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Cupping June 2012

It had been awhile since we had a new coffee roll out, but the one that we just experienced was worth the wait. The new fruits showing up at farmer’s markets here in Portland’s gradually awakening summer have analogs in many of the flavors we are encountering in these new (and returning!) members of our menu.

With every new coffee roll out, there are always a few coffees that garner special attention for us around the cupping table. These are coffees that the roaster’s will brew up to drink simply for pleasure or grab to take home for the weekend. For us this past week, it’s been either Ethiopia Duromina or Colombia La Esperanza. Both of these coffees are returnees and our anticipation was easily outpaced by how sweet and dynamic both lots actually were when they finally showed here. This is only the second year for the Duromina and we wondered if it’d meet the level it had established last year. Last year’s lot was all fresh orange juice and champagne grape. While we have encountered those flavors in the new lot, in addition there are fresh pineapple, oolong tea, cocoa and vanilla bean flavors that lend the profile qualities that are one of a kind. If you’re like me and you’ve made your way out to the country to camp, fish or hike, you’ve passed fruit stands bulging with fresh strawberries. They remind me of the Duromina every time. This coffee not only tastes nothing like anything on our menu, it tastes like no coffee we’ve had. Ever.

For several years, the Colombia La Esperanza has shown on our menu annually. Each year we wonder out loud if the quality will match that which we first encountered when it won first place in the 2007 Cup of Excellence. This year it met that benchmark and gone beyond. A viscous mouth feel, raw honey, and mixed fruits like cranberry, maraschino cherry and ruby red grapefruit show up when brewed as a Chemex, while blackberry, raisin and prune flavors emerge when brewed through a Beehouse or Melitta cone. In short, this lot displays qualities one would normally associate with a Kenya lot. It’s lovely.

A few of the roasters have been singing the praises of the new Ethiopia Mordecofe lot as well. This coffee also does well when brewed through a Chemex as this method tends to highlight the floral/sweet herbal aspect of the profile. We’ve encountered flavors that are at time hops-like (think Russian River IPA) and at others more mint-like (think mint chocolate chip ice cream). The manner in which the producer, Haile Gabre, employs shaded pre-drying results in a body and flavor that is perceived as a heavy cream like flavor and mouth feel.

Montes de Oro has returned at a level that Steve, our Head Roaster, considers its highest yet. I agree and have found myself returning to this lot again and again, especially when I want to brew a real crowd pleaser. When brewed through a Chemex, floral, delicate red currant and milk chocolate aspects are highlighted. When brewed through a Beehouse or a Melitta, cherry compote, toasted hazelnut and powdered cocoa come to the fore. The Gamboa’s insistence on cherry that is consistently picked at a level they’ve labeled as ‘Sangre del Toro,’ or ‘Blood of the Bull,’ results on a profile that is therefore reminiscent of the experience of eating a cherry straight off the shrub.

Marvin Robles has also presented us with a selection that has met, and in some ways surpassed, the quality he’s achieved in the past. The fact that he grows, picks, processes and dries every cherry himself is evident in the cup. Crisp white grape-like acidity complements juicy black cherry in every Chemex we brew. In the past, we’ve had a limited amount of this coffee due to the micro-level of Senor Robles’ production. This year, however, he purchased additional cherry from surrounding farms that will allow us to enjoy the fruits of his efforts for longer.

As usual, my Dad has honed in on one or two coffees that he can’t get enough of. This time, he keeps asking about the Costa Rica Verde Alto and the Colombia Hacienda Roble. He loves the combination of marzipan and apricot that the Verde Alto reveals when he brews it in a moka pot. He also raves about the Colombia Hacienda El Roble and its counterpoint between the ganache-like sensation and flavor set against a clean and delicate acidity, especially when brewed through his travel Melitta cone on a camping trip.

In short, this is a stellar roll out and you can consider the descriptions above as free from hyperbole. Consider them, instead, as delight filled observations of fact.

Enjoy the coffee!