He’s ALIVE! (My POST-Halloween, awaking from a coma, etc, Post.)

Oh, the slings and arrows (all self-shot*) of my outrageous fortune…I lift a listless paw, backhanded, to my deeply furrowed brow (can everyone see the furrowed brow?) and beseech my non-existent reader (almost made the plural, with an “s” —?!?hah!) to express sighing lamentations of sincere pity…oh, woe is me that I have not been able to post more frequently…my eyes beseech the heavens while askance leering around for some sympathetic whimper (did I hear it? NO? oh well…)

 

Whew, now that THAT is over with, and many promises of more frequent posting made to self and credulous reader…I will slog onward…against all reason, against all odds, bleakly courageous…etc. Oh, the noble Curmudgeon…

 

Well…AS I was (or, rather, am only now giving myself a chance to) saying, there are some things that need to be addressed:

 

1)   Why do we care, if a thing tastes good, WHY it tastes good or why it tastes different than other things in its category that also taste good? What difference does it make, if it does; and to how many of us DOES it make a difference? (Obviously, in this case/platform, we’re talking about coffee.)

 

2)   Why do people brew coffee so weakly? There is actually some pretty good coffee out there today…why can’t I think of anywhere to send someone who wants a really strong, delicious, thick, can’t-see-the-sun-through-it, cut-it-with-a-knife cup of coffee? (And I have already asked why everyone is roasting so monotonously light these days…light roasts are great, as part of a mix, but drinking lightly roasted coffee all the time is like living in a monastery…in all those ways and more.)

 

3)   What is up with all the coffee descriptions? I pleaded for years that we develop a descriptive language for coffee rivaling that of the one that has evolved for wine. That language now appears on coffee labels and sometimes on coffee websites, especially coffeereview.com but is anyone paying attention and does the verbiage make sense to anyone that is reading it? My anecdotal experience (factual to me, at least) suggests that no one really gets it; they are comforted to read that a coffee has many illustrious attributes in flavor (AND provenance) but none of it is resonating.

 

THESE will be the topics of my next three (or four)posts (he said to challenge himself).  Any ideas to fold into them will be much appreciated (that would be from YOU, oh noble Reader).

 

*But that would not, in this case, equate with friendly fire.

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“Issue” Coffee and “Sustainability”

“Issue” Coffee and “Sustainability” and our appreciation of it…

It’s well documented that our preconceptions of a gustatory product have a strong influence on our perceived appreciation of it (whether it be negative or positive).

Those preconceptions can be bundled in a variety of ways and can flow from many different streams. For example, if we believe that “French” wines are the best and we’re told the wine we’re about to taste IS French we’re likely to enjoy it more than if we were told that it was “Australian.”*

Similarly, many people can’t seem to comfortably drink a cup of coffee without knowing that by doing so they are solving some problem. Why these same people are often seen chowing down on GMO “French”** Fries and soft drinks is a puzzle but there it is: a puzzle.

Anyway, herewith (immediately below this post) is a PDF of an article I wrote at the turn of the century (as a curmudgeon I feel grateful to have been born at such a point in the last century such that I am now in a position to say an old farty thing like that…) WOW, anyway, this article, dating back to the turn of the century…is even more difficult to read than THIS lugubrious prose, but the points that it attempts to address are still timely…I encourage you to struggle through it…if you’ve read this far, you’re clearly up to it…

Cutting to the chase, though, two items of note:

1)  If coffee isn’t enjoyable and delicious, and people don’t love to drink it, so much that they buy it brewed or make it at home and drink lots of it — it ain’t sustainable;

2)  When we drink coffee, if it’s not decaf, there’s the caffeine thing going on, but we’re also consuming information — I’ve said this a lot before…so the information that comes with that coffee not only influences our experience, it’s PART and PARCEL to our experience, it is of the fabric of that moment, that sip, and it doesn’t even matter if the information is “true.” This is not cynicism, it’s a simple fact. After the fact, it’s nicer those facts were true, and you’re more likely to want to experience something that was in fact genuine, but the “genuine” part doesn’t seem to be the most important element. It’s the perception…and that weaves into the warp and woof of the thing we’re listening to, eating, and here, in the case of coffee, drinking/tasting/inhaling. MORE LATER ON this….

*I use quotation marks here because the name itself, the appellation, is more important than the origin of the wine itself, it is the associations that the word triggers, not the symbolic fact it represents.

