Climate & Soil
Our coffees come from small estates all over the world. The climate and the soil are what contributes most to how special properties of the coffee emerge. Sunlight, humidity, temperature and minerals in the soil in perfect balance is a good start for the perfect cup of coffee.
The farmer aims to find the coffee variety that is most suitable for the given climate and soil. This means maximizing the aromas of the coffees, but also maximizing the berry volumes and minimizing the insect damages. On the longer term this is done through testing and mutating existing varieties.
The harvesting processes are called selective picking, stripping, and mechanical harvesting. To ensure highest quality, it is necessary to selectively pick the ripe coffee beans from the plant by hand and leave behind unripe, green beans to be harvested at a later time.
The traditional “natural” coffee is dried in the sun for a couple of weeks which produces a sweeter and more fullbodied aroma. The “washed” coffee is bathed and sorted in a pool for a couple of days which enables some fermentation. The washed coffee is usually more acidic and fruity.
The SCAA green bean classifier takes a sample of 300 g of beans and determines the amount of defects in the given sample. There are both primary defects such as totally full black/sour and secondary defects such as insect damage. The specialty grade coffee is not allowed to have any primary defects.
Choosing the Beans
When a roaster chooses beans for roasting he usually has a pretty good idea of what kind of coffee he is searching for. First he orders small bean samples from various estates, then he test roasts it after which it is cupped. Through cupping — which is the technical term for tasting new coffees — he hopes to find a satisfactory blend or roast.
The cupping procedure involves three main steps, smelling the dry and the wet aroma and finally tasting the coffee. During the tasting you record defects, sweetness, mouth feel, acidity, flavour, aftertaste, balance and overall score on your balance sheet.
Single Estate Or Blend
A single estate coffee usually offers a clear dominant avour and aroma. A blend is a bit more tricky. It is a bit like planning a dessert dish: you may want a pleasant smooth start followed by a nice mouth feel and aftr that you might want to have a suprising, in some cases even an explosive, aroma.
Finding a Profile
The roaster’s task is not to invent new aromas but to bring out and enhance the existing aromas in the beans. The factors that determine the roasting profille are temperature, time and air flow. The roasting time is roughly 8-12 minutes and the temperature 200- 250 degrees celcius.
The cupper’s main task is to find the coffees with the aromas and qualities desired by the roaster. The cupper and the roaster work closely together to discuss blending options and roasting profiles. In small roasteries this is usually the same person, due to the similar expertise required in both areas of practice.
Similarly to the roasting profession, the cupping profession requires many years of experience in order to master it. On a single day a cupper may have to taste hundreds of coffees and be able to define the characteristics instantly. An experienced cupper has a flavour database in his mind consisting of hundreds if not thousands of flavours. The most important tools for the cupper are the flavour wheel and the cupping spoon.
Theoretically the barista’s task is to produce a coffee which presents the work of both the farmer and the processor, as well as the cupper and the roaster. In other words being able to serve a correctly brewed coffee that enhances the aromas of the particular coffee in a balanced way. The key factors to achieve this is experience, communication, the right tools and lots of practice.
The barista tastes different coffees throughout the working day to ensure the quality of the coffee and to get to know the coffees better. Moreover he provides the roaster with feedback about the coffee. This is valuable information for the roaster when developing the roast profiles and testing brewing times.
Sip, Wonder & Enjoy
By tasting and reflecting over the coffee you can influence all the previous steps of the process. The interaction between the barista and the end consumer is of utmost importance in the whole chain of coffee product development. In the longer run this feedback can even influence the farmer in choices regarding coffee variety and prosessing methods.