A great follow-up on last week’s discussion of Blue Mountain and our new Honduras from Katia Duke’s Finca San Isidro: “I have not seen Obatã as a varietal before, what is it?”
I love this question, as I’m in the midst of researching Obatã. This is my first time roasting it and it has been a challenge. I made some big steps forward profile-wise after discovering it was a hybrid cultivated varietal. If you recall past emails, Obatã is a cultivar because it originates in a lab (as opposed to being a naturally occurring mutation). The specific lab is the IAC or the Instituto de Agronomia de Campinas in Campinas Brazil.
Obatã descends from Sarchimor (a mix of Timor and Vila Sarchi) and Mundo Novo. These two create Tupi, which is then crossed with Catuai to form different versions of Obatã. There is no set formula. Hence, you will often see clone numbers in its name that refer to its particular biotic makeup (for more information see “Coffea arabica clones resistant to coffee leaf miner” in Crop Breeding and Applied Biotechnology by Mendonça, Nonato, et al). For nearly two decades, Obatã has been very useful, as the roughly 95% Arabica and 5% Robusta composition gives it an edge in the ongoing battle with rust-leaf disease.
I find these emergent types of coffee plants fascinating, not for the way in which they replicate existing coffee, but rather for their open potential. For those familiar with the great roaster Five Elephant, they have been working with producer João Hamilton on naturally processed Obatã. It is wildly delicious. To garner such delightful flavours, they have been moving away from traditional approaches by using large piles during drying and long fermentation periods. Beyond rust resistance, this is the promise of these new plants: they are different and can break the established rules. They open the door to experimentation and can create truly unique and genuinely different cups.
tl;dr: Obatã is a new hybrid that is rust-resistance and it holds great possibilities for innovations in cup flavour.