Tasting: Santa Elena Tarrazu Miel

Rating: [rating:4/5] Coffee is a fruit, you know… Sipping the cup in front of me, this simple truth is underlined. The cup is lush, heavily fruited with black cherry, and reveals a sweet tobacco finish. Oh… and it’s from Costa Rica. The coffee is Santa Elena Tarrazu Miel. Now, Santa Elena is a big coffee farm in Tarrazu, Costa Rica. Big enough they have their own mill… and big enough that when the top 10% or so of their coffee meets specialty coffee standards, it’s a lot of coffee. Erna Knutsen, the grand damme of the specialty coffee trade [and the originator of the term Specialty Coffee] convinced the folks at Santa Elena to process this coffee, this very fine Tarrazu coffee, like folks in Sumatra do… a “semi-wash” process that left the pulp of the fruit on the bean while it dried. Unheard of! It was almost certainly something of a leap of faith for Santa Elena farm… maybe even for Erna! But the result is unique, and distinctive, and very enjoyable. It’s not your typical Tarrazu… it’s sweeter, it’s more complex, it’s richer in body. Thanks,...

A Second Cupping

A Second Cupping of the Tarrazu Triple Play yielded notes enough for a formalized review. Formalized, in this case, means I scribbled down tick-marks and cobbled together some charts. What I don’t do is try to suggest an overall rating–a la Wine Spectator–as I’m not at all certain that coffee can be rated in such a manner, and I’m absolutely certain that I’m not the guy to do such a rating. While I was at it, I finished the charts on this year’s St Helena, and have filed those cupping notes in the articles section as well. I have no idea how what little remains will last the rest of the year as I keep dreaming up occasions which warrant roasting some...

A Tarrazu Triple Play

I am — nearly every day — amazed by coffee. By its infinite variety, its complexity, its capability to surprise and delight… and all this within just a single growing region of the world, the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. There is a story to be told of the tempests that occur when people debate what is, and what is not Tarrazu. The short version is this — Tarrazu can at once be defined by the geo-political border that is Tarrazu county, by the ICAFE designation of what is a Tarrazu finca, and by the micro-climate that exists within a particularly mountainous region of Costa Rica that produces very hard coffee beans with distinctly spicy, aromatic qualities and bell-like brightness. I’m running with the latter of these three definitions, and I’m willing to let ICAFE and the SCAA sort out the rest. With this in mind, I’ve assembled a number of Tarrazu coffees with the idea of formally cupping them to compare their characteristics — but I keep drinking them instead! It doesn’t help that I’ve had little time at the roaster recently — the lion’s share of what I roast lately is straight away ground and brewed. Even so I’ve managed to pull out the silver spoon long enough to jot down a few notes… La Minita EstateWhat can I say that hasn’t already been written a thousand times before, and more eloquently? La Minita, a pioneering estate run by Bill McAlpin — something of a organizational and horticultural wizard — year after year produces some of the very finest coffees in the world. Long before I was...

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