Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Coffee ad absurdum

My personal coffee roaster, Zero Profit Coffee, sent me a fresh batch of Colombia Huila Concurso San Pedro last week. What I didn't realize without a lengthy explanation, is that the name says it all, but we'll get to that. Nick, the coffee-obsessed poet and head roaster of Zero Profit, likes to know what I think of his efforts, so I dutifully do might best to come up with some adjectives to describe my inevitable pleasure with everything he provides.

I think I mentioned something about a pleasant unctuousness and remembrance of chocolates past. I may even have stuck myself out on a limb to declare it well-balanced and without any sour notes—nothing terribly specific. Mainly, it makes a fine cup of drip, extracts a pleasingly thick shot that stands up well under steamed milk.

But I did recently state that I wished there were a way to categorize coffee more clearly and consistently, so after I sent my comments, Nick sent me the following from his supplier of green beans. I think it' a rating from www.coffeegeek.com:

Colombia Huila Concurso San Pedro (2.5 Star?!?)

Country: Colombia
Grade: Estate
Region: Guadalupe, Huila
Mark: Guadalupe Municipal Competition Winner, Saint Peter Competition
Processing: Wet Processed
Crop: October, 2008
Arrival Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Typica
Dry Fragrance (1-5) 3.7

Notes about the San Pedro coffee competition: "Hector Alfonso Vargas Mayor of Guadalupe, Huila since 1/1/2008 was elected with the Support of coffee growers and promising an agenda of improvement in the social development and change to the political manners in this remote municipality in Huila. His aim is to encourage the citizens' participation (with the support of the local Church / Pastoral Social) and foster development ("Guadalupe Comunitario" and "Guadalupe Sostenible") by doing "Politics" in a different manner than what this community has seen up to now." So one of the first steps was to hold a small, local coffee "concurso," a competition, judged by national cuppers and an exporter, with the top prize being a brand new coffee pulper! The top 25 received awards and a new coffee maker, and all receoved a premium price for the coffee. This was in June, the product of the mid-year "mitaca" harvest and not the main crop. And the concurso was part of the general celebration for the Dia del San Pedro, hence the name.

We agreed to buy the winning lot, which is a mix of the top coffees, and I wasn't quite sure if it would be good (since I wasn't one of the 3 judges). But we were promised we could reject it if it was just average, and I really WANTED it to be good, and support the event and the efforts of the Mayor and the farmers. Happily, the lot arrived and I love it.

[This is where things start to strain credulity.]
The coffee has intense-yet-subtle aromatics. In the lighter roasts, sweet raisin notes are embedded in layers of chocolate. Darker roasts have a triad of chocolate-spice-raisin, dense and somewat pungent to the nose. There are some unexpected fruits that surface in the wet aroma; a touch of baked pineapple, blackberry, and apple turnover. It has a sumtuous, darkly sweet character. The cup flavors have strong raisin and dry plum notes. There's clove-like spice accents…, but it's this creamy, thick body that gives the cup such balance in overall character. As it cools, an apple flavor is fleshed out, more specifically, spiced baked apple and apple pie. It finishes with chocolate bittersweetness. Such a balanced coffee, I immediately thought of S.O. espresso, and it is a fantastic shot, even at lighter roast levels (FC) than are possible with other coffees.

2.5 Star???: We have a new approach in Colombia, with 4 tiers of coffee: 1-Star, 2-Star, 3-Star, 4-Star. This lot doesn't quite conform, since it was a competition lot, but I did not personally go to Colombia and select it. It was also not vacuum-packed in Colombia, like our 3 star lots, but it is every bit as good. So, rather jokingly, we call it 2.5 Star. I know, that's a lot of stars to keep track of. Consider that 1-Star = fine Specialty coffee you might find at a good local roaster, 2-Star is regional specialty lots that sometimes can be remarkable (so when we offer a 2-Star, you can assume it really stood out on the cupping table). 3-Star and 4-Star are our direct trade program, Farm Gate Coffee, and involve cupping hundreds of tiny farm-distinct lots.
Wet Aroma (1-5) 3.8
Brightness - Acidity (1-10) 8.7
Flavor - Depth (1-10) 9.1
Body - Mouthfeel (1-5) 3.8
Finish - Aftertaste (1-10) 9
Cupper's Correction (1-5) 1 Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Creamy body, fruited notes, chocolate, balance
add 50 50 Roast: City+ to Full City: FC makes a great, balanced espresso as well
Score (Max. 100) 89.1 Compare to: This Huila cups a bit out of character, perhaps like a Tolima coffee, with great balance. This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing tranparency program.

If you made it to the end of this absurd description, then welcome to the club! I like the story of how this particular bean came got it's name and that the quality is a result of local pride and even free-market competition. There's a lot of silliness here, but I'd be happy to drink these beans in the Zero Profit roast every day.

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