Do you put on one leather glove in order to make an espresso? I don't. Do you polish the puck clockwise or counter-clockwise? Hmmm. Do you drink coffee with a silver-plated "cupping spoon?" I don't either. Do you "break the coffee crust" by stirring 3 times to the bottom, or do you go 4 times just on the surface? Does brewed coffee extract or infuse? For how long? Do you argue with your other about whether your morning bowl of fruit loops has a hint of red apple, or green apple? If it's red, are we talking Fuji, Braeburn, Red Delicious ... and do the flavors "knit" well together.? How is the structure of flavors in those Fruit Loops? So 5 or 10 years from now will this look foolish, indulgent, grossly excessive, or will it be part of a ground-breaking new movement of "super-sensory" consumption? Will their be a Guild for everything? A separatist Machiatto Guild wants acknowledgement for their unique skills --- they aren't just your average "Baristi," after all. How about that Biscotti Guild we were talking about forming? Will the janitors accept their same lousy pay if we pump up their esteem at the annual Mop & Bucket Guild Retreat? Just a few early morning thoughts. -Tom
Sweet Maria's Weblog
I just returned from a week in India, my first time there. I edited down from 1350 pictures to a mere 302, and I give you my usual warning ... 50% of them are not about coffee. Additionally, it's all my opinion. I also wrote a little essay about the contrast in India between things delightful and appalling. I also picked up a lot of information in our meetings with the director of the Coffee Board of India, and the Central Coffee Research Station. But here's a link to the photos on the temp. site in our new format ... or here's the html link on our site, which loads a bit faster. Ironically, I ate tons of incredible food and had no queasiness in India, but got totally sick on something in Amsterdam. Okay, maybe it was the raw meat hamburger I ate at the big soccer game I went to. Anyway, I have to get back into this time zone, and will be heading off to cup Costa Ricas in 7 days. -Tom
This week we are tackling the most un-Costa Rican of the current crop of Costa Rica coffees on offer. As explained in the review, this coffee has been processed differently than all other Costas. The result is a hybridization of CR flavor profiles and cup characteristics associated with fruited Ethiopian coffees. We sample roasted to seven different levels trying to hit the "sweet spot" and the second lightest roast did just that: huge strawberry notes that punch your palate with an exotic strangeness (how's that for a redundant descriptor?). I just put the first batch into the Probat so I'll check back in a second with the results of trying to replicate the City+ roast we cupped this morning done on the sample roaster yesterday--that's right, while Tom Petty was Learnin' to Fly, I was learnin' how to roast this coffee correctly. We have success! I took the first batch up to 431 degrees which happened at the 17:00 mark on the dot. One good way to compare a test roast with the final roast right away is to grind a small sample of each and see if they match color-wise. This is a fairly accurate way to ensure you are in the right ballpark. As we all know, roasted coffee needs at least 24 hours to rest before the full flavor characteristics become apparent so cupping them side by side right away is a bit more problematic. However, we feel good about hitting a nice light roast that should unleash the fruited notes we are expecting. First crack happened at 405 degrees approximately 14:20 into the roast.
From the volcanic heights of Bali, this particular coffee has been processed using a technique different from the fully wet process that is normally used by the larger farms in Bali. The coffee we are roasting today employs a semi-washed technique that allows for greater development of character and rusticity more akin to neighboring Sumatra or Sulawesi. The result should be outstanding when taken into Full City+ and for the test cupping I even roasted some to Vienna to have a full range of roasts to test when setting the target for today's Roastmaster. We decided that the Full City+ roast had the best overall character: bittersweet chocolate, strong tobacco notes, and the brooding character Tom speaks of in the reveiw. The lighter roasts we cupped had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It is interesting to roast this coffee after roasting so many Centrals and Africans which can taste great, albeit different, at a wider range of roasts. The Bali Kintamani is a coffee that tests the roaster's patience as first crack didn't happen on the Probat until 15:00 into the roast at around 404 degrees. I then had to keep the roast going until the thermo-probe read 450 degrees and I could hear just the slightest hint of second crack coming on. This happened routinely at the 18:30 minute mark, it never ceases to amaze me how consistent the Probat performs with the same temperature being reached at nearly the same time batch after batch. That is, of course, if each batch has been carefully weighed out beforehand.
We have new lots that just arrived and a few that arrive Friday the 25th. I am excited about an out-of-season offering... why? Because we had it vacuum packaged in Ethiopia to preserve freshness, and the cup is outstanding: Ethiopia FTO Yirga Cheffe Konga cooperative. I am recommending very light roasts for a floral, sweet. It's a syrupy Yirga Cheffe with remarkable clarity in the cup flavors, that is best with a very light roast. And it's the first Vacuum-packed Ethiopia we have offered. (BTW, that means we receive it in vacuum bags, then we pack it and ship it in our normal zip bags. PS: Starting with this lot, we will be spelling Yirga Cheffe as two words, as it is in Ethiopia. ) We have a new lot of Colombia Los Naranjos de Huila, bright and multi-fruited. This is from a group of Huila farmers with average production around 10 bags, and the total group less than 100Â growers. They are at altitudes ranging from 1600 to 1900 meters,Â and all lots are wet-processed and sun-dried, then cupped, classified and combined based on the cup flavors. We have been holding back on a Guatemala offering because we had so many, but now is the time to launch Guatemala Huehuetenango -Finca San Vicente, a remarkable, dense 100% Bourbon like our other Guats, that cups like the day it got here. It's so classic, crips, well structured We have another Colombia Huila Valencia, a pooled coffee of many farmers, but we just happened to find a really nice lot here, balanced and sweet. It's a crowd-pleaser. And Sumatra Classic Mandheling is back with a vengeance, and excellent cup from a particular locale with old-growth Sumatra Typica cultivar plantings. This lot has nice preparation with much less percentage of defects than we have seen in recent seasons. Yes, it has that aggressive, woody, wet-earth character. But it also has a sweetness, mild fruitiness, a caramel roast taste that has a creamy, chocolate dimension to it as well. The finish goes toward the bittersweet, with a pungent (peppery spice) quality emerging, reminding you of the deep, heavy-handed cup character that epitomizes Sumatra. It has a bit of all the defining Sumatra flavors wrapped together in one coffee, and maintains a balance between them. Most people might taste this and just say, "Boy,...