Thursday, April 14, 2005
skip your blowout
you know a common practice here in nyc is to wash your hair at home once a week, and then go once or twice a week to a salon for quick wash and/or blowout. depending on your budget, you might do this at fekkai, orlo or at supercuts. whatever.
the crucial point is that most women in noo yawk still tend to live by the blow dryer and paddle brush for that straight-n-glossy look. but i'm here to tell ya, fuggedaboudit.
because the stumptown "hairbender" espresso blend is here to stay. got that flavor wheel mousepad yet?
alas, since the job thing keeps interfering with formal morning cuppings -- i gotta work on that -- i just made this coffee up straight away in my trusty silvia. chris did give some parameters for this blend, which i tried to meet as best i could on my unmodified "old" machine thru a trusty temp surf.
let's start with the roast: the hairbender beans do show small spots of oil, so they're into vienna. and the blend ground nicely at the usual setting on the mazzer mini, so i'd say this coffee is fairly easy to work with, not so super-finicky.
this unusual blend -- remember chris noted that it's mostly washed (wet process) coffees, unlike the more common mostly naturals (dry process) with a little washed -- was immediately noteworthy to me for its intense buttery-ness and pungent taste.
i found the fresh dry grounds to offer a green spice aroma. the rest of the bouquet seemed to hold a dark honey and syrupy-vanilla swiss thing, which i think is what chris meant by "butterscotch."
and i'd say the aftertaste, as plain espresso, was maybe that kind of juniper berry flavor called black-currant-like. i found it intriguing, so naturally i had to have it as a cappuccino.
yuppers, 2 triples for breakfast. . .anyway, in milk, i think the black currant retreated a bit, and a little raw sugar highlighted the honey and chocolate-y notes.
yummy. but no more for me today!
also, i do leave tomorrow for seattle! i can hardly wait; i hope i'll be seeing a great many of you, dear readers and coffee friends, there.
in an amusing note, oren after reading yesterday's post on the stumptown harrar, sent me an awesome pic of long-time bccy pal and chic cupper genevieve felix with mao himself and nephew from their recent trip to ethiopia.
and finally, i took a look at my web stats yesterday only to discover that disney, the parent company of abc news, is all over this website, i suppose interested in reading my very personal and offhand take on last friday's event.
welcome to bccy, gentlemen! where real coffee lovers gather to talk passionately about the taste and flavors readily apparent in high-quality specialty coffees!
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
plunging into blue
it's so tempting to mine the titles of dylan songs here isn't it? my favorite being "it's all over now, baby blue."
chris tacy of stumptown told me he believed that yesterday's ravishing indigo was even better in a cafetiére.
this dry-process or natural ethiopian mao (named for the initials of the exporter, mohammed abdullahi ogsadey) horse harrar is generally renowned for its body along with everything else, so in a press pot, which tends to emphasize body, it'd be no surprise to expect a heavy, almost-sumatra level of body/mouthfeel.
and so this morning i tried the experiment. in the press pot, this amazing coffee did exhibit one serious body.
i also thought the passion-fruit character was more pronounced, as was the chocolate aftertaste. but i thought the caramel, syrupy note was overshadowed, and frankly, the beautiful blue-ness seemed a tad shorter lived. when cool, the winey-ness was also more prominent, i felt.
i can understand why someone fond of intense and extreme flavors (one meaning of the coffee-tasting term "wild") -- well, that's me, actually! -- would prefer this in the press.
but, in short, although body is one of my favorite attributes in coffee without a doubt, i think i may prefer this coffee in a vac pot. it may come out more a little more "balanced."
what exactly do i mean by this term? scaa chief ted lingle in his indispensable coffee cuppers handbook defines this term as "applied to the liquoring properties of the coffee brew, denoting a pleasing combination of two or more primary taste sensations."
let's break that down a bit. the "liquoring properties" in coffee are those compounds that actually dissolve into the water and are responsible for the taste of the coffee, as opposed to the aromas/bouquet. (think the left side of the scaa flavor wheel.)
