A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Roasters Club and asked to consider giving their "coffee club" a review. To be completely honest, I am skeptical about most "clubs" out there pertaining to coffee. The reason isn’t anything other than quality. I have a certain mistrust for other people selecting coffee for me to enjoy. Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t have that problem anymore.
RoastersClub.com is sourcing great coffees. Not average coffees, but great coffees, and by great roasters. The first thing I noticed is the first thing you get. The box and all the stuff in it. I received three coffees to review and these are the three coffees that RC (RoastersClub.com) has in it’s monthly packages for this October. What you also get is the AeroPress Coffee Maker which is a modern marvel with old school tactics. Last, but not least, you will receive a professionally written review of the coffees,
information about the roasters and farmers,
and a donation to Coffee Kids. They aren’t kidding either, these reviews are top notch, accurate and they have information regarding the farm’s owners’ and history behind the coffees that I think make the coffee actually taste better 🙂 You know what I mean! Anytime I can feel more connected to the farmer and what he has made with his hands I feel like I flew to Bolivia and helped! These inside reviews and information sheets are vital. Who else in our industry does this? I am not saying RC is the only one, but this is fairly detailed stuff. There is two pages on the Columbian San Rafael, and one each for the other two. There is also one page describing the three roasters for the month; Giving the name, location, founders and any major awards from notables around our industry from the SCAA Food & Wine Magazine, Roast Magazine and even the Chicago Tribune. As I said before, your getting top notch coffee from top notch vendors.
The coffees for the month of October are Metropolis Coffee’s Colombian San Rafael Micro Lot I, PT’s Coffee Ethiopia Limu, and finally Higher Ground Roaster’s Bolivian Caranavi.
Please understand here first, if you will remember about a year ago I made a post, either on my site or on a forum, that railed a certain stalwart of the coffee industry for his liberality with his "rating" methods and scoring. Everything seemed to be a 90 or better. This was kind of like the straw the broke the camel’s back or near to that point, at least. I since regret the post and how I went about it. However, Mark Prince came out with an article not too long after and it was "on" like a green light. There was arguing all over the industry about the topic of ratings. Why do I bring this up? Not to inflict more pain. Not to make anybody angry. I only bring this up to say that I cup and rate coffee, historically speaking, in a fairly conservative fashion. And keeping that in mind, for me to call a "90" on a coffee is about like some calling a 93 or 94. Mark Prince even said that in the middle to late 90’s a 90 was almost unheard of and a 95 was absolutely unheard. Almost everything within the specialty coffee genre "back then" scored in the low to high 80’s, at best. Well, I am not that conservative with my scoring, but I am not too far off either. Please just keep this in mind when reading the ratings. The final score is the average between my wife and myself.
Higher Ground Roasters – Bolivian Caranavi | Score: 85
I like coffees to take me by suprise…and this Bolivian did just that. First off, this morning I made a press pot of this right out of the bed. I decided one of the three would be targeted and I had never had a Bolivian, so why not. Before I did any official cuppings and taking any real look at the beans themselves, I just opened it up and made a press pot of the Bolivian Caranavi. The wife came in and we both had a cup together after the four minutes of steep time. During the steeping time it had a chocolate aroma, sweet and smooth for the morning. It caught me off guard. It was ever so slightly floral, but it had a pepper taste that stood out to me immediately. Well balanced and smooth, no real rough edges. This is the perfect morning cup of coffee. Something with a taste of pepper to spike, but not sting. The wife and I both agreed that this had some of the likenesses to the advantage of a blend, but the witness of a farmer and his labor in a SO (Single Origin) coffee. One problem I have with a blend is it hides the farmer. A good SO shows the farmer’s care and labor. This is a good SO.
Metropolis Coffee – Columbian San Rafael Micro Lot I | Score: 88
Metropolis Coffee. It just sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? If you see their website you will understand why I like these guys. They have a good "vibe" about their shop, business, website and it is evident they love coffee. I like the fact they offer a few coffees and not 50 coffees. Either they don’t have the money to buy sacks of other coffees or they like to specialize on a few at the time. I imagine it is the latter answer.
