Wow. How many months has it been?
Several interesting things have recently occurred. We had a visit from a Guatemalan coffee farmer at elysian, and it was really neat to be able to see the person that had grown the coffee that we were drinking at that exact moment.
We got in the Aricha lot 7 from Novo, and it is quite something. Being a dry proccessed yirgacheffe, it is insanely fruity; I get strawberry jam as the predominant aroma. In the cup, it has really nice acidity, especially as it cools, and I find the lemon balm common to yirgacheffes taking a bit of a backseat to fruity, tea-like flavours.
Stephen, James, and Anette will be here next Monday, and I am incredibly excited. Besides getting to see Stephen again, I’m pretty stoked to meet James and talk science with him, and maybe somehow wangle my way into a cupping with the world tasting champion, Anette. I hope you guys know that you won’t be sleeping while you’re in Vancouver!
The Best of Panama auction just finished with the #1 going for $130/lb US, green. Craziness. Even crazier is that 49th Parallel has 2 bags!
Espresso at the shop has been really amazing in milk lately, and today was no exception, but straight shots were pretty interesting as well. They were most decidedly ‘chewy’.
I was in Victoria the past couple of days, and managed to check out a fairly new addition to the Victoria cafe scene: Habit.
Located on Pandora, just down from Government, this is probably one of the most spacious cafes I’ve seen. They’ve kept a lot of the original brick and floors, and personally, I’m a fan of this style. They’ve also added a couple of unique touches, such as the stools made from old tractor seats.
They have a fairly short menu with the regular espresso-based offerings, but I was also excited to see a menu of single origin coffees available via french press. The espresso being used is roasted by John Sanders, and incidentally, Habit is currently using the five group Linea from the old Hines location.
My capp was prepared by a former schoolmate of mine, Zack, and was as good as any capp you’d find in Vancouver. I also tried a press of the Brazil I believe, and found it very lovely and creamy. This is definitely one cafe that I will be frequenting whenever I’m in Victoria.
I’m always amazed at how good coffee tastes first thing in the morning. My equipment isn’t top of the line (Virtuoso grinder, french press, pot on the stove) and yet, somehow, every cup still seems to taste amazing. Lindsay and I discussed this, and her opinion was that since your palate is fresh, and non fatigued, sure, the coffee would taste great. This makes sense – if I have a second cup, it’s usually not quite as good as the first. However, I can’t believe that my technique is so flawless that pretty much every press produces a great cup. When I’ve tried to make presses at the cafe, with far better equipment and control, I’ve had a hard time reproducing my level of success at home. I’ve read a couple of papers that found links between the environment and taste, and my guess is that environment is probably at least partially responsible for the differences. In the cafe, you’re constantly on the alert for customers, or things that need to be done. It’s not exactly conducive to completely focusing on tasting coffees, whereas at home, I can give the coffee that level of focus.
Or perhaps I’m the only one who has experienced this phenomenon.
Some interesting happenings over on coffeed…
Jim Schulman and Andy Schecter have been doing some experiments with dose in a standard (LM) double basket. One of the interesting results was their finding that certain espressos taste better when downdosed to between 13-14 grams. This is in stark contrast to the majority of shops in Vancouver, who are probably dosing in the range of 18+ grams for a double basket. I decided to give this idea a try at the cafe, but was slightly hindered by the fact that dosing 13 grams in a double basket makes distribution darn near impossible (at least if dosing just 13 grams). My dose ended up being about 14-15 grams, but this still made for some interesting results. The espresso became very smooth, and had a somewhat less intense taste. However, it wasn’t weaker per say, just much smoother, in the same way aging smooths out alcohol. The body on this particular blend, when downdosed, was really thick, compared to a medium body at the standard dose of about 17-18 grams. Several local coffee people had a chance to taste the shots, and the general consensus was that they were definitely smoother and lighter than shots pulled with the standard dose. The one negative aspect I found with downdosing was that you seemed to lose a lot of the character of the shot – I was having a hard time picking out distinct flavours. Still, the concept of downdosing is really interesting, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to experiment with it some more, and maybe get a better understanding of why the taste changes in the manner it does.
I was chatting with my coworker Mandy the other day, and the topic of origin labelling in coffee came up. Looking at the big four, you have absolutely no indication of origin. Folgers is simply the brand name – absolutely no indication of where the coffee might be from. Going down a level, we have Starbucks who have begun to tell the average consumer where some of their coffees come from. But wait – Starbuck is only telling you to the extent of what country that coffee comes from! This is like going to the wine store to pick up a bottle of “Italian”! In this aspect, I think coffee is a victim of its past (and current) commoditization. The wine model is often bandied about as a direction that coffee should head in, and in the area of labelling and information, coffee still has a long way to go. All bottles of wine tell you exactly from which vineyard this particular bottle is from. Very few coffeeshops will do the same. Getting to the level of wine is definitely going to take a while, however. Customers need to demand and support coffees from specific farms, and push for more informative labelling. Hopefully this will lead to greater economic gains for farmers, which in turn will elevate coffee a little closer to wine.
With the water situation in Vancouver (extra stuff in the water), the coffee’s been tasting a little different lately. I’ve noticed coffees tasting less clean from the Clover – with some tasting downright dirty! I also had a little chat with Alistair about water the other day. This got me thinking about the role of water in coffee.
Water is obviously a major part of coffee, and bad water will indeed make your coffee taste awful. But what about water that is just different? For instance, mineral water. What would coffee taste like prepared with Evian, or some other mineral water (I dislike Evian, by the way)? What components of the water are most important? To my knowledge, Cirqua had attempted to do something to this extent, with their customized water delivery systems. However, I would love to actually do a cupping, or prepare some espresso with different waters. Maybe a high concentration of hydrogen carbonate or extra potassium chloride would make coffees taste different. The SCAA specifies a specific range of tds values for the water that they say will produce a better cup of coffee, but there is no mention of specific compounds. Surely this is yet another variable that deserves some research.
Since all the cool kids in the coffee scene are moving their blogs over to wordpress, I have decided to follow.