the "primary taste sensations" are of course the basic sweet, sour, bitter, salt.
this is a little more exact than some uses of this term, and when you hear offer this word you sometimes have to inquire a little as to how the cupper means it. when i use "balance," i will always be thinking of the lingle definition.
note that in my discussion of the stumptown harrar yesterday i remarked how the coffee contained elements both sweet and winey. winey being a form of the basic taste sour, i'm saying that when brewed in a vac pot, this coffee has a more intriguing "balance" between sweet and sour as you continue to drink it, to my mind.
i found this morning that the press pot increased the winey and reduced some of the sweet, do you see what i'm getting at now, dear readers?
(we can see the overlapping coffee vocabulary thing also happening, i think here in chris' original discussion of this coffee as having a notable "clarity." he has a very interesting use of this term that i find noteworthy.
"clarity" on the other hand, he writes, i define as: - first and foremost with clearly defined flavours, - beyond that - where you can, over time, discern layer after subtle layer deep into the coffee. so "clean" can be and is applied to any coffee and "clarity" is most commonly associated with high quality washed coffees.
that's a really cool way of thinking! but because of my cupping background, as meager as it is, i personally wouldn't talk that way. but it's a great insight, hmm? sorry for the digression. . .)
all of this a long way to say i think vac pot is the way to go for this gorgeous brew. however, once i see where chris is coming from, and how he is framing this coffee in his experience, i completely understand why he likes it better in a press.
i encourage you all reading this to do the experiment yourself with the stumptown harrar -- which way do you prefer it? and then just take a bit of time to walk around with why you might feel that way. . .what your own passionate, emotional experience of this coffee will be. . .
because of course, in the end, it's your coffee!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
long-time readers may recall that i went into various kinds of blonde raptures over terry's doma espresso, the ruby blue with harrar. that's a fantastic coffee.
so how do i convey to you my feelings about chris' stumptown blue harrar? how about: i wish my heart could pump this majesty?
how to describe the incredible ravishing cool indigo blue-ness of this blueberry harrar? how about: this coffee is bluer than the water around i faraliogni in capri?
or: this coffee is bluer than tobey macguire's eyes?
you might say this coffee's got me a little carried away. it's just that this harrar actually surpasses the hype.
let's calm down and take a look at the scaa flavor wheel. . .
stumptown's 2005 ethiopia mao horse harrar, as stated yesterday, appears to be a full-city-minus roast, without a speck of oil. since i didn't have time to cup this 5-day-old coffee formally this morning, i decided just to make it up in my vac pot at the usual 55g coffee to 1 liter water.
the dry grounds of the stumptown harrar were richly floral, perfumy, like pink day lilies.
i was sure that at 5 days old, there wouldn't be any problems with excess bloom. hah!
if i hadn't been watching it carefully, the bloom -- even over the lowest heat my gas stove supports -- woulda put coffee on the ceiling! i had to hold the lid down with my hand!
which is a way of saying this is some very fresh coffee. as the bloom came curling over the lip of the pot, already the brew broadcast its pronounced blueberry scent.
the vac pot tends to highlight the subtle nuances of coffees, but does sometimes attenuate their body. despite this effect, the coffee possessed a fine medium body/mouthfeel.
as i sipped the first drops of the stumptown harrar, it was just blue, blue, blue. as the coffee cooled a bit, another fruit came to the fore: yes, this coffee offers a surprising passion fruit feeling!
chris called this just "tropical fruit," but no way -- it was pure passion fruit to my little bejeweled nose. lemme also toss in some caramel and a dutch cocoa-y aftertaste.
when hot, as chris promised, it's a sweet coffee, but as it cools, a light winey-ness appeared.
with a little light cream and raw sugar, i thought the caramel and chocolate feelings were enhanced -- you lost the passion fruit, but above it all drifted that magnificent sparkling blue.
this coffee is eff-ing ravishing. buy it now and bathe in it.
