July 2017 Newsletter
This month's newsletter begins with a quote from Jim Schulman, one
of my old-time online coffee mates. In a recent post on www.home-
barista.com he said "We live in a media age, and media are visual,
no smells or tastes; this has greatly intensified with the web, so
that now we are getting the bulk of both our information and
interactions virtually. This may be leading to a decay in taste, not
a growth. Sometimes, when I'm in a bad mood I think this: High end
food is now about fancy plating; high end coffee is now about fancy
pouring. Both are now about fancy backstories -- green, organic, and
with awesomely authentic farming practices."
This really caught my attention because it strongly resonated with
my own experience. I recently ordered an espresso at an inner city
shop. It was pulled with great attention to detail, by an
experienced, competition winning barista, using the latest tools. I
mean, an espresso machine with PID and pressure profiling, an
automatically weighed coffee dose, scales under the shot, and a
first class single origin coffee. What could possibly go wrong?
Visually the shot poured perfectly and looked magnificent, with a
rich, firm crema. The taste, though, simply didn't match the
appearance. It was very acidic, and after the acidity faded, almost
sugary sweet, but lacking in body and with a very short aftertaste.
So what went wrong? I think, in this particular case, the barista
was trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as the saying
goes. I had already test roasted and cupped the same coffee and
found that it needed a more aggressive roast than its origin would
normally indicate. I suspect whoever roasted the coffee simply
thought "Oh well, it's from this origin, we'll roast it the same as
all the others from that place." And because it looked right ... the
roast profile graph was followed perfectly, the roast colour was
correct ... everyone assumed it was right, without ever tasting the
I've seen the same thing in restaurants. Gelled, smeared, foamed
presentation that looks fabulous but fails the taste test. Food that
appears to be designed to be photographed rather than eaten. Funnily
enough, nobody takes photos of their bowl in my local Pho shop, but
it's some of the most well balanced and delicious food around.
I suppose that's part of the reason I'm not fond of capsule
machines, they give the appearance of espresso without actually
matching the taste of the real thing.
Coffee that is both real and tasty is this month's special,
Ethiopian Chelba Yirgacheffe
Unlike our dry process Organic Yirgacheffe this is a classic washed
Yirgacheffe coffee. It has a jasmine, lime and honey aroma which
follows through into some sweet lime acidity on the front palate. A
creamy, malty mid palate leads to a rich milk chocolate aftertaste.
Finally, congratulation to us, we've just had our 21st online
birthday. In those years we've seen the internet grow from a
curiosity to a vital part of everyday life. When we first went
online I foresaw the growth of internet commerce and communication.
I could see email replacing letters, online banking, and remote
control of industrial processes. What I completely missed was the
advent of the smart phone and the explosion of social media. Of
course, if I'd been that smart I would probably be either rich or
bankrupt, and not still roasting coffee!
Until next month