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April 2009 Newsletter

First a reminder that we're off to Atlanta, Georgia for this
year's SCAA conference. We'll be back on the 22nd or thereabouts.
While we're away I've closed down the Equipment Order page as I
won't be around to do setup and testing, but coffee shipping will
continue as normal.

There won't be a "special" coffee this month either, and the last
scraps of the March special will be gone by midweek. Thinking
about the special coffees brings me to the subject of this
newsletter, "Exemplar" coffees, that is coffees which stand out
as role models of a particular coffee attribute.

ACIDITY is a desirable feature of most coffees. We're not talking
about a harsh, vinegary taste but the sparkling, refreshing,
fruity acidity you get from a sip of lemonade. Wine drinkers will
note the same sort of sensation in young reislings or sauvignon
blancs, mostly tasted towards the front of the mouth. High grown
Central American and Kenyan coffees are noted for their acidity,
and the coffees from the Tarrazu valley of Costa Rica show the
purest combination of coffee flavour and acid.

SWEETNESS is also highly prized. Often the acidity of a
particular coffee will also emphasize its sweetness, but
certainly less acid coffees can still have sweet, caramelly
tastes. Dry Process coffees where the coffee fruit is allowed to
dry on the bean, infusing it with sugars and fruit flavours can
combine sweetness and low acidity. Bourbon varietal coffees
(often called heirloom coffees) from the Cerrado and Mogiana
regions of southern Brazil stand out for their sweetness, making
them a desirable base coffee for espresso blends.

BODY is the difference between hot water and a rich broth. The
feel of the liquid coffee in your mouth can be thin or thick, the
"thick" sensation is created by lipids and carbohydrates
extracted from the beans. In general dry process coffees tend to
have more body than washed, wet process coffees where the skins
and fruit are fermented and washed away. The coffees with the
most body tend to be very low in acidity, and taste more earthy
than sweet. Leaving aside monsooned coffees and robustas, the
fullest bodied coffees in the world come from Indonesia, and the
best of these is the Sumatra Mandheling.

BALANCE, the combination of acidity, sweetness and body in
perfect harmony, is rare in single origin coffees. Most tend to
stand out for one thing or another, which is why so many coffees
are blends. In my experience the best balanced single origin
coffees in the world come from Colombia and New Guinea. The
quality of New Guinea coffees is largely unknown to the world
outside Australia, which is fortunate for us; we can choose the
very best.

FLAVOUR varies as much between coffees as wines, and for much the
same reasons, differences in varietals, terroir and processing.
Of course, all quality coffees must have basic coffee taste, but
the devil is in the subtle overtones. In extremely general terms,
though:

PURE COFFEE: Costa Rica

CHOCOLATE: Ethiopian Harar or Yemen Mokha.

NUTTY: Island coffees, Kona for walnut/pecan, Cuba for peanut,
Jamaica for pecan/hazelnut.

SPICY: Sulawesi Toraja, some Indian coffees.

FRUITY: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Kenya.

Long-time customers will note that most of the Exemplars are
either on the regular list or pop up as specials ... funny about
that!

Alan