Last week I was at Everyman Espresso and, in a decidedly indecisive mood, asked Sam the Awesome Barista to pick out a drink for me. After a bit of thought, he ground some beans, pushed it through an Aeropress, and presented me with a simple, unassuming cup of coffee. The air was immediately filled with a whole bouquet of fresh aromas, something fruity and bright and indescribably different.
This was gonna be good.
It’s a slow but effective method of getting the best output possible, and hooray for scientific rigor!
I was informed that the coffee I was drinking was an experimental batch of Counter Culture beans out of a tiny farm in El Salvador called Finca Kilimanjaro. Its owner and producer, Aida Batlle, is a celebrity of sorts among the boutique coffee scene, with her four estates producing highly sought-after beans for quality roasters around the world.
For this particular batch, she worked with the people of Counter Culture to develop a unique flavor profile that could be propagated into future crops and generations. A variety of different drying and refining techniques were employed, which converged on a single sack (152 pounds) of coffee. It’s a slow but effective method of getting the best output possible, and hooray for scientific rigor! The resources and dedication involved in producing a product in this way are particularly high – just how many combinations of processes didn’t make the cut? What happened to those products? For these guys, the desire to make this Awesome Cup of Coffee have made these costs worthwhile.
So, what exactly did they do? Let’s see what their notes actually say on the matter:
“Most notably, we treated it just like the coffee seeds used to plant new trees by drying it in the shade, leaving it with a much higher-than-normal moisture content, and flying the results to Durham, NC, roastery a mere three weeks after harvest.”
That first part is probably the most important part – when allowed to dry in the shade, the average temperature that the beans will experience will decrease quite a bit – and with it, you’re going to lose much less of the more volatile flavors and fewer degradation reactions inside the bean will occur. (That’s a story for another time, though.) The craziest thing to me was that I had a batch that had been roasted three days earlier and brought over to Everyman the previous day, so the coffee I was drinking was literally still on the tree less than a month earlier. That is some very fresh coffee.
Making it myself via Hario V60 yielded many of the same wonderful notes that I experienced when a professional coffee-making person made it for me – citrusy, almost cherry-like goodness with a long, sweet pithy afternote of clementines. Pulling a shot of espresso with it and making a latte, I got a much more tropical profile – kind of a mix between mangos and bananas cutting through the sweetness of the steamed milk. Absolutely amazing.
I’m told that next year’s crop should have some more supply, though they’d be tuning the process again based on how good or bad the crop looks next harvest. And I’m super looking forward to it.