I Double Dog Dare You to Outbid Me!

Paradise Roasters, a true Mom n’ Pop (and son) coffee roastery, has been rackin’ up the accolades over at Kenneth Davids’ Coffee Review, and was recently picked as one of the country’s best boutique coffee roasters by Food & Wine magazine. They’re winning fans far beyond the ten thousand (frozen) lakes of their home in Minnesota by keeping it simple: they source the best damn coffee that money can buy, and roast-to-order in small batches. Paradise Roasters purchased an amazing micro-lot coffee — last year’s entire crop was less than 1000 pounds — from Reynel Perez, a small-holder coffee farmer in Planadas, way up in the mountains of Tolima in southern Colombia. The entire lot — save for just five pounds — sold out within weeks after earning a whopping 96 points on Coffee Review — Exhilaratingly intense but roundly sweet-toned aroma: black cherry, flowers, milk chocolate, with an underlying cedar-toned crispness. Sweet flowers and cherry dominate in the cup with an almost symphonic richness of tone. Medium bodied but silky mouthfeel. The floral notes linger into the farthest reaches of the finish. I believe that’s the highest mark — and certainly the loftiest prose — I’ve ever seen in Ken’s reviews. I really want to taste this coffee. Here’s the deal: That five pound reserve of the Colombia Tolima – Reynel Perez is now being offered in a Dutch auction on eBay, with 100% of the proceeds going direct to Coffee Kids. I’m a huge fan of Coffee Kids. They’re easily the hardest working, biggest hearted non-profit organization I know. Founder Bill Fishbein and his team work tirelessly...

Peet’s Colombia Caracol: Voluptuous Magnificence

Rating: [rating:4.5/5] Nuanced, balanced and complex with a lip-smacking semi-sweet finish. Peet’s current Special Offering — a limited run of a Colombian Caracol (peaberry, en Español) — is an heirloom bean (typica, a very low yield, high quality varietal) from the Huila region of Colombia, and it’s a lovely cup, indeed. Its deep chocolate and flowers fragrance gives way to chocolate, smoke and leather with a subtle grapefruit acid zing. It’s body is liquid velvet — so smooth, so luxurious — and the slightly impatient, astringent nip in its musky-sweet finish just leaves you wanting more. In a press this is Sappho in a cup; its poetry is only slightly muted with a manual drip method. (We won’t tell Mr. coffee, okay?) Highly recommended. Get it while you can. (Maybe dab some behind your ears on Friday night and get...

Tasting: Ecco Caffe’s Colombia La Virginia

Rating: [rating:4.5/5] I’ve recently written about my new-found appreciation for Colombian coffee — a growing region I’d long written off as an example of style over substance; marketing over matter. The past few weeks I’ve had not only opportunity to eat most of my prior sour words, but also the sweet pleasure of some fine Colombian coffees with which to wash them down. And this one… well, it’s the sweetest yet. Andrew Barnett’s Ecco Caffe is a boutique coffee roaster in Santa Rosa, California. I don’t know if he’d care for that description — boutique — but it fits. Andrew’s got an exceptional palate; more, he’s got damn fine culinary instincts and a rep as one of coffee’s nicest guys. (Let’s see him dodge that one!) But this isn’t about Andrew, really, it’s about Olga Laura and her family coffee estate, La Virginia. La Virginia, in the Huila region of Colombia, has the great good fortune of volcanic soils, fresh spring water for washing and fermenting its coffee, and sunshine enough to patio-dry. This triple threat offers the potential for great coffee… that, and meticulous management makes the coffee of La Virginia a grand cru, one which handily bested every coffee save one for top price in this years Colombia First Harvest Cup of Excellence. Andrew’s take on roasting is hugely respectful of the coffee; this one’s just this side of Full City — no evidence at all of 2nd pop or surface oils — and ideally suited to this bean. Ground, the coffee effuses chocolate candy sweetness, enveloped by orange blossoms and ripe summer fruit, virtually none of...

