is exposed to high elevation, strong winds and, most importantly, temperatures changes from day to night that create fantastic acidity. During the day, warm winds from the valleys support very consistent drying.

The Processing

Cerro Azul are known for their very detailed processing. Picking is very selective and happens more often than seen on regular coffee farms. The depulping is done without using any water.

Fermentation time for Gesha Napoleon is 168 hours (7 days) and it takes place in special tanks. Oxygen is completely removed and the temperature in the tanks is checked twice a day.

Because the wet mill is located in a place where the sun hits in the afternoon, the tanks are placed under a roof and half surrounded by water helping temperature to maintain a range of 20 – 23º C.

Drying starts in a mechanical dryer to dehydrate until cherries have a moisture of around 30% then they are moved to solar drying for around 5 more days depending on the weather. The coffee is then left in parchment in storage for 3 months to help stabilize the profile.

Yemen Alchemy

This is one of The Barn’s most exciting coffees this season. Grown at an elevation of 2,300 meters, this nano lot was made to order for The Barn, processed in 3 different fermentation styles.

The Cup

It is tricky to describe a cup profile that keeps changing as it cools down. Ripe Mango is the dominant flavour intertwined with forest fruits. When hot, the front palate is full of blackcurrant jam and sweet exotic spice. In the cooling, ripe mango kicks in accompanied by notes of caramel, rooibos and cardamom. Floral notes comes through in the finish, which is long and sweet. Acids are tight and refined to hold the cup together. Exotic is a word The Barn does not use very often but it describes this cup very well.

Source: Wikipedia

The Region

Yemen is the birthplace of coffee culture.

Whilst the coffee tree has its roots in Ethiopia, the coffee drink originated in Yemen. Up until the early 1700s, Yemen was the world’s sole exporter of coffee. There is much talk about Yemen being rediscovered as a coffee growing region. Cup profiles are quite unique, however, finding high scoring coffee, consistently done well, is still very difficult.

Yemen is home to one of the world’s most diverse topographic profiles, with extreme desert plains in the east, large coastlines, and vast volcanic mountain ranges. Due to the microclimatic and genetic diversity, and the centuries old cultivation techniques, Yemen’s cup profiles are as diverse as the flavour wheel.

The most exceptional coffees tend to express bright and complex acidity, with delicate notes of florals, candied fruit, citrus, berries, dark chocolate and a distinctive winey undertone with a lingering, heavenly finish. The profile displays excellent range and dimension and the fragrance and aromas are intensely exhilarating.

The farmers in Bait Alal consider coffee as a symbol of pride. They believe that the coffee tree originated on their land. Some farmers have ownership documents dating back from a few hundred years. The high altitude and low humidity contribute to producing some of the highest cupping coffees in the world. The villages are built on mountains reaching up to 2300 masl. The region of Hayma Kharijiya in the governorate of Sana’a, is home to 150 farming families.

The Process

Qima´s Alchemy Series represents the next generation of coffee processing innovation. It seeks to add sensorial value to coffees whilst maintaining the intrinsic flavours that represent the terroir of the coffee.

Step 1: Aerobic Fermentation for 24 hours Step 2: Pressurised Carbonic Maceration for 48 hours Step 3: Blackout Fermentation for 5 days Step 4: Slow Drying for 25 days

Qima works directly with Yemeni growers and smallholder farmers across central and northern Yemen, creating equitable trade in cultivating and hand harvesting specialty coffee sourced from some of Yemen’s highest altitudes.

While stocks last

The Napoleon Gesha is served as an espresso in Dubai. Which, as I found out, is a treat you shouldn’t miss. And the Yemen is exclusive to Dubai. Both are available as a V60. And both are available to buy as beans to enjoy at home.

My advice, go as soon as you can. They will sell out fast.