Coffee Profiles

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Coffee Profile – Karatu Estate,Tanzania

by Rob Stewart

Trying to use single origins in an espresso machine can sometimes be like pushing a square peg into a round hole – they just don’t fit. The extraction can be uneven, delivering results that are either too high in acidity, sweet or sour, or lacking in body, which inevitably means that they either must be blended, or ignored and not used at all. This is pretty sad when you consider the beans’ journey in order to make it into our cups. Yesterday I decided to cup some washed coffees from Guatemala, and my whiz-bang, bells and whistles, multi-boiler espresso machine was highlighting the high levels of acidity in the coffee. Disappointed with these results, I dragged out my $10 French press and bingo, the coffee came to life! It had body, flavour and sweetness, and was perfectly balanced.

The resurgence of lo-tech brewing methods such as siphons, aeropress and pour-over units has fortunately come at a time when blending coffees is beginning to take a back seat. Roasters are searching out unique origins, micro lots and rare varieties and these brewing devices are extracting the coffee in such a delicate way that they can turn on these coffees’ unique flavours in a more palatable way. An example of one origin I have had ongoing trouble with is the Tanzania AA. It always seemed to vary in flavour from season to season and to be too bright and winey, that is until recently when I bought my first Chemex pour-over.

Dating back to the 16th century Tanzanian coffee was used as an energy food source for tribes and also as a form of currency. Fast forward to the 19th century when the Germans ruled most of East Africa and coffee quickly became a cash crop, coffee was heavily planted in the perfect, rich volcanic-soil Moshi region in the north and in the Bukoba region in the northwest. By the end of World War I, the British had control and continued to push the coffee industry, which saw many natives forming cooperatives to gain a fairer share of the market. By 1961, Tanzania finally had its independence but also had a government that made poor decisions which, in conjunction with a failing market, had pretty much destroyed the infrastructure of the coffee industry by the 1980s, with a dramatic effect on the quality of the coffee.

In 2001, the government took action and set up the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute, to embark on fixing the ailing industry. Their goal was to replace every tree in Tanzania with plants more suited to the environment and that are less prone to diseases. This was conceived as a 10-year plan and was designed to stabilise the industry; it’s now starting to pay off, as Tanzanian origins are now beginning to appear at the cupping table, especially coffees from Kilimanjaro, Arusha region in the north and Ruvuma in the south – coffees that, perhaps surprisingly, are beginning to rival the superior Kenyans.

I’ve ordered a lot of coffee from the Karatu Estate in the north of Tanzania, bordering the Serengeti national park. I like this coffee best when using pour-over methods such as a chemex or a plunger. This emphasises the unique brightness and delicate flavours that are seemingly lost when extracting from a traditional espresso machine. If roasted lightly, the grind aroma should reveal a molasses-sweet tone but also be slightly peppery, and the aromatics when the coffee is wet offer a hint of red berry and apricot. When using the chemex, the flavour is reminiscent of camomile tea with a hint of honey and raspberry, which is near impossible to achieve as an espresso. The body is well balanced and it has a flavour that lingers, but is still relatively clean and as the cup cools more of the sweet, sugary notes start to dominate.

The coffee

Location: Tanzania, Karatu estate

Plant type: Bourbon/Arusha

Process: washed

Grade: AA

Cup profile

Fragrance/Aroma: pepper, red berry and apricot

Flavour: camomile, honey and raspberry

Aftertaste: clean

Body: silky and smooth

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Coffee Profile – Chiapas, Mexico

Blanketsby Rob Stewart

My love affair with eating chillies is something that has developed over a number of years; I simply can’t resist the sensation of a good hot chilli! I love exploring the various levels of heat and the subtle unique flavours that individual chillies have such as the ‘Guajillo’, which has a red berry flavour and the’ Ancho’ with its smokey dried fruit notes. This fascination for chillies has evolved into a deep appreciation for Mexican cuisine. I have also come to value that there is more to the country than tequila and tacos, Mexico also grows some pretty good coffee too. (more…)

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Kenya – The Far End

Part 1 of the Coffee Discovery Series

Kenya_Cupping_KenyaBy Paul Golding

The first visit to a favourite origin is always something of a personal epiphany. Kenya was one such visit for me, when I went with a small industry group to Nairobi in February this year to catch the end of the harvest season. Getting out into the countryside to see the crop and meet the people who produce it can really help shed some light on a coffee’s unique flavour and character. (more…)

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Coffee Profile – PNG Sigri AA

beans.homeboxBy Rob Stewart

By now I guess you have heard the term ‘third wave’ in coffee. It refers to a worldwide movement whereby specialty coffee roasters and boutique cafes are devoting their efforts to exploring the pure flavour of the single origin coffee and it’s something that the coffee industry and its consumers in Australia have embraced. The movement is also about innovation and patience which is seeing brewing systems like the Clover, Siphon and temperature controlled espresso machines such as the Synesso and Slayer becoming commonplace in our cafe strips. We are also seeing the green bean standard raised with access to Cup of Excellence, micro-lots, Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and roasters creating direct routes to the farms. One such country I believe has always been able to deliver coffee to the standard we are demanding today is Papua New Guinea. (more…)

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Coffee Profile – Brazilian Daterra Cerrado

Coffee_homepage boxby Rob Stewart

I have often wondered what would happen to the world if Brazil stopped producing coffee – perhaps a catastrophic melt down! The price for coffee per kilo would go up, making a cup of coffee cost more than a cocktail at a night club, sounding the death knell of the majority of cafes and coffee companies.  Shift workers, parents, students, productivity, and Italy would all come to a grinding halt. It would affect our economy and our way of life, leaving everyone with one giant headache.


