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October 2012 Newsletter


We're back from our little holiday, and already looking forward to
the next one!  Not the least because while we were away, the
motherboard on our office computer suffered the ultimate and final
crash of its long existence.

Fortunately my packing guy was able to view incoming orders on his
iphone (although he couldn't download or print them out) so we
managed to muddle through. Those of you who received their orders
with hand written labels now know why. Also fortunately we keep a
complete, up-to-date offline backup of all our data, so nothing was
lost. One new computer later and we're back up to full speed.

We were in China for much of our break, with a stopover in Hong Kong
to visit Paul Pratt (
www.cafelat.com), so I ended up drinking more
green tea than coffee while we were away. I did note that Illycafe
has a huge presence in China, and that you could generally get an
unspectacular but otherwise inoffensive shot from most of the places
advertising Illy coffee.

The notable thing about the Illy espresso blend is its excellent
balance. It's a hard coffee to get wrong, even though it may often
be a bit stale. This was especially noticeable when we got home and
I nipped out for a quick espresso.

I live in Port Melbourne, and I reckon we've got more Synesso
machines backed up by Mazzer grinders per square metre than almost
anywhere else on earth. I ordered a double espresso, and got a
carefully pulled shot of around 50ml, 35 second shot time from what
looked like 18-20 grams coffee, closer to what I'd call a double
ristretto.

It was acidic enough to strip the enamel from your teeth! When I
asked the barista about what they were serving, I was told it was a
"third wave" blend from a well publicised boutique roaster, all
Central American coffees with a dash of Tanzanian. It was probably
the least balanced espresso blend I have ever tasted, sour enough to
invite comparisons with sucking lemons. If you could get past the
acid, there was a little bit of sweetness, not much body and
virtually no bitterness in the aftertaste.

When the barista said "It's good with milk" it struck me that the
"third wave" coffee phenomenon was all about the American palate,
where bitter tastes are not appreciated at all. Italians tend to
quite like a bitter aftertaste to follow front palate sweetness, and
they invented espresso and espresso blends. Americans are used to
acidy drip coffees with sweetener and milk, and their own take on
espresso reflects this. There is also a fair dash of good old USA
marketing involved with the "third wave" movement, where "different"
is sold as "New and Improved." If it's new and boutique, it must be
trendy, which means all the cool people love it.

My own palate is unfortunately heavily biased towards the balanced
approach. Regular monthly special customers will note that I prefer
a good balance of acidity, sweetness, flavour and body. This is the
approach that's also favoured by noted Italian roasters like Illy
and Lavazza. I suppose that preferring a slightly stale but balanced
shot in China to a fresh, perfectly pulled shot of lemon juice makes
me very uncool indeed.

In keeping with this, the special is full bodied and smooth with a
hint of clove and cardamom spice and just a touch of clean acid in
the front palate.

Sulawesi Toraja $44.00/kg

Until next month

Alan.