Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coffee review: Nicaragua v Ethiopia!

Alright, I've decided to bite the bullet and do a comparison this morning, between the two single estate coffees I purchased from St Ali:

  1. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe roasted on 7 Oct 2010 (20 days ago)
  2. Nicaraguan La Bendicion Lot 13 Cup of Excellence roasted on 14 Oct 2010 (13 days ago)
WTF is "Cup of Excellence" I hear you ask?  Well, it's an international coffee program (or competition, if you like) that selects the best coffees in each participating country, with a score of at least 84 points out of 100.  This year, 27 Nicaraguan growers received this award, with 8 of them scoring more than 90 points.  La Bendicion is the name of the farm, Misael Saucedo Olivera is the farmer, and Lot 13 means that it came 13th in the field (wth 87.19 points).  Kind of like a wine show, I guess.  La Bendicion is found in Las Manos, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua.

As for Yirgacheffe - check out my Tartine post for more info.

I faithfully followed the instructions of St Ali barista Aaron - 14g double shot filter basket, pull 40ml for each cup.  Here's what it looks like.
Left: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.         Right: Nicaraguan La Bendicion

You'd think that coffee is all the same, but as you can see, the beans are very different - the Nicaraguan beans are much larger.

In fact, I keep having trouble with overpacking of the filter when I use the smaller Ethiopian beans, which means much less (or no) water flows.  It takes me 2 tries to get it right this morning.

Well, despite the super strong coffee, I can certainly pick a difference in flavour as well, although you'd probably be hard-pressed to pick it if you were drinking just one of these babies in isolation.

Both coffees exhibited that familiar lemony citrus overtone that I love so much in my coffee, backed up by the traditional coffee flavour (hmmm how else do you describe a coffee taste? coffee-like?).  But taking alternate sips show that the Ethiopian is decidedly milder in flavour across the board - the La Bendicion just jumps out into your face like an Ollie North-armed Contra rebel at a US Senate Committee hearing.  One might put it down to the fact that the Yirgacheffe was roasted nearly 3 weeks ago and is starting to decline in the flavour stakes, but the good folk at both St Ali and Tartine have said that the Yirgacheffe is certainly milder.

Interestingly, the guys at St Ali believe that beans are at their best when used within 10 days of roasting, while the guys at Tartine believe that beans peak in flavour at around 2 weeks after roasting.  Since coffee making is an art, not a science (any molecular baristas out there?!), I guess they're both right in their own way.

However, a double espresso of anything is still a damn strong coffee, and as I've had two double-espressos this morning, I expect to be bouncing off the walls very shortly.  In fact, my hand is starting to shake ...

Post-note: Ah yes I forgot the verdict (I blame my caffeine-swamped brain at the time) - go the Yirgacheffe if you prefer a milder, yet still full, flavour.  Go the La Bendicion if you want a big juicy citrus coffee experience.  No losers here - everyone's a winner!

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