- Rating: [rating:1/5]
I’ve long heard coffee enthusiasts pine for a coffee that offers in the cup all of the promise of its fragrance and aroma. I’ve recently tasted a coffee that offers all that and more… to which I can say only, be careful what you wish for.
Some number of weeks ago I started a series that revolves around tasting other folks’ coffee; in part to discover new tastes and thereby expand my palate and experience [so Iron Chef of me, eh?] and also to comparatively cup against Kenneth Davids. It’s from his list of highly-rated coffees that I made my initial coffee selections.
The first coffee I selected from this list was Cafe Magnum Opus’ FTO Nicaraguan Matagalpa. Davids describes this fairly traded, organic bean as a “lovely, lyric coffee” and rates it 91 points.
I agree… while I find in its aroma more dark fruits than apricot, and I’m more turned on by its soft-as-velvet texture than its cocoa-nib flavors, it’s a commendable coffee.
The second highly-rated selection was Intelligentsia’s La Corona Blend. Davids’ take: “leather and fruit-toned chocolate… round… supple.. opulent… 92 points.”
Okay, so the extract here invokes a Paul Ruben painting, or perhaps le sommelier expressing why monsieur will soon be handing over his wallet for that Pinot. But he’s right… this Cup of Excellence blend is round and rich and shimmers with nuance and complexity. I like this coffee. A lot.
And here the slope gets slippery… Treacherous, even.
The third highly-rated coffee on Davids’ list was Don Francisco’s Tanzania Peaberry, which he describes as “caramelly but smoky, with cherry and sweet pipe tobacco notes… giddy complexity anchored around wine and cherry tones”. Kenneth awards it a whopping 93 points.
I have a different point of view.
This coffee begins with a sweetly musky cavendish pipe tobacco fragrance… and a still more dramatic pipe-tobacco and cypress aroma, which — as something of a warning sign — leans heavily toward cypress mulch. Its flavors are intense… sour lemon predominates an unruly chord of phenol and resinous notes with a bitter baseline of farmyard funk. Its finish is so dry it leaves the tongue feeling dusty. I do not like this coffee. I do not like it at all.
So what happened? Why the huge disparity? I can’t be certain, really. There’s some evidence that this coffee has staled: while there’s no roast date or code to guide me, there was relatively little outgassing on brewing. Cracking open a number beans yields clues that this is perhaps the product of a too-fast roast… there’s a sharp line of demarcation between the mahogany hue on the outside of the bean and its many-shades-lighter interior.
I’m certain that Don Fancisco’s sources and roasts wonderful coffees. I’m just as certain that Kenneth Davids very much enjoyed the coffee he sampled and reviewed.
I, however, did not enjoy the coffee I bought and tasted. [And tasted again, and again… to be certain that I didn’t get snookered by the presence of a few bad beans.] It’s precisely because of this unexplained disparity — one that suggests an issue of quality control — that my final words are simply: