I’ve finished selecting the coffees for the tasting workshop. Short descriptions are below; more details are available on the Events page. Now for the part I’ve been looking forward to — fine-tuning the roasts!
The first, and most unusual, of the three beans that we will explore will be the Guatemala Huehuetenango Finca San Vicente SHB. Huehuetenango (way-way-ten-AN-go) is the only coffee in the world at present that has been singled out for preservation by Slow Food’s Ark of Taste program, which seeks to maintain biodiversity in the face of globalization, environmental damage, and the homogenization of taste. Finca San Vicente is situated at an altitude of 1300 to 1600 meters in the Cuchumatanes mountain range of Huehuetenango. It is unusually humid, and its terrain is steep, with soil that has a high clay content. While San Vicente has a few different cultivars, this lot of beans comes exclusively from their Bourbon varietal, from some of the higher trees in the farm. Because those trees mature more slowly, the beans tend to be more dense, and therefore more flavorful.
The second bean will be a classic coffee-lover’s coffee: an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe from the town of Idido, the Ethiopia Organic Idido Misty Valley. This Yirgacheffe is produced by the Bagersh family, who have traded coffee in Ethiopia for generations. Abdullah Bagersh has adopted his grandparents’ technique of dry-processing coffee by sun-drying it in its fruit, and then separating the dried fruit from the green coffee bean, rather than separating the undried fruit from the bean by agitating them in water—a technique adopted throughout the region in the 1960s. For that reason, dry-processing is unusual for a Yirgacheffe, though it is still the dominant method of producing Harars.
The final bean will be a favorite, but an unusually difficult one to pin down: a Sumatra Classic Mandheling. The big problem with Sumatras is that they don’t follow the rules that most other coffees follow. You typically can’t track a lot back to a single producer or estate, because most Sumatras are cultivated by small producers and brought to cooperatives where they are aggregated and sold. Because soil and climate vary throughout Sumatra, and quality control standards vary as well, consistency is difficult to ensure over time. Why bother with such a quarrelsome and mercurial bean? Because, to me anyway, a superb Sumatra is the essence of what good coffee should be. I tried four different Sumatras and finally settled on this one, a very nice Lake Toba Mandheling from Sumatra Typica trees that has good earthiness and peppery overtones, without even a hint of acidity.