.Last week we met up again with our good friends at Royal Coffee New York when they invited us to attend a cupping they were hosting. The event was to display eleven new micro-lots coming from the Narino region of Colombia, and we were educated on the farmers that offered each one.
Micro-lots are pretty simple but can be really exciting; small lots of coffee crops that are grown or processed in new or experimental ways are sold at a limited availability. It is often that the quality of these beans are generally unknown until they get unveiled at such an event, and it is common that some shining gems show themselves in places you might not be looking for them. It's a great opportunity to get your hands on something ephemeral and potentially magical - a cup of coffee that may never be replicated quite the same way ever again.
This was an interesting cupping because all of the coffees were from the same region and similar elevations with similar terroir. So, one would thing that they would all taste the same, right?
This is the part where farmer individuality really expresses itself. Whether it's the plant variety, growing and feeding practices or processing methods, each farmer puts their own fingerprint into the coffee they sell, and we get to taste them all back to back and see what impacts their decisions have on the final cup. Most of the coffees tasted during this cupping had some similar overarching characteristics on a base note, but these similarities make it easy to pick out subtler notes that might be overlooked in a more casual setting. Most of these coffees could have been described as "sweet", "bright" and a little "fruity", but specific tasting notes for each one of these categories varied greatly over the eleven coffees tasted. An of course there are always outliers - coffees that are totally unexpected or different from the rest of the group. It was interesting to see a flavor note of "buttered popcorn" written on the community tasting board.
We tasted all eleven coffees to see all these possibilities and to make some judgement calls. Personally, I always look for something with great balance - I like coffees that are interesting and vibrant, but don't necessarily require a whole lot of thought to consume. Simple things done well are surprisingly difficult to stumble upon, and when I do find something like that I really enjoy the beauty that can come with it. We were lucky enough to find a coffee that suited our needs to replace our Costa Rica single origin offering that is about to sell out (get it while you still can!). Something simple, sweat, and beautiful. We picked up a bag and drove it home that night, and now comes the fun part - dialing in the roast.
This week I will be taking this coffee and tossing it into the roaster to figure out how it behaves, and how best to roast it to display every trait it has to offer. If you would be so kind to tune in next week, I'll clue you in to how this process works! Until then, keep an eye out for the simply beautiful, you may not expect to find it where it pops up.
Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.