Part of the reason I was out of touch for so long is that I spent the last two weeks wrapped up in a project that is, unfortunately, unbloggable.
I was evaluating coffee in a strange style: I wasn't cupping, nor was I straight-up drinking the stuff. I was drinking odd little half-cups of coffee brewed on an electric home machine. My daily intake was easily as high as it has ever been, caffeine-wise. Even my titanium nerves, inured to caffeine as they are, were jangled and jittery at the end of the day. On top of that, I had a two-hour train commute both ways to the location. On top of that, the coffee was terrible. I mean, truly god-awful. If I had been scoring on a standard 100-point, SCAA scale, maybe one or two of over 40 coffees tried (in multiple iterations, natch) would have broken 80 points. Many, many were sub-65 affairs.
So you will understand if, at the end of the day, I didn't feel like blogging. Plus, there wasn't that much to blog about.
This made it all the more sweet this week when my good friend Taylor "and Mindy" Mork, of Crop to Cup Coffee, invited me to his new office digs for a little cupping. I had some samples of green coffee from El Salvador provided by our mutual friend, Fernando Lima of the Cuzcachapa mill. I went to Cuzcachapa back in November of last year, and Fernando was one of the nicest people I met in a country full of kindness. Cuzcachapa, a large operation overall, has a huge specialty arm (not just an afterthought), and I snapped some photos while I was down there.
Anyway, Taylor's company got their start in Uganda, where he and his partner Jake have deep roots. Right now, they bring in some excellent coffee from the Bugisu region of Uganda, which I hope to visit sooner rather than later. But they are ambitious about expanding their offering list beyond their traditional comfort zone. Right now they are moving aggressively in Indonesia, with some interesting non-Sumatra prospects. One other place they have looked seriously is El Salvador, and if there is one country I have gotten to know well coffee-wise, that's the one.
So on Monday morning, I roasted up three samples (from farms called Las Nubes, La Palma, and El Paste) and trekked to downtown Brooklyn to cup with Taylor. He's got an office space in what has to be the coolest collective office space I have ever seen. It's in this old, yet sturdy 6-story building right near the mega-intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic. In another universe this building might have been derelict or turned into cheap condos by this point, but instead the owners have leased it out to a collective of green-oriented companies, Crop to Cup being one of them. They have a big, open floorplan, with skyline views of Brooklyn on both sides, a big industrial kitchen, and lots of very interesting people doing very interesting things.
I took some crappy photos with my cell phone. I wish I had captured better the overall coolness of the space, but here's a little corner of our cupping table to give you an idea...
We disturbed the peace a bit with Taylor's loud-ass Bunn grinder, but the slurping didn't seem to bother too many people. For the record, the coffee from Las Nubes was the clear winner. All three coffees had great sweetness, and a thick chocolate note. But only Las Nubes had that great, lively purple-fruit and citrus acidity that defines the best Central American coffees. Las Nubes was my choice for my morning press-pot today, Tuesday. I'm also intrigued to see the coffee from El Paste as an espresso component: very sweet and lovely, and not too much noise on either end of the spectrum.
Taylor also whipped out his Handpresso, which product I can't believe I've never played with before. Essentially you hand-pump the brew chamber to well-beyond 9 bars of pressure, then pour in near-boiling water and release the valve, at which point the water passes through a paper-filter pod and comes out as espresso on the other end. It completely lacks the full, fatty mouthfeel of high-grade commercial espresso, but I'll be damned if it wasn't pretty good and sweet. Perfect for traveling! Crop to Cup is offering their coffee in Handpresso pods soon.
All in all, Monday was a day to remember why I am in the specialty coffee industry to begin with: quality, love, taste, and people. It was such a welcome reminder after two weeks of dreck and train rides. Over the weekend, I even found time to go to the park with the lovely Liz...
... where we were thoroughly entertained by a bunch of kids running around and under a gigantic American flag, parachute-style, which their teachers/camp-counselors were billowing in the wind, which inspired me to strike a Barack Obama "coin pose"...
And on Sunday I even found time to stop by the local pub and watch the mighty Seattle Seahawks get their first of many victories this season, this one a thorough pwnage of the hated (and admittedly dreadful) Rams. There was a couple in the bar wearing San Francisco jerseys, watching the Niners dispatch the lowly Detroit Lions. I talked a little smack with them, rivals of the Seahawks as they are. The girl was friendly but the guy just snorted. They'll get their due comeuppance soon. (Did I mention the Niners were my first team when I was but a wee lad living in Sacramento? It's true, though I was born in Seattle and have never been to a Niners game and have been to several Hawks games.) Also: check out the Alex Smith jersey... ha! Oh where be ye now, young Alex?
The moral of the story is: if you get dreck, stick it out. Victory and sweet coffee are always just around the corner, if only you know where to look.
More to come...