Friday, October 20, 2006


cupping with oren & genevieve

so today was rainy, basically warm, but with a huge chill wind that could sweep you into the sky if you didn't anchor yourself to the nearest lamppost at every major street corner. in fact, it completely reminded me of the last time i was in siena, standing in front of the duomo being drizzled on.

this is why i made pasta e fagioli alla contadina sienese for lunch -- with a food processor for the soffrito and the pressure cooker for the borlottis, it was all quite do-able.

then took my passport, got a visa stamped, and ran uptown to oren's office on the lex for the cupping. whenever i go to pro cuppings, i always return amazed -- you'd think i'd be used to it by now -- that while some of the personal descriptors are unique to each cupper, the broad descriptions of the coffee are usually in close harmony, and nearly everyone orders the coffee in exactly the same way.

this "there's no agreement in taste" idea seems less and less true with every pro cupping i attend. but why should i be surprised? everyone looks at a flag and agrees it's red, white and blue (unless they're colorblind, which is a recognized disability) -- why should simple tastes be any different?

we had a couple of flights on the table: 4 colombian c.o.e. coffees, and 3 indonesians. oren, genevieve and i rarely cup together -- in fact i think the last time we did was at the daterra gig in the exchange with with scaa past president linda smithers.

and yet despite the lack of much familiarity, only our training with the usual scaa tools like the flavor wheel, and certainly no taste calibration, oren and i nailed the c.o.e.'s in the exact same order.

we even labeled the la isla "typically colombian" in our tasting notes. exactly the same! we agreed on brightness levels, body levels, many descriptors -- we even both used the word "tomato" for one of the indos!

the order we both chose was:

  1. the andeano organic euro-prep la luisia
  2. the la isla from tolima
  3. also from tolima, the el placer
  4. from nariño, the el pedregal

on the indo side, we had 3 coffees from knutsen, a sulawesi (which oren still calls celebes kalossi); a sumatra mandheling from pawanee, super-grade "fancy select;" and another pawanee, an aged sumatra mandheling.

the tomato situation arose with the sulawesi. . .it definitely had a slight brightness, like a fresh red tomato, and also a little tomato-leaf herby aroma. i did manage to flip oren out with my personal descriptor for the aged sumatra.

now neither oren nor his buyer genevieve felix like aged coffees. myself, i went thru a peets period where i drank little else (i got better, as monty python fans would say!).

so oren and g. are going "why did we buy this coffee again?" and i'm rocking it out like -- potpourri/fresh cedar fragrance, mossy aroma with tumeric, frankincense nose, smoky black cardamom aftertaste, heavy body, mellow, low-toned taste.

it was the most distinctive coffee on the table -- esp. in contrast to those colombians. "frankincense?" oren said. "look oren," i replied, "if you want something different in your french press, esp. with milk, the puppy's gonna nail it. it's gonna stand right up and say 'i am not your typical noo yawk reg-u-lah.' for lovers of john zorn."

yeah, frankinscense -- i wonder if i was instinctively groping towards the diterpene (as flament says "diterpene decreases during storage," and that's aging, right?) -- so that in aged coffees, so much is lost except for that old-scented-wood and faded-diterpene thing? any coffee chemists care to comment?

(btw, you coffee-roastin' gearheads: oren's sirocco sample roaster's down right now. anyone with proven coffee-roaster mechanical skills who can fix it, email me! o needs a fix, i do believe!)

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