On the Tasting Table…

When we cupped the Colombia First Harvest Cup of Excellence coffees in April, the number 3 lot — La Virginia — wasn’t on the table. It was, at 48 bags of coffee, quite a large offering as as auction lots go, and far more than we could offer through our Special Reserve program. So it seemed only reasonable at the time to not include it in an already large field of coffees. Reasonable, maybe… but a cryin’ shame, ’cause thanks to Andrew Barnett at Ecco Caffe I’ve discovered that the La Virginia is a stunning cup. A full review is forthcoming; for now I’ll simply suggest you go buy some. It’s phenomenal. Also on the tasting table… another Ecco Caffe selection, two more from Coffee Emergency, a trio of offerings from Jeff Taylor at PT’s Coffee, some curious but curiously apropos blends from Boca Java, and a taste of Peet’s Panama Esmeralda Reserve. Finally, Barry Jarrett at Riley’s Coffee reprises his role as quiz master a la The Mystery Cup Challenge, and has sent me two coffees simply labeled “A” and “B”. Can’t wait to tear into...

Tasting: Green Mountain’s Special Reserve Colombian Dos Quebradas

Rating: [rating:4/5] I’ll admit some prejudice — not altogether unwarranted — against Colombian coffee. Let’s face it, we’ve *all* been told for years now how Colombian coffee is mountain-grown; that only the ripest beans are picked by Juan Valdez (and his faithful little burro). And even while the Colombian Coffee Federation was feeding us this hugely successful marketing campaign they were rounding up beans from all over and carting them to vast processing mills and creating a single, homogeneous flavor profile. And we consumers were most all of us buying our 100% Colombian coffee — the best coffee in the world, mind you — pre-ground in its little red vacuum-packed can and we were satisfied, perhaps… if a little underwhelmed. The campaign helped to create a market for single-origin coffee… still it failed to deliver on its promise. Today, Colombian coffee growers have some ground to cover — the very gap that their Federation created between our expectations of Colombian coffee, and our experience. And so, even while the latest incarnation of Juan Valdez smiles his mustachioed smile at us — Colombian coffee farmers are racing to discover the true flavors and identity of their beans, their growing regions and micro-climates. In Colombia, as elsewhere, the Cup of Excellence competition is proving a particularly effective vehicle for discovery. When you cup the field of winners of the Colombian First Harvest Cup of Excellence and your gut reaction is — okay… so what else ya got? — you just might be a coffee snob. Colombian coffees — even specialty-grade coffees — are rarely knock-your-socks-off kind of beans. The character of...

On Today’s Tasting Table

In which your author drinks bad coffee so you don’t have to… Imus Ranch Coffee… claims to be “100% Colombian Coffee”. I don’t see anything on the Imus Ranch package to suggest it’s 100% Arabica coffee, and given its wet cardboard aroma and burnt rubber and ash flavors, I wouldn’t doubt there’s significant Robusta content. Icky, unpleasant and a general assault on the senses. Not recommended, even for lawyers you intend to later spray with bird-shot. Hawaiian Gold Fancy Kona Coffee Gourmet Blend… a stellar example of why Kona coffee shouldn’t be blended. Virtually no aroma, and only the most subtle of brightness (yeah, I’m reaching here.) Gold Coffee here offers a mild and mellow flavor (probably Colombian) with a rounded body and a decent, if short finish. Nothing whatsoever about its flavor says anything about Kona coffee, and whomever grows this should be apoplectic and shame-faced about the final result. Not recommended. Remember, kids… just say no to Kona blends. Equal Exchange Cafe Salvador… actually, not bad. Not bad at all. A slightly nutty and floral aroma with bitter orange / bergamot brightness and predominantly chocolate flavors, this offering from Equal Exchange is round and slightly roasty, and generally quite slurp-able. Recommended… and a fine intro to an increasingly impressive array of coffees from El Salvador....
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