Types of Coffee

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

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Industry Comment – with Emily Oak


Singles or Blends?

Not so long ago I had a minor squabble with Neil Perry via twitter on the pros and cons of single origins vs. blends in espresso beverages. Even as one of Australia’s most recognised and successful celebrity chefs, his mis-interpretation of the merits of each had me perplexed. As I attempted to explain how each performed generally as espressos the conversation got split into tangents and inevitably came to a halt, but it left me wondering how many people are confused by what ‘single origin’ or ‘blend’ actually means and how they can best be used.

The term ‘single origin’ can be a little confusing. Essentially it means coffee from one single place – either one country, one region or one single estate. It is not mixed or blended with any other coffee, be it from another or the same, country, region or farm. It is alone, one bean from one place.

A blend is anything other than that. A blend can be coffees from various countries, from various regions, or even two varying roasts of the same coffee mixed together (usually referred to as a ‘single origin blend’– just to things!).

So, why do we offer both? It’s hard to establish how blending coffees together began, but it is easy to explain why it became popular. By putting together coffees of various taste and depth, a roaster can develop flavours and textures that might not be possible in a single origin bean. When done well, a blend can bring out the best in coffees as individuals, while complementing each other to create balance, the desired taste or other aspect most sought after. Blending can sometimes hide faults in coffees and add volume as fillers, or perform better (than single origins) when mixed with milk.  Traditionally, over decades, coupled with the limited technology for quality control from the growing and production of green coffee and roasting, blends produced a better outcome for espresso coffees.

Single origins coffees, whilst always having existed, have had somewhat of a renaissance in the last decade or so. This is primarily because of the rapid increase in the quality and traceability of coffees, as well as a renewed interest in single cup brewing. Even when I started in the coffee industry 17 years ago we sold the generic Colombia, Brazil or Mexican coffee. Now, we can trace our coffees back to the region, farm or estate and get a much higher quality cup.

Singe Origin coffees are however individual in their taste and not for everyone. In fact, the point of them, more often than not, is to highlight the individuality and nuances of a region, variety or processing method; aspects of flavour that can get lost if mixed with other coffees. As an espresso, single origins are most often softer in milk than a blend or sometimes a little confronting with unusual or unique characteristics as a black coffee. They are not for everyone and are almost always limited when it comes to repeating a flavour profile.

Both blends and single origins are valuable elements, especially for specialty coffee, as an avenue of sharing just how good quality coffee can taste. Blends are a fantastic way of introducing people to better coffees but ironically, as people explore coffee more and more they are inevitably drawn to tasting the distinct and diverse range of single origin coffees now available to the market. Regardless of what you prefer, if it’s a good coffee bean to start with you will almost always enjoy the experience.

Emily Oak is Division Manager for St Ali and Sensory Lab in NSW and a former member of the WCE Board of Directors.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Cool Coffee Creations – Perfect for Summer!


Proving that the weather is never too warm for coffee, Lavazza has come up with its own ‘hot’ espresso menu to delight and cool the senses. We bring you a few of their creations, from the traditional to the deliciously exotic…. so make that perfect shot of espresso and chill out!


Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Go Naked!

Naked coffee, or a naked group handle (sometimes also known as a bottomless portafilter) is a traditional group handle that has had the bottom cut out of it, so that the base of the filter basket containing freshly ground coffee is directly exposed.

Because of this distinct modification, the extraction process can be observed as the coffee liquid passes straight from the bottom of the filter basket into a cup.


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.