I’ve been working my way through the Green Mountain line of coffees, making myself familiar with the flavors and roast styles that the folks here in Vermont bring to bear. [You can find tasting notes here, and here and here.] Next in the coffee larder: Mocha Java
 
I’ve sampled so many variations on a theme of a Mocha-Java blend over the years that what I’ll find in this blend is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking back to comments from the esteemed Don Schoenholdt of Gillies Coffee, ’bout what the Mocha-Java blend of yore might have been like… Let’s play coffee anthropologist for a moment.
 
Imagine, if you will, the ancient port of Mocha…
 
Here, very near the birthplace of coffee [just a stone’s throw thataway in Ethiopia], coffees from the steep, dry hills surrounding the port city are made ready for shipment. Simply getting from hilltop to port has already proved an arduous overland trip. 
 
These are some wild beans… small, dense and scrappy-looking: all of them dry-processed, and probably a great many of them simply allowed to dry on the trees. The resulting coffee is bright, winey, and remarkable for its chocolate flavors. The mocha/chocolate connection? Here it is! Or was, long ago. 
 
And Olde Brown Java — almost no brightness to this one at all — and its syrupy body has taken on a dusky, musty buzz from it’s long sea voyage as the coffee swells and pales in the damp sea air. The Dutch East Indies are on the other side of the world, after all! While the seedstock here is at most a generation or three from it’s grandfather’s line in Yemen, the resulting coffees could hardly be less alike… a tastable testament to the influence of climate and terrain.
 
So, how to recreate the Mocha-Java of yore?
 
I started with what Don Schoenholdt suggests is the most likely contemporary candidate to match the Java of yesteryear… Monsooned Malabar from India. Monsooned coffees — swollen and pale from their exposure the moisture-laden winds of the Arabian Sea — are completely devoid of acidity, and nearly boundless in body.
 
To this base, I added some of the most curious Yemen beans I have at-hand, a past-crop sample that I liberated from Barry Jarrett’s stash. Barry consistently sources the most flavorful and amazing Yemen coffees I’ve yet found… with flavors that have ranged from a wicked cinnamon, to sweet strawberries!  I chose these particular beans for their fairly pronounced dark chocolate aroma and complex, piquant flavors. 
 
The result…
 
Blended at one part Mocha to one and a half parts Monsooned Malabar, and roasted just to the cusp of second crack, the fragrance of this coffee is intense and complex; chocolate, sure, but such an assortment of spice notes I can’t hope to label them all. The best taste reference I can muster is a bottle of glogg [gløg? glög?] — an old-country Nordic mulled wine shared with friends one wintry evening a year or so back. 
 
More of the fragrance carries forward to the brewed coffee than I might expect… this is past-crop coffee after all. That fact also plays into the low acidity here. The cup is round. I’m surprised, really, by its balance. The bitter chocolate of the Mocha is softened by the slightly fuzzy body of the Malabar, like a warm sweater taking the bite out of a chill wind. As the cup cools, a single acidy note appears, something that’s akin to bergamot, or bitter orange.
 
So is this the flavor of ye olde Mocha Java of yore? It’s an impossible question, really. There wasn’t a single flavor profile way back then any more than there is one now… flavors change as crops change: there’s good years and bad years, and sun and rain and weather. But it’s tempting to think that flavors like these could seduce the Western world… just as coffee has for some 500 years now.

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