** Just thought the use of the word “French” right after my comment above was ironic and I had to say something!

 

Download: A Cup Fraught with Issues (pdf; 1.7mb)

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The “best” coffee…a “favorite” coffee and what IS a Yrgacheffe, anyway?

Yrgacheffe and a favorite coffee… (a follow up to my previous post, for those of you with looong memories!).

As a curmudgeon I take it with high dudgeon (cute, huh?) that people appreciate the transient nuances and subtle differences of wine and other beverages, Scotch, for example, but they want to dumb down coffee’s complexity. (Even some people IN the coffee business have said to me, “C’mon, Tim, it’s just coffee!”)

I wonder if it’s because most people don’t really like or understand coffee THAT MUCH, and would just as soon establish a regular routine based on a choice that they won’t be ridiculed later; even if it means that they will not have found something they really like, but just an acceptable groove they can settle into.

It may also be the dichotomy many of us have experienced as we became familiar with coffee, that the enticing aroma of ground coffee is never equaled in the cup — the full, thick aromatic allure that coffee promises is never fulfilled in a way that we expect on the palate. (To many of us who taste coffee daily, that expectation may be exceeded, but never in the same way it was promised.)

But there’s a bigger problem than one’s “favorite” coffee, there’s that fact that, generally, it seems, there’s been a gradual loss of regional character to the point that the argument about whether one CAN have a favorite coffee will become moot. A lot of good coffees are all starting to taste alike…

Yrgacheffes, Yergacheffes, Yirgacheffes….Yirga Chefe! (with parenthetical asides…)

Originally I wanted to talk about this coffee in the context of a larger, more complex and tendentious topic: that of having a “favorite coffee.” After writing several wandering paragraphs introducing that daunting “larger context,” I have decided to simply (that’s a lie) address (with ever more wandering paragraphs) the subject of Ethiopian Yergacheffes (which seem to have many different spellings, the one I just used is also used by a friend of mine who was born in and who lives in Ethiopia). And in this instance, the context is narrow (not true, as it turns out!), in fact my “topic” is really just a gripe… a perfect subject for a “curmudgeon!” (OK, THAT’s true…)

And my gripe is that very few Yrgacheffes taste like what I remember Yirgacheffes tasting like any more. This coffee was originally described as being from the land that used to roughly comprise the summer estate of the former Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. I remember it being introduced to the specialty coffee trade by the woman that is credited with coining the term, “specialty coffee,” Erna Knutsen.

Recalling the original Yirga Cheffes (this spelling from a map of Ethiopia, published in Ethiopia), I first tasted in the early 1980’s, were, if they were anything, LEMONY. As I tasted various lots of what I thought was a wonderfully complex and delicious coffee I found myself wondering if the strong “lemony” taste wasn’t, really, a taint, some sort of introduced flavor actually foreign to the coffee itself.

The flavors I found in the Ethiopian Yirgacheffes, I remember from 25 years ago fascinated me and have been the source of several interesting, frustrating arguments. The whole dynamic of THAT conversation is that there are INTRINSIC and EXTRINSIC flavors found in coffee. The extrinsic flavors are introduced by some artifact of its processing or some sort of microbial activity. I’ve used the comparison to Sauternes many times, for example; where a fungus (botrytis) concentrates the sweetness of the juice that goes into making this sweet wine from Bordeaux and at the same time adds its own mushroomy, nutty overtones to the wine’s flavor profile.

Anyway, after tasting this coffee year in and year out for several seasons (fifteen?), I decided that there were two possible styles: 1) there was an overtly candied lemon Yergacheff (another spelling I’ve seen) and; 2) a less aggressive, more fragrant lemon flower profile that was possible. At the time, before the Ethiopian coffee industry was somewhat radically restructured (some say for better; some say for worse) there was a “Grade 1” Yrgacheff that seemed to conform more consistently to this style. I was told the “Grade One’s” weren’t really that popular with “Westerners,” and that this coffee was created more for the Asian, and in particular, the Japanese market.

By the time I figured out what I liked of the best that this particular coffee had to offer, I realized that the ground had shifted under me quite considerably, and that while many Urgachiefs tasted quite good, none (as in “not one”) tasted anything like the coffees I used to parse for their freshness (as opposed to cooked-ness) of flavor.

