Coffee Notes from All Over

Coffee Notes from All Over

The snarkiness begins. Canadian papers are having pseudo-hysterics over the per cup retail price of Panama Cup of Excellence Extraordinaire, Hacienda La Esmeralda. Starting this morning, coffee drinkers in Vancouver will be able to sip some seriously expensive brew. At a staggering $15 per 8-oz cup ($135 per half pound in bean form), the Panama-grown, 100-per-cent geisha varietal bean is the most expensive coffee ever to hit lips in this coffee-crazy city. ‘Course it’s all offered with a wink and a nod, and the folk at Caffe Artigiano are surely giggling all the way to the bank with the free press. Me, I’m in for a cup, if only I could get one delivered. Brilliant! A UK teen was hospitalized after downing seven double espressos at her family’s sandwhich shop. Quoth the victim of her own excess: “My nerves were all over the place. I was drenched. I was burning up and hyperventilating. I was having palpitations, my heart was beating so fast and I thought I was going into shock. “I did not realise this could happen to you and I only hope other people learn from my mistake.” To be fair, I’ve had my own brush with espresso-fueled hyper-caffeination. In fact, just last week I’d commented on it on a post at Scazi’s Whatever: A few years back I spent an enjoyable Saturday in Chicago working with an eclectic mix of coffee pros and talented amateurs. The object of our attention: create a world-class espresso blend. Blending coffee for espresso is tricky; there’s a *lot* of trial and error, and lots and lots of tasting. We began...
The Coffee Phenom: Hacienda la Esmeralda Does It Again

The Coffee Phenom: Hacienda la Esmeralda Does It Again

US $130 a pound. Green. Wowsers. La Esmeralda has done it again… not only winning the Best of Panama competition four years in a row, but thrashing the competition in a bidding war that drove its price to dizzying heights, topping all other competition lots by a factor of 10. If you’ll recall, this coffee is the entirely unique and stunning Gesha cultivar that was discovered on the Esmeralda farm just a few years ago. Congrats to the winning group… an alliance of 49th Parallel Roasters, Coffee Klatch Roasting, Groundwork Coffee Company, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, The Roasterie, Willoughby’s (Roastmasters.com) and Zoka Coffee Roasters. While last year’s auction lot was intensely fragrant, sweet, superbly balanced and so very distinctive it was almost entirely unlike any other cup I’d ever experienced (and for that matter, so distinctive as to be almost unlike coffee as I know it) I haven’t, myself, had the privilege of sampling this year’s lot. In strict terms of cup quality, this year’s cup didn’t score as well as it did last year… nor did most of the field, I think. (And yes, while quality is certainly subjective, on the whole competition judges’ palates are pretty fairly calibrated.) Which suggests that this price has much to do with the prestige and exclusivity of the club of roasters who will offer it. Is that a problem? Well, maybe… in that this one lot so completely eclipses some of the other exceptional lots that also graced the cupping tables. At the same time, it also makes one wonder: just what might any other farm be able to do with...

Coffee Notes from All Over

Hacienda La Esmeralda wins the SCAA cupping pavilion’s top spot, officially giving it the honor, “World’s Best Coffee.” For the third year in a row. Unprecedented. Science Blogs wants to know, why is New York coffee so bad? I’d like to know, too, so I can eliminate my habit of planning my conference schedule so as to avoid NY, NY’s dismal coffee options. Yeah, I know, there’s Ninth St. Espresso and I hear good things about Grumpy. And Gillies has been roasting good stuff there since the dawn of time. (Maybe Fortune can chime in on this one!) And one for the recipe file… Coffee-and-Cocoa Encrusted Sirloin. A variation on this theme has long been on my grilling menu, though I prefer a rib-eye or Kansas City Strip. Yum. Finally, is a coffee-inspired brown the new black? “The hottest colour going are the browns — every shade of cappuccino, mocha, cafe-au-lait and milk...

Geisha the Belle of the Ball Again

Hacienda La Esmeralda works its magic for the second year in a row. In today’s “Best of Panama” Specialty Coffee online auction hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama, green specialty coffee beans from the Hacienda La Esmeralda estate sold to Volcafe Specialty Coffee, LLC for the extraordinary price of US$20.10 a pound. The winning bid is due to the high quality of this prize-winning coffee, which was sought by several bidders. In comparison, commercial-grade coffee currently trades in commodity markets for around US$1.20 a pound. Specialty coffee is defined as a coffee that has no defects and a distinctive flavor in the cup. Hacienda La Esmeralda recently won first place at the SCAA’s Cupping Pavilion competition in April 2005 and first place at the Rainforest Alliance Cupping competition in 2004. Last year, coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda set an online coffee auction record when it sold for US$21 dollars a pound. Who, you might ask, is this buyer… this Volcafe? One of world’s largest coffee traders, Volcafe buys and sells some 15% of the planet’s coffee supply. All this goes to say that, it’s possible some of this year’s top auction lot may show up at a roaster near you… And if it does, you’ll pay dearly for...

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