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  November 2010 Newsletter

  How weird is THAT?

The first 2 questions I get when new acquaintances find out what
I do for a living are invariably "what's the best coffee?" and
"have you heard about that cat-poop coffee?"

Unless you really want to stop the conversation cold there are
really no good short answers to either question. And someone is
bound to interrupt with "Jamaica Blue Mountain!" at some point
anyway. Well, sorry to disappoint the audience but JBM doesn't
merit a space in the top ten, and perhaps not even the top twenty
of the world's finest coffees.

30 years ago the reputation was perhaps deserved, because there
were few coffees which had the creamy mouthfeel, chocolate and
nut flavours and smooth body of a JBM in a good crop year. Quite
a lot of my customers have recently tried a coffee which tastes
very much the same, the Haiti Grand Cru.

Real Jamaican Blue Mountain (and there are only 4 sources,
Wallenford, Mavis Bank, Twyfords and Moy Hall) had a touch more
acidity than the Haiti and a little less body. However, recent
JBM's I've tasted have been extremely bland, more like low-grown
Hawaiian Konas than anything else. I can think of 10 coffees off
the top of my head (at least half of them previous monthly
specials) which are miles better. Certainly the JBM's are not
worth anything like the prices asked for them.

Which brings me on to "The Most Expensive Coffee in the World",
Kopi Luwak, aka cat-poop, monkey-poop, bird-poop and just about
any other animal that eats coffee cherries and excretes the
undigested beans. The Luwak is the Indonesian name for the Palm
Civet, a nocturnal omnivorous mammal which occupies the same sort
of ecological niche in tropical Asia that the possum does in
Australia. Its official name is Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus, it
looks a bit like a hairy possum or a raccoon, and when caught and
eaten it is potentially a vector for the SARS virus.

The legend behind all the various excreted green coffees is that
the animal in question chooses only the best and ripest coffee
cherries to consume, and that the subsequent passage of the green
beans through their bowels magically produces a superior green
coffee. This of course ignores the fact that the beans in
question may not be so great to begin with, and in Java, Vietnam
or South China will probably be Robusta. And yes, all jokes
aside, will taste like crap.

I know this from personal experience, having cupped Indonesian
Kopi Luwak, Indian Monkey Coffee (the Rhesus monkeys cheat, they
spit rather than swallow), and Brazil Jacu Bird Coffee, all in
the last 12 months. None of them would get remotely close to
scoring well in a blind cupping competition, and price-wise they
tasted closer to $4.00/kg greens than $400.00/kg greens.

Very much UNLIKE this month's special coffee,

                          Costa Rica Tarrazu Miel

As I said the first time we offered it, "Smells like coffee,
tastes like coffee, it's the coffee-est coffee we've ever offered
and a great single origin espresso as well." This is a microlot
sourced from 3 farms and processed as one small batch, but it has
the typical increased sweetness and body and reduced acidity we
would expect.

We're closed Tuesday 2nd November for the Cup, so expect some
delay if you ordered over the Halloween weekend.