So, more importantly, my complaint here is really about a mini-globalization of what the basic flavor palette that we in the specialty coffee industry used to have, and that we may be losing. I believe there is a reason we are losing those basic flavors and, ironically, I believe it is because that we (I include myself) have all been striving to create and/or improve “standards” but, unknowingly, we have, at the same time been CREATING standard coffees…the bar we’ve been setting is one we’ve adjusted to fly (just) under rather than over.]

There was a guy that used to taste all the coffee (or a large percentage of it, anyway) of the coffees that went out of Ehitopia. He, in most cases, it is my understanding, decided what a “Grade One” Yrgacheffe would taste like — I like to imagine, I flatter myself, that his taste for this coffee was similar to mine. I believe his first name is Abraham.

In the meantime the Ethiopian coffee industry has been totally restructured in a way that has been explained to me but that, after receiving said explanation, I could not then understand or now remember. The Ethiopian coffee industry (again, the structure of which I will choose to let the kind reader delve into at their own discretion) has meanwhile aggressively Trademarked terms like “yurgiecheese” (whoops, I went too far there, didn’t I?). In the MEANTIME, however, the original, magical, intoxicating taste of what I remember this coffee tasting like has been lost in the shuffle and perhaps to the dry winds of the (relatively) nearby Sahara.

I wonder if specialty coffees, in general, as more interest in the category has been generated, and more buyers, even those working for small roasters, have been communicating directly and frequently with producers all over the world have not unintentionally (and I have been there with them!) imposed (by virtue of our commercial insistence, or, well, perhaps our “noble pursuit of advancing quality”) standards of production and uniformity that have smothered what I used to consider the idiosyncratic taste profiles of each of these coffees

The best Kenyan coffees used to have, and very few of them do now, the “black currant” taste that George Howell (formerly of Coffee Connection and now of Terroir and George Howell coffee companies in Massachusetts) found in the best of these coffees (just in terms of sheer enjoyment) or the sweet, but overtly “defective” BLUEBERRY taste you could find in the naturally processed, more earthy and even fruitier Ethiopian Harrars.

Even Guatemalan Antiguas don’t taste like anything in particular these days and whatever charm they used to impart has seemed to have given way to “better and more professional” farm management and processing techniques.

I have often wondered, from a purely “green” point of view, what the cost was of the seemingly constant travel that the coffee industry now engages in as part of an effort to secure the best possible sourcing (mea culpa, I do it myself) but one of the more ironic, if less truly destructive results of this dissemination of artisanal coffee doctrine may be is that we end up with the same great tasting coffee, from wherever it is produced. Like a software virus, monoclonal plantings, or a non-native species, the idea that there is a “correct” way to grow and process coffee may be trammeling underfoot a whole lot of, as yet and maybe never, unacknowledged expertise and understanding of what makes coffee special.

I will conclude (this portion) of my ongoing, curmudgeonly (I can only hope) rant with a couple of anecdotes (I know, I know, as everyone seems to say these days, ANECDOTES are not FACTS):

1)   A fellow I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with, Leonardo Henao, and who now works with a group of farms in Antioquia, Colombia owned by C.I. Café de Santa Barbara, used to work with a company that conducted a competition for a group of roasters I was working with at the time: he told me that he interviewed the ten “best” farmers, that is, the ones that rated highest in the competition by a well-regarded selection of artisanal coffee roasters. His finding was this: every farmer among those top ten told him, some rather sheepishly, that in processing their winning coffees had “made a mistake” and strayed from the recommended methods of growing and processing coffees for export. Needless to say, these “mistakes” would be purged if an all-out, world-wide coffee quality orthodoxy were to prevail.

