Yesterday I wrote...
The real star of my visits to Zoka, however, has been the Colombia single-origin brewed coffee. Served as a pour-over cup of drip coffee, the cup I had on Saturday morning was a top twenty in my life kind of coffee. One of the most cherry-rich coffees I have ever had. All the best characteristics of high-grown Colombians with none of the nasty biting greenness or dirtiness. Deep, deep sweet chocolate and about three kinds of cherry flavors. I did not want that cup to end. Lucky for me, Zoka is just a few blocks from where I am staying, and the Colombia is still on the menu.
So it should come as no surprise that the Coffee of the Week is indeed the Colombia Villarica Cup of Excellence as they are serving it at the Zoka in Kirkland. I stopped by for another cup last night. Wowsers! Great stuff.
To add to my description a bit, I'd can say that beyond the cherry-bomb nature of this coffee it has a very smooth, even, and full-yet-not-heavy mouthfeel. Buttery in sensation, if not in taste. Zoka's website says, "Beginning with an aroma of jasmine, this Colombia opens up to a delicate balance of sweet and savory with mango leading into dark chocolate mace."
I'll be the first to say that I'm not familiar enough with mace to pick that out. I never really got the jasmine either... sometimes those lighter aroma notes are more obvious to the person doing the preparation than they are to the final consumer (something for all baristas to keep in mind!). I can definitely see the mango; this is a sweeeeeeet coffee. Delicate balance? Sweet and savory? Chocolate? Check, check, and check mate. Very chocolatey.
(Incidentally, when you click on the Villarica from Zoka's main page, it blurbs "balanced with black cherry and dried apricot notes..." and then there's no mention of these flavors on the actual page. I found that curious because the cherries hit me so hard, I thought that would be splashed all over the page.)
Okay, okay, so... if you are anything like me, reading other people's descriptions of coffees (or wines, or foods of any kind) when you don't have the actual coffee in front of you, makes your eyes glaze over faster than C-Span on a Tuesday morning. Ever get the feeling people are just listing flavor notes to prove that they can sound just as silly as the next person?
Nahhh... I kid. But seriously, it can get kind of boring. And while there's nothing more that I like in life than a cup of coffee like the one I am reviewing here, and while the flavor is a huge part of it (the most important part), there's always another story behind every cup. And that's where things get really interesting. So let's take a look at this funny-looking contraption on the left here, shall we?
It means "mucilage-taker-offer" and it's revolutionizing coffee production as we speak. We can learn from Zoka's description of this fine Colombian coffee that this coffee was prepared with a desmucilaginador. What does this mean? It has to do with processing, that crucial stage where millers take the fruit off the coffee and get it down to it's dry, green stage.
Traditionally in Latin America, machines take off the skins, then the fruit is fermented for 12 - 36 hours to loosen the pulp, which is then washed away. This is a water- and labor-intensive practice. And there is a high likelihood of error. Over-fermentation can ruin the coffee.
Desmuciliginadors are machines that take off the entire pulp at once, getting the coffee right down to the parchment phase. These are fairly new machines. They require an order of magnitude less water to operate, and they are available in all different sizes, so that big millers or tiny hillside farmers can use them. The distribution of these machines is just starting to get off the ground, so they are still remarkably rare. To begin with, while relatively affordable, they are still a huge investment for farmers and millers that are already operating on very thin margins. But I have seen them in operation in Ecuador and in El Salvador, and everyone I talk to who has one loves it.
The quality of the coffee produced this way speaks for itself. This method has its own pitfalls, as all methods do. No free lunch in coffee. But on the whole, the desmuciliginador is a fantastic development in coffee. Super high quality coffee, 100% scalable to the particular operation, and a development that could save millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water a year. The leading producer of this style of machines, that I am aware of, is Penagos, from Colombia.
These are the developments that don't get noticed at the coffee shop-level, or the blog-level. But these are the developments that truly change the structure of an industry. Try some of this cherry bomb coffee if you want to experience just how great technological progress can taste!