Archive for the 'Roasters' Category

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.

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Reintroductions

Well, it’s been well over a year since I’ve posted anything in this blog. I still sign posts around the internet with this address… so I thought maybe I should get around to making a post.

As some of you may know, I no longer am working in the coffee industry on a regular basis. My last stint as a barista was this past summer in Calgary where I almost exclusively steamed milk at Phil & Sebastian Coffee at the Calgary Farmers Market. Good times were had at P&S. The staff there have such dedication and passion for coffee. I wouldn’t hesitate to say there are very few places like it in North America, if not the entire world.

Anyways.

I am finishing up my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of British Columbia. I have approximately 2 months left to finish off a few courses and my thesis. Most of my time these days is spent deforming rocks and trying to measure the permeability of the faults I create by deforming them. Yes, it is actually exciting, and yes, now I know all kinds of things about percolation networks and fluid flow through interconnected porosity. How does that have anything to do with coffee? Well, indirectly, percolation theory can help explain the distribution of water through a puck of coffee loaded in your portafilter. I’ve yet to really explore that side of the science of coffee, but it will definitely be something to consider.

Possibly the most interesting development in the past year is that I am now a homebrewer. My roommate Dave and old Pearson friend Alex are partners in this venture and we have proven ourselves to be competent brewmasters. Our best batch so far has been a variant on local microbrewer Storm’s Hurricane IPA. It was a superb example of a west coast IPA, with lots of hops (dry hopped too!), but a pleasant balance that seems to be missing in a lot of commercial examples. Tonight involved the bottling of our newest beer, Paul’s Porter. Named for hockey great Paul Coffey, it’s a strong coffee porter. Once it has been fully bottle conditioned, we are expecting a 6.5% robust porter with a backdrop of  coffee (we used a 6 cup mokha pot of local roaster Ethical Bean’s Ethiopia coffee that Dave happened to have on hand). It’s tasting decent already, and that’s warm and without any carbonation. Looks like a porter too, the beer is black and opaque.

My current coffee situation involves me buying retail coffee for the first time in probably 5 years. My regular roasters are 49th Parallel and Intelligentsia. 49th has proven to be a consistent, excellent roaster. My regular bean from them is their Caffe Artigiano Yergacheffe since the Kerrisdale Artigiano is less than a minute walk from my apartment. It’s always fresh and is a very balanced, quality Yerg best made in my Chemex. When I’m looking for a treat though, I head down to Elysian Coffee at Ash and Broadway where they usually have some tasty offerings from 49th, like today’s Clover of Beloya. For those of you that have not experienced the latest issue of this wonderfully crisp, berry-laden natural Ethiopian coffee, I recommend you visit the folks at Elysian (or 49th in Kits for that matter). The people watching from the bar there is great too.

Victoria

For a change of pace during the lead up to the last of my exams, I made it to Victoria for a few days a couple weeks ago. Of course, this meant a trip to one of my favorite cafes of all time, 2% Jazz, on Douglas St for a few drinks. I hadn’t had Sam Jones’ coffee in ages, and it was as good as I remember it. Awesome music, awesome coffee. (I’m pretty sure they were playing Oh No in there… Oh No is a Stones Throw recording artist and the younger brother of Madlib.) The first morning I went in to bug Sam and his barista served up great drinks, and Sam handed over some Yirg fresh from his vac pot. Apparently he’ll be getting in some very high grade Ethiopian auction lot coffee soon. I made it down to Discovery Coffee that day (on Discovery, just off of Douglas) too. It’s a cool little spot with a few seats, a 3 group Synesso and a Clover. I had a Yemen off of the Clover. It was great (and served in a Stumptown mug!) and the sandwich I had was quite good too. I met Logan, and he was a most excellent host.

The second morning, Sam and his barista said I should check out Habit Coffee and Culture on Pandora and Government. So, that’s where I headed. I was told it was very, very similar to the original Stumptown down in Portland. As soon as I walked in, I was blown away. Sparse decor, huge bar, great music (Aphex Twin’s Schottkey 7th Path from his Selected Ambient Works ’85-’92… on vinyl), and the biggest surprise, John Sanders’ old 5 group Linea. Then, I remembered hearing about this place. They serve Hines, and have had relationships with the Portland folks and others in the northwest. The coffee was great. I hadn’t had Hines in a long time, and it was as good as ever. My short 15 minutes in that shop that day rocketed it up to one of my favorite cafes. I went back a few more times and chatted both with Ken, the head barista, and with Shane, the owner. They’re great guys and I wish them the best of luck, but I’m pretty sure they won’t need it.

Other than lots of coffee, I wandered Victoria, which has some awesome clothing shops (check out Flavor and Decade if you’re into Threadless shirts) and consumed excellent food and wine, courtesy of my uncle. Good times.

New latte art / UBC’s Boulevard

I had a chance this weekend when it was a bit slower due to the Easter holidays to take a picture or two of my recent latte art. I finally think that what I’m doing is pretty decent. Now if I could just improve the photography side of things!

April Latte Art

Also, good news for UBC campus coffee drinkers! The Boulevard in the new Dentistry building has switched over to 49th Parallel Coffee. Immediately the coffee has improved over there, including the drip. Rumor has it, the Colombia Quebradon makes frequent appearances. If you’re into espresso, I still haven’t tried that there, but they will make you an 8 oz latte for in the cafe. Be prepared to pay for a full 12 oz, but hey, I’ve got no problem with that.

Mmm. Tres Santos. (Restaurants?)

This blog is neglected. I’m super busy at school (six courses!) and then I work on the weekends, only to crash both hypercaffeinated nights. However, I do still exist.

The whirlwind trip that Tonx, Kyle and Doug Zell from Intelly made on the west coast touched down at Wicked first where I was able to meet them (well, I had met Kyle and Tonx from past Seattle trips). No real conversation took place as brighter lights in the coffee world handled those…

My coffee cupboard is full of wonders these days. I’ve got bits of several Intelly coffees, their S&P Blend (anyone know what companies their tasting notes refer to?), the famed Idido Misty Valley Yergacheffe (one of my favorite coffees these days) as well as the brand new Colombia Tres Santos release. I had the Santos this morning on my way to my very early 8 AM physical chemistry class. It was awesome, especially for a “standard” issue coffee. I’m going to wait on tasting notes, but it was quite light, with a syrupy body, very well balanced and not as acidic as I expected.

I had a clovered Novo Adedo Yerg yesterday at Elysian (they just had a bit… so don’t be rushing in asking about it). It was phenomenal. Huge fruit/berry notes but it still maintained a very subtle profile. One of the best coffees I have had in months.

Now, here’s a question. If you had 3 days in Vancouver, what restaurants would you choose to eat at? It would need to be appropriate for teenagers (teenagers with a palate and manner mind you), and since it will be a family thing probably not the most expensive places in the city. My list includes cheaper places for lunch like Go Fish, Kintaro Ramen… anyone have suggestions? Preferably downtown or Kits locations, but the Drive would be interesting too.


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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