Thursday, November 11, 2004


the alma viva

this morning i jumped outta bed with anticipation to sample james freeman's blue bottle "alma viva" blend. as usual, i'll be using the scaa flavor wheel, scaa chief ted lingle's cupping handbook, and j. lenoir's nez du café to describe this ultra-fresh coffee.

james intends this coffee as drip, but sadly i didn't have time this morning to cup it, make it in the vac pot, and also in the cafetiére (a.k.a. french press). so i simply cupped it and pressed it to be able to get a good feel for its potential body.

this is a drum-roasted coffee, which is all good by me. why do i say this?

since the blend is based in costa rica and a mexican chiapas, you would initially expect a bright, even snappy, coffee. however, drum roasting in general mutes brightness a tad, while fluid-bed roasting generally highlights it.

long-time readers know that i'm not the biggest fan of "stings like a rubber band snap" bright coffees -- altho' i understand all the pro cuppers love this quality -- and that i have to work a little harder to appreciate them. . .

james calls this coffee a "medium" roast, but by my new york standard -- we are usually used to roasts lighter here than on the west coast -- it was surely the color of vienna, but with no visible oil. so i'm deeming it a full-city-on-the-edge here as a compromise!

and since the coffee is certified organic, i also expected it to be a little wild. in 3 cups however, i didn't find any extreme variation, so no wild here!

i'll describe the alma viva as a rich coffee, with a medium body. the fragrance of the dry grounds was decidedly floral, a tad spicy, like a paperwhite narcissus.

this fragrance reminded a little of the coffee i cupped with peter g. of counterculture in our famous phone cupping. since that coffee has a mexican component, i'm venturing that this floral-spicy fragrance may have come from the chiapas in this blend.

on to the rest of the bouquet: the coffee offered what seemed to me a citrus-peel oil sensation, that zing you get when you crush say a grapefruit or orange peel between your fingers and hold the resulting oil under your nose. that gave way to a vanilla and caramel character, which james relates to toasted almonds, but i thought was maybe a little more towards honeyed.

finally, i believe i detected a faint wood-spice note before a nice finish that left my mouth watering. this wood-spice note may perhaps come from the costa rica component,as probably does the citrus.

no doubt the coffee tastes sweet, medium-bright, nippy not snappy. the lack of full snap, as i speculated above, may be due to the drum roasting.

in the french press, with a tablespoon of light cream and raw sugar, this coffee presented other characteristics, most notably a fairly thick and pleasing body. this surprised me a bit, since often mexican coffees, esp. those from chiapas, which is close to huehuetenango in guatemala, can share the lighter body of guatemala coffees.

james says milk mutes this coffee, but with all due respect, i might not agree with this.

true, the citrus and bright feeling are both reduced. however, i thought the milk accentuated the wood-spice note and turned it into that kind of soft cinnamon, not the hot cinnamon used in candies.

further, the vanilla aspect just leapt to the fore, with a toasty/roasty feeling. this toasty/roasting is what i think james was talking about when he mentioned roasted almonds.

and the touch of sugar naturally strengthened that honeyed thing going on. in the end, i believe that if you like it black, the alma viva is a bright, citrus cup, not overly bright, but pleasantly so.

but for those who like a little milk and sugar in your coffee, the alma viva is also a treat: sweet, vanilla-sugary, soft cinnamon, toasty/roasty -- yuppers, it's like the sweet cinnamon toast your granny served you as child for breakfast.

all good, either way! if these characteristics i'm trying to describe sound appealing to you, i think you'd enjoy this blend.

posted by fortune | 6:56 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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