Roaster: Olympia Coffee, Olympia Washington
Region: Aberdare Mountains of Kiambu County
Cooperative/Washing station: Gitwe, Kibiru
Varieties: high percentage of SL-28 and SL-34
Dry Fragrance: buttery, rich caramel sweetness, and berry fruits - intense
Tasting notes: This coffee strikes you first as tart blackberry meets caramel custard with a distinct but soft bitterness of kumquat or grapefruit pith. The caramel sweetness is nicely balanced with the tartness of blackberry and underlying bitter notes of grapefruit. Overall this a complex and vibrant coffee with pleasant lingering aftertaste and creamy mouthfeel which contrasts nicely with the tartness.
Brew recommendations: This coffee brewed well at a 1:16 ratio on Beehouse, Origami and V60. The blackberry notes were more apparent on the Beehouse and V60 while the creamy mouthfeel and sweetness were best with Origami. I don't recommend this one on Kalita.
Roaster's notes: Gitwe Cooperative's three washing stations, Karatu, Kibiru, and Karinga, are all located in the Aberdare Mountains of Kiambu County, an hour outside of Nairobi. The Cooperative is extremely small by Kenyan standards at around 800 farmers. Each farmer's geographic location determines which washing station they would contribute to. This lot comes from the Kibiru washing station and was produced as the 20th lot of the season, or harvest day. Before export, coffee is sifted through screen filters and graded by bean size. Beans with a screen size of 17 or 18 (17/64 or 18/64 of an inch) are assigned the grade AA. While bean size is only one factor in deciphering quality, we have seen a pattern that AA coffee tends to include a higher percentage of the varietals SL-28 and SL-34. This is one reason for the superior quality of this origin.
Roaster: Sweet Bloom, Lakewood Colorado
Region: GUJI, Kercha
Altitude: 1800-1900 mall
Variety: Heirloom mixed
Dry Fragrance: a burst of lime juice meets you and then subsides followed by rose petals and hints of jasmine with a lingering caramel sweetness
Tasting Notes: Tart and sweet lime as in key lime pie with underlying caramel sweetness and black tea. It's subtle but there's peach/apricot jam here too. The mouthfeel is light and satiny and holds up well adding to the aftertaste of honeydew sweetness and a pleasant, lingering acidity. As it cools, soft black tea notes persist complimenting the apricot jam undertones with a light florality. Overall this is a distinctive and lovely coffee that offers a balanced and sweet cup.
Brew recommendations: Best at 1:16 ratio on Origami or V-60 to pull out those apricot notes and lime.
Roaster: La Cabra, Denmark
Producer: Francisco Salucio
Altitude: 1750 masl
Harvest: Jan 2020
Dry Fragrance: caramel, brown sugar, baked cookies
Tasting Notes: This coffee presents with a delicate, lightly syrupy body and flavor notes of fresh caramel, summer peaches and black tea. Aftertaste is light on the palate, sweet and lingering. It is a beautiful balance of sweetness, acidity and florality. As it cools, the caramel sweetness and tea notes persist.
Brewing recommendations: Best on Origami with a 1:16 ratio.
Roaster notes: Up in the mountains surrounding San Antonio Huista lies Finca Las Peñitas, a 0.9 hectare coffee farm tended to by Francisco Salucio and his family. Here in the Huista micro-region, the landscape is dominated by very small scale family farms, and Las Peñitas is no different. Growing and selling coffee provides the main income for the family, like many others in this remote and agriculturally dependent region. Francisco named the farm Las Peñitas due to the Spanish word peña, meaning rock or boulder. The 0.9 hectares that the family have planted with coffee are surrounded by steep rocky slopes, which mark the edge of their small property. It has been Francisco’s goal for some time to own his own coffee farm; to be able to take control over his own future, and be rewarded for his hard work. For this reason he worked several years as an immigrant worker across the border in Mexico, saving in order to purchase his own plot of land for himself and his family. He then sought out the Primavera program in the Huista area, gaining vital knowledge in order to increase and stabilise his income from coffee. Francisco has taken a particular interest in processing as a means of enhancing quality. During the busy harvest time the whole family needs to pitch in to run the farm, so Francisco works together with his wife Izabela and their two daughters. They use a small hand cranked depulper to remove the cherry from the coffee seed, before a fermentation of around 24 hours. The coffee is then thoroughly washed, before a second soaking of around 5 hours. This second soaking is unusual for the region, but Francisco believes it contributes to the clean and elegant flavours in his coffee. Here we find fresh ripe peach, backed up by a concentrated caramel sweetness, before a finish with the elegance of a fine black tea. Francisco’s dedication is clear here, in one of the finest lots we have purchased from Huehuetenango this year.
I'm a coffee taster and sensory specialist in all things coffee. There's just not enough time to taste all of the coffees I want to experience. Maybe you feel the same way. Coffee roasting is changing, it's not a static business. Roasters are innovating and the landscape of coffees is changing in part due to changes in farming practices, processing protocols and roasting preferences.
Did you know that there are literally hundreds of reviews of wines posted online and in print? Yet coffee reviews are scarce. Why is that? I think in part it is because roasted coffee is ephemeral. Roasters produce batches of roasted coffee for a few weeks and when the bags of green coffee are gone, they're gone forever. Yes, some roasters will buy the same coffee from the same farmer year after year because they value long-term relationships. And some roasters will buy green coffee and freeze it for future roasting. But this year's coffee will never be the same as next year's coffee crop. Unlike wine vintages, which can be bottled and preserved for years (or many years) coffees are fragile and once roasted freshness is lost quickly and with that so much of the flavors that make a coffee unique.
Still I think specialty coffees, however fleeting, deserve attention. Here I will document my tasting notes about coffees that I think are noteworthy. By doing this I hope you find some new coffees to taste, some you didn't even know were out there in the coffee universe. I'd love to hear from you with any questions or comments. Reach out to me on my contact form.
Let's get going because I love tasting different coffees. Mary