November 2015 Newsletter
Following on from last month's newsletter, by far the most requested
special coffee is the Costa Rica Tarrazu Miel.
The Miel (Honey) process really adds an extra dimension to the
already excellent Tarrazu taste. Unfortunately, this year we've
cupped several lots that simply haven't made the grade in terms of
quality. They've lacked the concentration of flavour we've seen in
past years, but they've also been quite expensive. However, the
Tarrazu valley isn't the only coffee producing area in Costa Rica.
Farmers from other areas have started experimenting with Honey
Processing, and some of these coffees are now coming to market. I've
finally managed to snag one of these microlots. It's from the
Sabanilla de Alajuela district in the Central Valley region of Costa
Rica, slightly to the north of the Tarrazu Valley, and processed at
the Las Lajas organic micromill, although it doesn't seem to be
organically certified. It's called a Yellow Honey coffee, Amarillo
Miel in Spanish, and in this case the processing involves leaving
all the fruit pulp on the coffee beans and turning the beans over
So this month's special is:
Costa Rica Amarillo Miel
This coffee has an intensely sweet honey and malt front palate, deep
mid tones and a rich creamy finish. Totally yummy.
In this year's May newsletter I talked about the unstoppable growth
of convenience coffee; i.e. capsule brewing devices. Recently
released data shows that 30% of all coffee consuming households in
the USA use a capsule brewer. Most of these will be K-Cup (Keurig)
type brewers producing drip filter coffee, but espresso capsules are
rapidly increasing their market share. A similar turmoil in the
coffee brewer market was caused by the introduction of electric drip
filter machines in the USA post World War II. Suddenly every
household and office had fresh brewed coffee at the press of a
Which in turn led to coffee as a commodity and the cheapening of the
contents of coffee cans to the point where "American" coffee was a
byword for absolute crap. I strongly suspect that the same sort of
market forces that created Folgers, Maxwell House etc. as robusta
heavy supermarket loss leaders are once again in play.
Several of the mid tier specialty roasters have been bought out by
larger corporations. One privately owned German company, Joh A.
Benckiser, has bought out Douwe Egberts (after it was spun off from
Sara Lee), Caribou Coffee, Peets and now Intelligentsia, apparently
in an effort to become one of the world's largest coffee suppliers.
They have spent several billion (yes, with a "B") US dollars to do
The last time this sort of thing happened, well known coffee brands
were acquired by monster corporations like Procter & Gamble and
Kraft. By the time they'd finished "rationalizing", i.e. cheapening
the various brands the only resemblance to the original coffees were
the names on the packaging. This was made profitable by the rise of
supermarkets, canned pre-ground coffee and electric drip machines.
Luckily Australia had espresso, so we escaped.
What I think we're seeing now is a similar movement, again driven by
"convenience" with pre-ground capsules taking the place of the
canned coffees. I'll be watching the outcome with great interest.
Until next month