Decaf El Dragon, a sugar cane decaf coffee, coffee that is somewhat sweet, and has flavours of raisins, peach and dark chocolate.
This coffee comes from a group of 25 fruit producers. In 2012, they teamed up to promote their tropical fruits, including the Pitaya or Dragon fruit. Hugo Gonzales Dias is one of the fruit producers and also a passionate coffee producer.
After a few years, Hugo got the other producers to start promoting coffee as well. Most fruit producers already had coffee plants. The idea to also promote coffee was a hit, as the quality of the coffee is excellent.
The coffee comes from near the town of Garzón in the heart of Huila (south Colombia).
There are a number of different processes to remove caffeine that uses only natural ingredients. The Swiss Water Process and the Mountain Water Process only use water to decaffeinate coffee. Some processes use carbon dioxide (the same CO2 we exhale, but under pressure), and in Colombia, they use a sugar cane by-product.
But how does the Sugar Cane Process work?
Sugar cane molasses is fermented to get ethyl acetate (EA). EA is also found in wine and fruit including bananas. At Descafecol (the decaffeination company) the EA is not synthetic but naturally obtained from sugar cane molasses.
But before you can put the EA to work, there are a few steps that need to be taken to get the beans ready. First, the beans are steamed to remove the pericarp from the beans. The beans are then moistened to open the pores and soften the beans.
After this, the beans are placed in a natural EA bath so that the caffeine dissolves. The EA (with caffeine) is drained and then distilled, leaving only caffeine. This caffeine is again sold as an ingredient for e.g. medicines and cosmetics so that it is not wasted.
Then the beans are steamed one last time, at a temperature higher than the boiling point of EA. This ensures that any leftover EA evaporates and that you are left with only the original beans, minus the caffeine, which are cooled before they can be sent to a coffee roaster. Any remaining EA evaporates during the roasting process, so you don’t drink it.
One of the things we love about their process is the mini-circular economy it creates. The sugar cane by-products are used to decaffeinate the coffee, then the extracted caffeine is sold to be used in other products instead of being thrown away.