Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The things we take for granted - Good Coffee - Part 2

Shortly after my last rant on the scarcity of good coffee, my good shit from St Ali ran out.  No more La Bendicion from Nicaragua.  No more Herbazu from Costa Rica.

Not to worry, I told myself - I'll survive without coffee over the weekend, and buy a bag in the city the next week when Tartine re-opens.

Before the weekend arrives, my sister (bless her heart - love you sis, and appreciate the thought) gives me a belated Christmas present, which includes a bag of espresso beans from Gloria Jean's.  So I say to myself - well, it's not single estate, but let's not be a coffee wanker about it.  Besides, how bad can it really be?  Famous last words.

I have endured the entire weekend trying to drink the damn thing.  The warning signs were there - on opening the bag, I get a overly strong, pungent earthy kick in the nose.  Now I'm a guy who loves my dirty earthy leathery pinot noirs, so rest assured that I have a fairly robust tolerance to extreme foods.  But this was almost too much.  The 100% arabica beans looked altogether too ominously dark and oily for my comfort.  Dark and oily may be good if you're checking out a cigar, but coffee?  Not so sure.

Okay - the acid test.  I grind a double-espresso portion into the filter, and run Miss Silvia through her paces.  This initially looked promising - twin thin streams of coffee liquor pour out, but then it became apparent that there wasn't a lot of crema there.  I sip it.  Oh god (and not in a good way either).  This thing is so one-dimensionally bitter it gives instant coffee a run for its money.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoy bitter flavours - 99% Lindt chocolate?  Love it.  Bitter gourd?  I'll eat it.  But this stuff was just painful.  In my desperation (it was either that or instant coffee), I drank it.  Hey I'm not precious.

Over the course of the weekend, I mull over this and try different things.  Maybe it's over-extracted? I use a coarser grind to reduce the extraction.  I run the water short (I even went down to 7 seconds) to further reduce extraction.  Still no good.  Defamation you say?  The truth is a defence, as any good lawyer (ironically) will tell you.

In a moment of self-doubt, I wonder whether it's because I haven't drunk good coffee in nearly 2 weeks while in Africa, and I've forgotten what it should taste like

So I pop into Tartine today, and Kyle recommends a special blend, called the Dark Horse, just roasted last week on 6 Jan 2011.  I virtually drink in the aroma of the beans - soft perfume of subtle caramel, cocoa and mushrooms.  I pull it through Miss Silvia, and get a cup of bliss.  Creamy, thick crema, a warm and soft aroma, and sheer silken caramelly cocoa flavours run down my throat, with that longed for crisp apple finish.

All is good with the world again.

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