2)   I recently had the honor and pleasure of participating in a tasting conducted for the benefit of the Hawaii Coffee Association. I was amazed at the advances that Hawaiian coffee farmers have made in producing high quality coffees. Hawaii, while it is a state and a group of unique islands that I have loved visiting, has never impressed me as a place that could produce anything more than “island coffees” (a term I made up that includes all the highly over-rated, wildly over-price coffees coming romantic vacation paradises that don’t have mountains high enough to even approach producing “high grown” coffees): coffees that are neutral, sweet, low grown, low in brightness (pleasant, brisk acidity) and otherwise inoffensive. The good news was that the coffees I tasted were really, really good — bright, solid and densely flavored but otherwise inoffensive — despite all their attributes I could discern no sense of place in tasting these coffees, no “terroir” (land), no “garrigue” (air), nothing that distinguished these coffees as “Hawaiian,” (much less from one of the particular islands). The fiercely determined farmers that produced these otherwise great-tasting coffees, I became more and more convinced, needed to, now that they knew the basics of coffee production, start making mistakes. They now need to now go their own idiosyncratic and hopefully magical way. (I remember, 30 years ago, working with an old farmer and a wonderful, kind, warm generous man name Mr. Okumura (I believe his first name was Kazuo) and he used to traditionally wet-process his coffee and then “shade cure” it by bagging up the parchment and storing it in sheds for three to four months. The coffee was definitely spicier, sweet and cleaner (the “cleaner” part probably due to other expertise and care Mr. Okumura put into the coffee). I love the coffee, it definitely tasted like Kona coffee, only better, and THAT is what we need to see more of…or at least I do! (Needless to say, when Mr. Okumura sadly passed away, his heir and successors had no interest in waiting three months before they sold their crop and the concept of “Shade Cured” Kona coffee died a dusty death….)

3)   Finally, I am reminded of a presentation made by a winemaker and winemaking consultant (Danny Schuster) from New Zealand made once. I don’t remember everything he said, of course, and I am sure he would approve of that, but he did posit that there were three or four things that all great wines needed (and he said that he had long ago stolen this concept from someone else; I am sure that he would consider me quite the weenie for not to be stealing it from him right now). ANYWAY, he said that the final thing that all great wines needed was CORRUPTION. OR, as we might have called it in the 70’s: FUNK. In other words, A Mistake, in yet other words, GENIUS — a window into another world, and a sense of identity; a sense of place and origin. That little twist of odd-ness, off-ness, spin, that makes a really good wine (coffee, tea, cheese, painting, sculpture, photograph, whatever) something truly memorable and great. (All the emphases are mine, Danny be gosh darned on that!)

I will leave it to the reader to parse these anecdotes until my next post… Maybe sometime this year?

Postscript: My thanks to Alex Russan, a friend, colleague, and passionate coffee-quality obsessive (with whom I work) for his input on this post…that does not make him responsible for any errors or the parts where I dug in my heels and refused to be coherent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is the Best Coffee? Part One…

The Taste of Coffee

The Taste FOR Coffee

…and The Perfect Cup

(Or, put another way, “What is the Best Coffee?”)

 

 

It is UNFAILING, that for those of us fortunate enough to be in the coffee business, that we will be asked several times a year by people who are NOT in the coffee business, this question: “What is the best coffee?”

 

NOW: Before I get into this I want to say this is a complex issue (whoops, I am already into this). It involves more than “just” preference, taste, aesthetics or even economics. Since blog posts are supposed to be short (I’ve been told since my last one), I will try to slowly chip away at this, (the “slowly” part I’ve got down) BUT….this subject could actually occupy the theme, the raison d’etre, in fact, it could be the subject of its OWN blog —the (but don’t click through):

www.TheBestCupofCoffeeintheWholeFreakingWorld.com

blog (or book) and that is what I may do. (No, I just did, that domain is now property of the CoffeeCurmudgeon.com, but, as I said, don’t click bother to click through, I can barely keep up with THIS blog. (Hey, wanna buy a domain…?))

 

Separately, even 20+ years ago, when John Harris, the guy who founded and then still owned Aris Books, suggested that my first book, The Perfect Cup, be called, “The Perfect Cup” the irony of the title thrilled (not too strong a word) me (one finds one’s thrills where one can).  There ISN’T a Perfect Cup (except, of course, for the Book, The Perfect Cup (available on Amazon and elsewhere).

 

Getting back to the question: “What is the best coffee?” My response is usually in the form of THIS question : “What is the best wine?” …and I usually get a puzzled and sometimes frustrated look… and the reply, “What do you mean?”

 

(Before I go on, I will say right here, you can’t play this game with most beer drinkers, because they DO, usually, have a favorite beer; THEY will tell you, “well, I like “X” beer, now TELL ME what the best coffee is!”)