Monday, April 11, 2005
the elephant in the room. . .
. . .comes from stumptown! chris tacy's care package arrived today.
i am still beside myself with utter joy. if you had any idea how wonderful this fresh coffee smells. if. if. if. only.
i immediately pulled the bag of the fabled ethiopian 2005 mao horse harrar from the box. there on the bottom stamped as plain as day was the "born-on" roast date, apr. 7.
we here at bccy love roast dates and we love artisan roasters who provide them! i immediately opened the bag and could instantly smell a fantastic blend of nuts; i'd call this roast level something like city+ to full city-, because the beans show not one speck of oil.
also kindly included is a bag of the famed hairbender espresso and a bag of rwanda. i've never had the very-highly-rated rwanda before, so this will be quite exciting!
here's how chris describes the coffees:
- hairbender - this is our espresso blend. unlike most espresso blends, this is mostly washed coffees - with only one semi-washed indonesian in there. it responds best to 19-20oz dosing for a marzocco double [portafilter basket], 200F brew temp, 9BAR pressure, 1.75-2oz doubles in 27 seconds. you should get strong butterscotch sweetness, some dutch processed cocoa in the finish and some nice high-toned aromatics.
- rwanda karaba - i love this coffee - it's amazing in a french press. you've probably read ken davids' review on coffee review [my note: you bet i did, chris!]. personally, while I do get the floral notes, i find this coffee dominated by a wonderful tart-berry truffle tone (dark chocolate ganache, tart raspberry and cranberry).
- ethiopia harar - this is from the first lots from the 2005 mao horse. it's the best harar i've tasted in three years. incredible fruit - not just in the aroma but also in the cup. the usual blueberry tones, but also some unique tropical fruit, tons of sweetness and shocking clarity for a harar. i love it!! wonderful in either a vacuum pot or a press pot.
don't these all sound just scrumptious? i have to say i've never seen a cranberry sensation in a coffee before. . .
and please dear readers, don't forget to eat your salmon, have an extra helping of italian greens cooked in garlic and olive oil, pour a glass of wine, and then enjoy a square of dark chocolate with almonds beside a dish of fresh berries. four times a week -- it's a must!
Sunday, April 10, 2005
more girl-world essentials
of course, every skirt carries some things in her marc jacobs bag: lipstick, keys, a mini-hairbrush, a hair clip, a french wallet, a pen, a cell phone, a swiss army knife with tweezers and a wine screw, a silver cupping spoon, the basics of cupping coffee, and after friday, a tds meter.
i now greatly envy genevieve felix for her awesomely stylish black "coffee case," with thermometers, spoons, screwdrivers, little espresso machine wrenches, etc. but clearly she too needs a tds gadget!
unfortunately, these meters just don't seem to come in stylish versions, alas. still it's amazing what's become an urban necessity nowadays, just like your yoga mat.
but considerations of style fall away when we go back to the question of chocolate. last month's traveler had a fantastic article, disguised as a trip to venezuela, on one of my favorite chocolates, el rey, in which it proclaimed the line to be equal in quality to valrhona.
why isn't the march issue on their website yet? hmm?
this made my little heart quite glad, as i've long endured the japes of chocolate-snobs-come-lately who disdain anything but manjari or whatever happens to be the most expensive this week. not that i don't love manjari myself!
actually t&l also seems to have a big chocolate fix lately. . . here and here.
reading this little piece, just as i happened to be passing economy candy yesterday, determined that i would pop in and buy, oh, 2 boxes, one of the apamate, and another of the gran saman. . .
i think the spicy nutiness of the gran saman is a great match for andrew's ecco northern-italian espresso, now 13 days old, but still lovely -- long time readers know i very much enjoy walking along a coffee's lifecycle to see how it changes.
today the espresso seems very hazelnut in character, still low-toned, heavy, and sweet. it's still producing an astonishing amount of crema, with lots of roiling "guinness effect" in every shot.
oops! that's the timer -- gotta go fold the pizza dough and make some sauce. . .