From the steeping there was chocolate. The San Rafael and the Bolivian Caranavi were very similar in many ways. There was raisins. Then there was evident pepper as it cooled. Then citrus, like lime and then the honey showed up! Let me say here I am generally skeptical about a Columbian, or at least I was skeptical. Last December I had the privilege to cup with Scott Conary of Open Eye Cafe in Chapel Hill, NC. His roastery had a Columbian that just kept hitting the two of us between the eyes. That Columbian captured second place among six other coffees that day. We were both floored. This Metropolis Columbian San Rafael Lot I finished second because it too, just kept coming back during the cupping and afterwards with the talking. While the Bolivian was close, it was surely a second to this micro lot. But, to say you came in third in a group like this is like saying you came in third in the olympics in the Marathon. Both are fantastic coffees. The aftertaste actually was floral and it had a lingering honey taste.
PT’s Coffee – Ethiopia Limu | Score: 90
There has to be a winner, right? When there are winners there must be loosers. Again, think "Olympic Marathon." All of these coffees were great coffees, but the Ethiopian Limu just stole the show. We cupped a "professional cupping" protocol and then had presses of each at the same time. After we cupped, we talked. After we talked, we cupped more. After we cupped more, we made more presses! My wife is spoiled. The FIRST coffee my wife ever had a desire to drink a second sip was an Ethiopian Biloya that was airlifted out of Ethiopia in vacuum sealed bags. I have no idea what it cost per pound, as it was a special gift. Nikki and I both lean somewhat on Ethiopian coffees. Don’t get me wrong, I am fair as I can be and I have cupped coffees before and had to give a Kenyan, Brazilian or Panamanian the nod. This cupping was a different story. PT’s Ethiopian Limu was in control from the start.
As it steeped, you could already see what was happening and it was going to happen fast. That golden color that I have only seen in Ethiopian coffees. Usually above 1700 meters this will open up into something akin to golden honey and this is a 1850 meter coffee. But, it was all over the tasting and aroma wheel! It was Citric, acidic, lime. It was broad and bright. Floral AND nutty as it cooled. Melons, and something that the sheet said and I didn’t buy into until I tasted it – garden peas! Sweet garden peas. I had never tasted that in a cup of coffee before, I only had seen this on the wheel. The wife spoke of it "being awake!" I like that because it was. It was so busy. As it cooled it meta morphed into more combinations. Truly a value and truly a good coffee. Something I would enjoy around dusk when I am awake enough to appreciate the coffee for what it is about.
Congrats to all three roasters, congrats to all three farmers, but more importantly congrats to Roasters Club for selecting some great coffees to start their program off with a bang!
I do have a concern, but is of minimal concern. Roast Dates: Roast dates are important to me. What it tells me is a roaster is concentrated on quality. Metropolis puts the roast date right on the bag in a conspicuous place – right on the front in big letters! Initially I had thought that PT’s didn’t put a stamp on the bag, but I was informed it was there, in deed. Evidently I overlooked the stamp! Higher Grounds does not (or at least did not) put roast dates on the bag. Now, when I accepted the offer to review I made a couple request and one of them was to know the roast dates; Either by putting them on the bags or on paper. The dates were e-mailed to me, which is completly fine. But, I think they should be on the bag as a matter of "statement" to the consumer that "we are interested in the freshness of your coffee!" Usually, not always, when the date is not supplied there are reason like the roaster is wanting to get the broadest audience they can, therefore they will leave the date off hoping to sell via brand recognition and not necessarily quality. My statement to that theory is "It is about the coffee, not your brand; The Coffee will sell your brand, not reverse." I don’t know the reason that PT’s and Higher Grounds left it off, but in my opinion it is important.
I am encouraged by the Roasters Club program. I like what it offers and I like how it offers. Coffee is what this is about and this is some of the best. I actually have tried one other club that had access to a vast pool of roasters and quite frankly it was a let down right off the bat. I think where Roasters Club shines is how few roasters are invovled in program, therefore control is a big factor.
Saturday, October 25, 2008 4:44 PM