 

I have actually gotten into some almost serious arguments with people who immediately tell me that I am holding out on them, that I KNOW what the best coffee is and that I just won’t tell them. They’ll start cross-examining me and saying, “Well, what do you drink at home?” and I will say,  “A lot of different stuff, sometimes just what I liked on the cupping table the day before, or a dark roast blend of different coffees, or something a good customer gave me…” And they will say, eyes narrowing with equal parts suspicion and a sense of impending rhetorical victory, “So, of all those coffees, which one is your favorite?” and I will say, with as much unaffected directness as I can muster, “I don’t have one, my ‘favorite’ is the variety of coffees I get to experience.” That’s when I nearly get punched.

 

I think most people, even a lot of “coffee lovers” want not to have to care about coffee, and they just want to know they are getting their caffeine fix (decaf drinkers are another story altogether) in the most hip and aesthetically defensible position they can take. So, they want a “coffee expert” to TELL them which coffee is the “right” coffee and they want to just drink that and then forget about coffee entirely, other than drinking it every day. AND, it occurs to me, a LOT of people don’t spend their time comparing and contrasting every possible experience in their lives, from wine, to cheese, to music, to anything else. We are trained to expect a “best” in every area of our lives, we live for “lists” that give us the “top ten,” so we can see if we’ve chosen correctly. Once we’ve chosen a type, a brand, a something, we root for and defend that choice against all comers (unless it betrays us in some way and then we’ll switch with a vengeance).

 

Well, there is NO “best” coffee, I don’t even have a “top ten”…but there’s a lot of good coffees and even the ones that are consistently great change every year and if you’re really paying attention, you’ll likely find that your preferences will probably vary not just from season to season, but day to day (and time of day).

 

OR, you might decide you do have one coffee that you consistently like above all others; in which case, more power to you…but that’s a choice best arrived at through your OWN exploration, not by being told which one is the best, which can only be the best for you if it’s YOUR favorite, not mine.

 

Like I said, more later….

 

 

 

 

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My First Post! (The Score on Cupping Coffee)

(This [my first blog post] seemed like as good, and important, a topic to embark with as any…the symbolism of the 4th of July might be addressed later…independence from dithering over which topic to start with, perhaps? Or maybe it’s just in the celebratory mood of the day and the inspirational moment of reading some good writing earlier in the day.)

The Score on Cupping Coffee

The practice of cupping coffee, or, to be more specific, the evaluation of a particular coffee for commercial purposes, has evolved a lot over the years.

It started out, in 1905, as a repeatable regimen, developed by the Folger’s Coffee Company in San Francisco, as a way of objectively evaluating whether a coffee was of sufficiently good quality to approve and purchase. Of course, while screening for defects, cuppers would also consider whether the coffee was suitable for a particular blend or characteristic enough of a particular origin to be sold as a “straight” Colombian or Javanese (to use two examples) coffee.

While I have strongly advocated that we get out of the pass/fail modality of cupping coffee and away from the “That’ll work,” and “Nope, not that one,” spectrum of decision making that was more in vogue when I got into the business over 30 years ago, it has to be noted that somehow, despite their terseness, the cuppers that I first met early on in my career, sure knew a hell a lot about coffee and why it would taste one way versus another and what was wrong with it, AND what MIGHT go wrong with it, and how it could be used. HOW they got this knowledge was and is a mystery to me, they sure didn’t talk a lot, unless pushed, at least not about coffee; they hardly ever went to origin; and they never described what they tasted, except in maybe one or two words (two words only if they were to go on and on about it). They certainly didn’t assign SCORES to the coffees they tasted.

Today, most of the folks I know in the coffee business rate their coffees on some sort of scale that might be one to ten or, more typically, 50-100.  Along with the scores they usually associate several descriptors to each step in the cupping process, from breaking the crust to the final “finish” or aftertaste. I believe this is basically a good thing, it has helped differentiate coffees better and distinguish coffees from those that are just good to the ones that are truly exceptional. The process also helps all of us in the industry market/sell higher-end coffees to coffee drinkers in a way that is familiar and unintimidating, thanks to the scores that ice-skaters, dancers and more recently, wines, beers and hard liquors get from various writers, state fair judges and self-appointed commercially established ventures that are in the business of rating things and giving them scores. Even the incorruptible Consumer Reports Magazine now scores coffees (with some misplaced over-confidence, I might add…). It was inevitable that the taste of a particular coffee (at a particular time) would become a number.

