café for contemporary art

Tasting @ Crema

Posted in Coffee, posts by Tim by Tim on July 4, 2009

Although I’ve been an aspiring coffee geek for about a year and a half now, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend a tasting. I’ve had plenty of straight espressi and a handful of french press/Clover coffees, but I’ve never been able to taste a group of fine coffees consecutively. Last night, at Café Crema in West Vancouver, I had that opportunity.

It was a blind tasting of 12 different single-origin coffees, all roasted by roasters in or around Portland, Oregon. Brent Fortune, owner of a café also called Crema in Portland, brought with him a dufflebag PACKED with coffees to sample. We tasted the coffees in two blind rounds; 5 brewed and one as espresso each round. At the end of each round we compared notes on what we tasted, then listened raptly as the origin, variety, and roaster were revealed.

One of the great things about tasting is that there is no “wrong” answer. Taste descriptors ranged from “blueberry” to “fruit by the foot” to “stumpy”, and even “mud puddle with peppa’ “. I think last night really helped me develop my palate further – that and I gained so much respect for the roasters who have the strength of tastebud to cup 50 or even 100 coffees in a single day.

However, the best part of the night for me was meeting other coffee geeks and getting to chat with them. Brent, besides owning a café, also trains judges for the WBC. Other faces included Troy (Elysian and a premier café in Edmonton), the owner of the new Momento Coffeehouse (website here) in Downtown Vancouver, the man behind the scenes at Elysian, and many more. Sorry to all the others and the last two – I’m horrible with names. There was so much knowledge concentrated in that space and being able to access it was very special.

coffee line-up:

(stolen from CleanHotDry)

Guatemalan El Injerto CoE – Stumptown
Guatemalan La Maravilla – Intelligentsia
Ethiopia Konga – Ecco Caffe
Ethiopia Sidamo Guji – Coava
Ethiopia Adado – Verve
Ethiopia Wondo Worka – Verve
Ethiopia Beloya – Ecco Caffe
Kenya Karindundu – Coava
Kenya Kagumoini – Stumptown
Panama Carmen Estate – Stumptown
Black Cat (Brazil/Bolivia) – Intelligentsia

Espressi:

Ethiopia Beloya – Ecco Cafe

Guatemalen La Maravilla – Intelligentsia

my faves of the evening:

(sorry for the short notes, I forgot to grab my tasting sheet on the way out)

brewed:

  • Panama Carmen Estate – butter and caramel, slightly bright, hints of fruit. This coffee really stole the show for me. My first sip instantly made me go “WOW!”. It was only the second coffee I had tasted (the first was the Beloya Espresso) and I already knew it was my favourite.
  • Kenya Kagumoini – bright and tangy, notes of sweet plum, slight earthy-ness. I tasted this coffee 2nd last in the 2nd round, and instantly thought to myself “high-grown Kenya”. Having bombed a guess earlier on the Wonda Worka – it was actually the Sidamo, I believe – and being a neophyte, I was happy that I got this one right.

espresso:

  • Ethiopia Beloya – butter and caramel, sweet fruitiness. Extremely aromatic, smelled of cinnamon and pear. Delicious! My first taste of this was in a Gibraltar prepared by George – it was like drinking butter, in a good way. Fantastic!!! The clear winner of the night, IMO. For a single origin coffee it is ludicrously complex. I have to find a way to get this into cafca! This coffee made me feel all warm and fuzzy it was so good – I almost didn’t want to swallow it.

A note on La Maravilla:

The story behind this coffee is heart-warming and simply amazing. It can be found here (CleanHotDry – scroll down to “Team Effort”). It is very, very bright, a little sweet, with a cocoa aftertaste. As a straight espresso, I would rate it as “okay” – not great, but not bad. In milk, it doesn’t fare very well at all. While it is a very complex coffee for a single-origin, in milk everything is lost but the brightness. It needs blending for added complexity and some much-needed mellower flavours – a Brazilian perhaps?

In the French press, it was rather good as I remember it. I liked it better like that, as opposed to as espresso. Nevertheless, I have the utmost respect for Intelligentsia for going far, far beyond the call of duty in making La Maravilla accessible to the coffee world, and for Raul Rodas for the incredible, history-making ranking he achieved at the WBC this year. It is a very promising coffee, in my mind, and I can’t wait to see what Intelli does with it.

To close, I’d just like to thank Brent and the Crema crew for the awesome event they put on last night, along with the roasters for the coffee. With any luck I’ll get to see them at cafca bef0re Brent leaves on Monday.

I’m also looking forward to the music night tomorrow! Our second so far, there’s 3 acts playing. 6.30-9, you know where we are. Hope to see you there!

LOL/Sleeplessly yours,

Tim

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2 Responses

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  1. Chris said, on July 4, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Matti- Elysian

    Rick- Momento

    I totally hear you on the people who cup all day, its a work out hahahaha. I love the Panama Carmen Estate

  2. Carina said, on July 15, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    I agree, cuppings are a lot of fun. Last time I checked, Stumptown’s “Annex” in Portland has a cupping every day at 3 PM. Lucky you to get the El Injierto Cup of Excellence! I’ve only tried it once, though a couple of my luckier friends got to cup it once at the Annex.

    Suerte for your fine-coffee-trying future.


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