Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A coffee-encounter of the third kind

Picture taken from the Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama.

A little more than month ago my local coffeebar acquired a Clover coffee brewer.

For those of you not familiar what a Clover is, I'll describe it briefly. "The Clover 1s is (...) a single-cup, commercial grade coffee brewer (...) which combines two methods considered best for brewing coffee: the “French press” and the vacuum brewer." (Quote from Clovers website) It produces this coffee in little more than a minute.

It produces a very clean cup which I've experienced before with coffees like El Salvador finca La Fany and Colombia finca Buena Vista.

Today was to be a little more special.

At the counter they had a poster announcing that they had gotten a hold of "Best of Panama #1" from Hacienda Esmeralda. I had a feeling that it was a little bit special when I saw the price for a cup. At rouhgly € 5,80/£3,90/$7,60 it was by far the most expensive cup of coffee I've ever seen.

But after a while I started thinking about recent discussions on various internet forums about the price of great wine compared to great coffee and so forth. And Norway as a country can for foreigners be a bit pricy. Also I have great faith in that the people in this coffeebar (Java at St.Hanshaugen in Oslo) really know their coffee. So I started to think: "If this coffee is so **** expensive it must be **** good."

I made the order, paid the barista and sat down with this liquid black gold. I must hastily add that I still consider myself to be a beginner when it comes to the real appreciation of coffee, and I can't really yet point out all the different aromas and tastes. So before recieving the coffe I asked the barista what I could expect from the cup. He said that even though this was a South American coffee, the coffeeplant itself (called Geisha) was originally taken to South America from Ethiopia in the 1930s and the coffee shared similarities with Yirgacheffe coffee. The coffee has in addition to an intense floral aroma the typical characteristics of the best of South American coffees with sweet fruityness and citrusy acidity. All in perfect harmony.

So did I taste and smell all of these wonderful things? Maybe, but I still couldn't put words on what I tasted and smelled other than it really was **** good!

Was it worth the price? Well, if someone had served this to someone not as nerdy about coffee as I am, I don't know if they'd appreciated it for what it was. BUT the experience as a whole, having being told what to expect, knowing the potential of the Clover machine and leaning over the cup with high anticipation before taking the first sip made it worth the price. Definately!

Would I buy it again tomorrow? Maybe, but probably not. This is a coffee for special occasions. I mean, one doesn't go around drinking vintage wine every day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Problem: Too much to choose from.

As I've blogged about earlier, I'm currently looking into starting roasting my own beans. Not that I have an urgent need because of the lack of freshly roasted beans, but just because the idea of roasting your own coffee is so intriguing.

I have run into a problem however. After surfing sites selling green beans, I've found that there is too much to choose from! Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira Canario Special, Colombia Cup of Excellence La Mina Estate, El Salvador Finca La Fany, Ethiopian Longberry Harrar, Indian Monsooned Malabar, Kenya AA Estate Gethumbwini.... The list goes on. They all sound so delicious! I feel like a kid in a candy store; wanting to buy it all.

I've read numerous forum posts, blogs and magazine articles about roasting, but this has only added to the dilemma. I've really gotten too much information. I have to start to forget what I've read if I'm ever going to get started. The information available is daunting, and the process of filtering what is the most important seeming an unassailable task.

Having set the time I'm going to buy a roaster to when we move into the new, bigger appartment, there is still much time to ponder about these things, and to maybe figure out what is my preference in types of beans. When I first started out I was sure that I liked the full bodied, nutty flavour of India Estate Bibi and the likes. This has developed however as I've tasted more and more different beans from around the world. I've started to appreciate the more subtle and more citrusy coffees as well.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is: Is there anyone out there who can help me figuring out what coffee should be the first to get roasted in my yet-to-be-purchased roaster? Is there perhaps a certain type of bean that is more forgiving and therefor more suitable for a rookie roaster?

And ultimately:
Is having so much to choose from necessarily a good thing?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I'm not a coffee-snob, I just care how it tastes! (Rant alert!)

For a while now I've been gradually getting more and more into the world of coffee. I've explored the different aspects of this wonderful beverage. From the plant to the cup a myriad of aspects influence on what the final product tastes like, and this interests me. I still only scraped the surface of the subject but seen enough to want to keep scraping. I don't expect everyone else to be as interested in all these aspects as I am, but expect people to care to at least a certain degree how it tastes. Sadly this doesn't always seem to be the case.

What is my main concern is that my interest in coffee actually has turned into a problem in some social contexts. As a wine-connoisseur people tend to see you as a resource and a person passionate about taste and the art of living. They ask for advice about wines and food and enjoy the lectures that ensue. However a coffee-lover is a hard-to-please problematic guest. "I guess this coffee isn't good enough for YOU." - said in a way you say to a little boy that doesn't want to eat the same food as everyone else. Not because the food is bad, but just because he's difficult and picky and doesn't want to try new things.

I must hurry to point out that I always drink whatever coffee I get served as a guest, and never complain even though it is luke warm and looks more like green tea than coffee. I don't look down on the people less into the world of coffee than me. I never lecture them on how they really should be making their coffee. Still this akward situation all to often arises. If you enjoy good wine you're a wine-connoisseur but if you enjoy good coffee you're a coffee-geek.

Some times I daydream that I never got interested in the world of coffee and the pleasures of enjoying a freshly brewed cup of newly ground, freshly roasted coffee. In these dreams I can be one of the people who can enjoy a luke warm cup of instant coffee. They don't know what they're missing out on but doesn't seem to care. Ignorance is bliss! At this point I usually wake up with a scream and go to the kitchen and make myself a cappucino.

However lately more and more friends and colleagues ask me for help about coffee and the brewing of it. There is a rising degree of interest in the making of quality coffee. I hope this could lead to that being a coffee-lover no longer will be a social stigma but a sign of a person who appreciates what life has to offer. I hope...

"Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment." ~ Librarian - Warhammer 40,000

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Has it really been that long?

As I first started to make this blog I promised myself to keep a steady stream of posts... I guess you can say it didn't quite happen. But it's never to late (I hope)! The lack of posts doesn't mean I haven't anything to write about. My coffee-life has been as active as ever.

I've been for a while butching myself up to start to try roasting my own beans. I've been collecting recipes and tips at different forums and have been looking at different roaster-alternatives. The thing is I'm a bit spoilt by having easy access to great freshly roasted beans. How can I ever hope to achieve something even remotely comperable? Not by bitching and moaning about it, thats for sure!

The thing is that for the moment I doubt the appartment me and my family live in is well ventilated enough to make coffee-roasting a sensible venture.

Until we move to a bigger place I'll continue to try to improve my coffee making skills and learn to appreciate more and more sides of the wonderful world of coffee. If anyone out there reading this post has a smart solution to the ventilation problem, apart from suggesting to do it outside (I'd hate to get the neighbours on my neck), I'd be very thankful for helpful comments!

Next post I'll moan about how difficult it is being a coffee-enthusiast (geek) amongst people who would drink instant coffee made with hot tapwater and think that thats what coffee has to offer. (I can feel my blood boiling already... It's time to let the pressure out.)