And so, obviously, there are drawbacks. With every step forward we lose some ground in another direction, (sometimes on an axis that we don’t even realize is in play). Yes, its great that we can now sell coffee on the same footing with wine sellers, but we lose something too, and so does the coffee drinker. With the debut of the numbered score we gain certainty and comfort but we lose the even more certain understanding that there is still yet more to learn about that particular coffee and the place where it came from and the people that grew it. If it’s an “87” for example, that means it’s pretty darn good, and a lot of high end specialty roasters might sell it in a blend or as a generic single origin coffee, but hardly ever would it reach the vaunted status of a “micro-lot” and be touted as exceptional, sold for twice the price of most coffees being sold today and feature a picture of the farmer (and maybe his family) on the label and the roaster’s web site page.

Now, this is still an improvement, and I’m not complaining (well not completely) but the problem is that another day, in a slightly different circumstance, with a slightly different roast, that coffee might score an “89” and be set aside for consideration as a microlot, or only rate and “85” and be shoved off the cupping table and into the garden compost.

And, yes, to repeat: the coffee drinkers lose out as well. Because by reading from some independent source that one coffee is rated an 89 and another a 93 and then paying up for the “93” of settling for the “89” they lose much of what should be their sense of what those two coffees taste like are really worth, to THEM. When they do taste the coffees, many coffee drinkers (and I see this happen with wine drinkers as well) evaluate themselves versus the score rather than (and, obviously, I recommend this second approach) stop and wonder if the score itself is correct and why it was given and under what circumstances and finally, whether they agree that the coffee does, relatively, merit the score it’s labeled with.

Coffee, in my experience, is one of the most damned ephemeral and fickle of the gustatory commodities that it’s our pleasure as human beings to taste and consider. From the time the seed of the tree germinates, from the weather at every step of tree’s maturation, from the vagaries of the soils that it encounters in the nursery and in the field, from the nutrients that are present already, and added or not added to the soil, from the picking to processing, to storage and transport, to roasting and packaging and then to brewing: it is freaking mind-boggling how many factors can lead one cup of coffee to taste completely different from another. To reduce it all to a since two digit score is, really, literally, stupefying; yet, necessary and beneficial. Oh well!

When I cup and, yes, score coffees in my business, for myself and to review with my suppliers and customers, I try really hard to keep this all in mind. That one score I come up with, that one particular time, isn’t “the” score, it’s maybe a pixel or two in the whole picture that I need to try and put together about that coffee. I have to remember where the coffee came from, the time of year it is, how fresh (or not) the coffee is, when it was processed and roasted, and what it is being used for.

I often put question marks after my scores, not because I’m a woosy wimp that can’t make a decision (a separate discussion there, please…) but because I want to remind myself (among other things) that I am cupping what is often the entirety of a family’s total income for a year and that I better be damned humble and terribly careful in deciding what I think of that coffee.

Getting back to the pixel model and looking at it more arithmetically, I try never to think of my score as “the” score, but part of the data set that will help establish a score, the best sense of how good a particular coffee tastes this time around (that could mean a whole crop for the year, or one particular lot from a particular crop). I’ll try to ask my customers what they think, I will ask my colleagues in my office and my trading partners, I’ll ask the exporter and/or the farmer if he or she has cupped the coffee.

Ideally.

Yes, ideally, because it is also the case that there often just isn’t the time and resources to go through all that legwork and still make a living — and you have to rely on that one little data point, that one pixel; and make a decision based on that. I hope that my experience and intuition help me out; I hope I’m lucky more often than not.

And I pray to my agnostic’s God that I don’t forget that’s all I’m doing: making my best guess. No one, certainly not me, can “know” what a coffee is worth by giving it an “83” instead of an “88” or what a farmer should be paid for it based on one tasting, a few slurps of the spoon and a slight spin of the cupping table on to the next coffee. We can only do our best and guess, and hope we get better at it and hope that everyone we’re working with, from the farmer to, yes, the coffee drinker, is working as hard. Because, oh yeah, not only is that farmer’s fortune based on our collective “best guesses,” but mine is too.

 

Postscript: I’ve been thinking about this “first post” for some time, but it was brought to realization by an experience I had this weekend: cupping a refined version of a coffee that had been sampled to me once before. Although it was poorly prepared, I thought the raw material was promising and I asked for a more carefully selected sample. Cupping that sample last night was disappointing but when I made a cup of the same roast this morning it was delicious. but what do I know? I’ve only been doing this for thirty years…you live, and you learn, with any luck.

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