Archive for November, 2009

The Inaugural Coffeegeek Lab Tasting

Last weekend, a sizable group of coffeegeeks gathered in chief coffeegeek Mark Prince’s newly created lab space. Mark, not willing to pull a week long caffeine permahigh invited the locals over. Our mission was to taste a number of coffees from some of North America’s premiere roasters.

The Coffeegeek Lab is incredibly well stocked. The entire gamut of consumer espresso machines is represented all along one wall. Another nook has nearly all of the Hario products ever produced, which for a glassware addict like myself is very cool to see. The lab centerpiece is one of the most coveted piece of espresso technology out there – the La Marzocco GS3. However, espresso was not why we were all standing around with our cups. A couple of 1.5 L french presses were brought out and the coffees shown to the group. Offerings of the day were varied, with coffees from Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters (Calgary, AB), DOMA Coffee Roasters (Coeur d’Alene, ID), PT’s Coffee (Topeka, KS) and Counter Culture Coffee (Durham, NC).

Before I ramble further, here are my thoughts on the five coffees we ended up tasting.
Brewing

  1. Phil & Sebastian Kenya Kiru Co-op. First up was an auction lot coffee from my old pals (and employers). The cup showed a bright, clean acidity with what a lot of people realized was an aroma similar to tomato. Tasting it, the tomato was still there! One fellow taster likened it to a really well made fresh tomato soup. I picked up on a pleasant bitterness that was just like Angostura bitters (famous Trinidadian cocktail bitters used in drinks like the Old Fashioned). P&S were starting us off well. Of note, this coffee performed best at 100 grams of ground coffee as opposed to 90 grams for the 1.5 liter brew volume.
  2. PT’s Panama Elida Estate. The Elida Estate offering was a naturally processed coffee, where the coffee cherries are essentially left to ferment on their own. A risky move, but if the farmer’s gamble is successful, the results are a very rewarding flavor profile. This did not disappoint. Huge fruit in the cup, mostly blueberries. That profile is probably familiar to fans of the celebrated lots of coffee that were coming out of Ethiopia, notably Beloya coffees. I haven’t had such a fruity cup in awhile and this was my favorite of the five (but, as I was told at the event, I do have a bias towards this flavor profile.)
  3. DOMA Costa Rica. No information on the bag on this one, but visiting DOMA’s website elicited a bit more information. It’s a classically profiled Costa Rican coffee sourced from the Helsar de Zarcero micromill. Lots of milk chocolate and a good level of acidity to create a very balanced cup. Hard to follow the last fruit bomb of a cup. I was however the recipient of the rest of the bag thanks to knowing where DOMA roasts in Idaho. This past week I’ve finished off the bag and it’s a really enjoyable everyday coffee.
  4. Counter Culture El Salvador Aida’s Grand Reserve. I was very excited to try this coffee for a second time. Aida Batlle is a fantastic coffee farmer. She produces some of the best coffees available from Central America and has developed relationships with some of the best coffee professionals in the world, notably Counter Culture and Square Mile out of London. Sweet citrus and stone fruit notes dominate. This coffee is obviously very special. Notably, this is an all peaberry lot. Peaberries are anomalous, rounded beans where only one bean forms instead of the normal two. The extra attention given to selecting peaberries results in phenomenal quality in the cup. The fact this one is from Aida’s farms makes it extraordinary.
  5. Counter Culture Panama Esmeralda Especiale. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling this coffee before and it is often name dropped as the “best coffee in the world”. Though I tend towards natural process coffees for my favorites, there is something about the coffees from Hacienda La Esmeralda. Often, this coffee comes across more like a tea. The cup is exceptionally clean for a french press. Aromas are very much floral with jasmine and a meyer lemon acidity. The florals increased through cooling. Drinking an Esmeralda is something all coffee lovers should get a chance to do, though it will probably set you back $8 for a small cup at a reputable cafe.

 

Pouring a Cup

Chris, from cleanhotdry.com, doles out the good stuff.

 

This tasting was a phenomenal opportunity for all levels of coffee consumers and professionals to drink some of the best offerings from some of the best roasters on the continent and I would like to thank Mark for organizing it on such short order. Thanks as well to Beata, Leo and Chris (and anyone else who was cleaning up if I missed you!) for doing a lot of the behind the scenes work.

The Coffeegeek Lab will be the host of more events like these in the future. Keep an eye on Coffeegeek and the Coffeegeek Facebook page for information on future tastings and the imminent unveiling of Mark’s consumer courses to be offered in the lab.

Relaunch

I’m serious this time.

Though I’ve been out of the coffee industry for over a year, it is time to relaunch Pulling Shots. The number of shots that I’ve pulled in the past 15 months can be counted on one hand. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve only pulled two shots since I last worked the bar at Phil & Sebastian during the summer of 2008. Those two shots were both made on the same day on Mark Prince’s La Marzocco GS3.

My role in the coffee world now is completely different. I’m not your neighborhood’s mostly friendly, sometimes surly coffee jockey. Now I’m the quiet guy who comes into your cafe and orders a cappuccino, an espresso or perhaps one of the by-the-cup offerings you have on your fresh sheet. I’ll sit down and enjoy that drink, bring my cup back to the counter and move on.

The reason for my departure from blogging is that in being that customer, I thought I had nothing to say. I had fleshed out my positions on many things over the 5 years that this blog has existed. Taking a spin through my oldest posts, I realize how immature at times the content of my writing was (give it a try, it’s amusing if not embarrassing!). I was a pretentious kid trying to make sense of the coffee world. My blog was a soundboard for thoughts I had as to where the coffee industry in my two cities should have headed. Over the past few years, I think we’ve made it to the point where a lot of my concerns have disappeared. Cafes, roasters and baristas are for the large part starting to do the things everyone wanted to see happening back when a multitude of coffee blogs were active. Since then, blog activity has slowly decreased as have the major coffee forums.

However, I would like to start posting again actively. I still drink coffee a number of times daily and still maintain connections with a network of coffee industry folk, many of whom I consider good friends. This blog’s voice will strive to be one of a customer. I have a few posts planned for the next bit, the first of which will be a summary of today’s inaugural Coffeegeek Lab group tasting. I hope to get some more posts up on the cafes in town that are worth checking out. In addition, I hope to get my fledgling food blog up and going again since I wrote a couple of posts for it back in May. I’m a regular on the Western Canada boards at Chowhound and I hope to post reviews and recommendations on my blog where I can be a little more verbose than on Chow.

Here’s to a new era of coffee blogging!


On tap

49th Parallel El Salvador La Montaña
Excellent coffee for everyday drinking. Well expressed acidity and classic El Salvador profile.

Bulleit Bourbon
By far the best bourbon available in BC for the price. $35 for a bottle gets you the highest rye content bourbon on the market. Lots of spice and typical bourbon corn sweetness. Excellent on its own, but also makes a mean Old Fashioned. Better than Knob Creek in my books and pretty close to Woodford Reserve.

The Phonograph

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