Sunday, January 4th, 2009

El Salvador Bourbon

barista_ian_081The other day I was preparing to go through the process of designing a new blend and I called my broker to request some samples. He said “I’ve got just the coffee for you! El Salvador Bourbon, she’s my new girlfriend!”  After introducing me to his new love I found myself to be a little confused as to why he had fallen so head over heels; I certainly didn’t share the same attraction. However, keen to find out why my broker had fallen so hard I decided to give her a second chance to leave an impression.

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Coffee Profile – Guatemalan COE Lot#22 Finca La Perla

We asked Russell Beard, from The Source Espresso Bar in Sydney, which coffee he’s excited about right now and to tell us a bit about it – here is what he had to say…. 

Q. Favourite bean right now and why?

Guatemalan COE Lot# 22 Finca La Perla (only 16 bags produced).
It was a Cup of Excellence (COE) finalist coffee from Guatemala – we were in Tokyo at the SCAJ and this coffee was on the table. When we brewed it (pour over) it had a cloudy apple juice appearance. We tasted it & all just looked at each other and….Wow! A special moment. I was hooked! So much so that we will be getting more coffee from this farm in the coming weeks/months.

La Perla means “Sleeping Woman” in Xamac, a Mayan language used in the Ixil Triangle, where the farm is located, some 38 kilometers northeast of Chajul, in the province of El Quiché. The farm produces Catuaí and Bourbon between 3000 and 6500 feet. Soil is loose, clayey and sandy over a limestone base. Producing quality coffee is very important to the owners of La Perla. They pay attention to detail – from harvesting at the exact moment to wet milling and drying the beans. This is evident in the fact that they have been finalists in the Cup of Excellence program in 2001, 2002, 2006 & 2008.

The lovely thing about the COE program is that the farmer is celebrated and receives the accolade & thus benefits financially; which in turn lays the platform for more interesting and exquisite coffee’s for the future….watch this space!

Q. How is it best appreciated?

I experienced this coffee as pour over /filter & drip. I wouldn’t roast this coffee too dark, as this would take away some of the delicate nuances inherent in this lovely bean.

Q. Flavour/cup profile?

The coffee was clean (as expected of a COE winning coffee) with beautiful apple acidity, nice heavy viscosity in the mouth, just beautifully sweet like honey. Once brewed it’s appearance was almost tea-like or like a cloudy apple juice.  

The Coffee

Farm: La Perla Y Anexos  Farmer: Finca La Perla Y Anexos
City: Chaju  Region: El Quiche  Country: Guatemala
Variety: Caturra  Type of shade trees: Inga  Harvest: October to May
Processing System: Sun and Wet Mill
Climatic Conditions: Average temperature: 18°C, Annual rainfall: 5000mm, Relative humidity: 75%
Type of soil: Loamy (balance of clay, sand and limestone)

Note: The Cup of Excellence is the most esteemed award given out for top coffees. These awards come from a strict competition that selects the very best coffee produced in that country for that particular year. These winning coffees are chosen by a select group of national and international cuppers and are cupped at least five different times during the competition process. Only coffees that continuously score high enough are allowed to move forward in the competition. The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence® and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.

Monday, August 25th, 2008

The Mighty Grade 1 Mandheling

By Rob Stewart

I am often asked how I became a coffee roaster and I tell them that it was pure opportunity; but, if I really think about it, my passion blossomed the day I wrapped my lips around a cup of Sumatran Mandheling.

I had started a new barista gig with a boutique coffee roaster, but I was really just working to pay the rent while I went to uni. I didn’t care much about coffee until the day I had to acquaint myself with the single origins the roaster sold. So, my boss and I racked up some espressos and BANG! My palate went into overdrive! (more…)

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Coffee Profile – Indian Monsooned Malabar AA

By Rob Stewart

Algebra, trigonometry and calculus caused me many headaches at school and I have India to thank for that, they invented it.  We can also thank them for snakes and ladders, chess and the art of navigation. So too can we applaud India for their efforts in coffee as they produce arguably the best Robusta and some of the very finest A-grade Arabica’s in the world; yet, it is Monsoon Malabar that has become the accidental hero of Indian coffee. (more…)

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Tasting Notes From Panama

By Rob Stewart

Coffee CherriesWhen a coffee broker asked me what I thought about Panama coffee I began singing Van Halen’s “Panama”, which sadly has nothing to do with the country and everything to do with a stripper from Arizona.

I did however know that some of the best specialty coffee came from Central America, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

So I took a sample, cupped it, and with out hesitation ordered a ton; it was so good I just had to have it on my books. (more…)