Thursday, September 06, 2007

has it really been almost a month?

i'm getting pretty bad at blogging. maybe i blogged so much in the early days because i didn't have any real work to do. in any event, i just wanted to highlight an event i participated in a couple weeks ago that ties in with another project i've begun work on.

not long ago i took a trip up the road to austin to be part of the Texas Coffee Think Tank. the name sounds auspicious, but it was really just an informal gathering of texas coffee professionals designed to share experiences and encourage each other around coffee. i was asked to lead a cupping session for our inaugural meeting and afterward we would share lunch, beers and conversation around what we wanted the group to accomplish coffee-wise.

i thought about all the regular cupping sessions i've done in the past (geography as flavor, how roast affects flavor, cupping for defects, pre-ground versus fresh-ground, etc.) but since it was august i realized it was a golden opportunity to undertake a very special cupping.

some of you who have read here for a while know i am participating in a two year study with some colleagues that focuses on packaging and storing greens in ways that can possibly help maintain freshness better than traditional jute/burlap. with my friend jaime acting as catalyst we decided to vacuum pack several samples of fresh greens during our january/february '07 trip to guatemala. the idea was to separate vac-packed samples into room temp green samples and frozen green samples, and then every six months for two years we would open the corresponding samples from each storage method, roast them identically, cup them and capture any notes. jaime and i have both blogged about this before, so i won't rehash it all now. but i did notice in the run up to my meeting in austin that since it was now august (six months after returning from guatemala) it would be a golden opportunity to utilize the unbiased palates of the others at the meeting.

for the meeting's cupping i decided to try something a little different. it just so happens that i have greens from the same lot of the same farm in guatemala from '06 and '07, as well as the frozen samples from '07. so it was the nearly perfect apples to apples comparison i was looking for to determine the affects of time on greens. i say "nearly perfect" because both the '06 and '07 non-frozen have been carefully stored at room temperature, but the '07 non-frozen has actually also been rebagged out of jute and into plastic. and of course, the '07 frozen has been removed from jute, vac-packed and frozen immediately upon my return home at a constant zero degrees fahrenheit. close enough for government work, i guess.

anyways, visually, the greens were easily identifiable. the '06 had a pallid color relative to the solid jade of the '07 non-frozen. but the frozen '07 looked so much richer jade than even the non-frozen '07 that it almost looked as though they were different beans altogether. the roasted aroma of both whole bean and ground was almost a dead giveaway. and finally, of course, the tasting was the real test. no surprises...the frozen sample ran away with it. unbelievably fresh, fruited and sweet with a high degree of jasmine-citrus aromatics and fragrance.

now, typically i'm a big fan of blind cupping; and normally i would have conducted this session blindly as well. but i felt it was more important to make it known which was which for the purposes of level-setting everyone's palate to what fresh tastes like. did i tip the jury? i really don't think so. half the group had to ask me which was which anyways because they were busy talking among themselves as i was explaining. but they were asking which was which because when they got to the frozen sample they were blown away and were only asking to confirm what their tongues were telling them.

the rest of the meeting was productive and fun. john from jp's java (the founder of the group and our host for the day) made lasagna for everyone and supplied the beer. some great ideas were borne from the meeting and everyone looks forward to september's get together at austin java, where we are trying to get a screening of the movie black gold. eventually brown will host a meeting, if and when we get our roasterie built here.

oh and by the way, the purpose of the frozen greens experiment is not to get everyone to freeze their greens (although that was a clear winning argument from our first cupping). the purpose is to open the conversation about moving away from storing in jute/burlap by giving viable alternatives. i do have some '07 crop from that farm that is being purposely kept in jute to run against our frozen samples a little later in the year and into next.

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At Tuesday, 11 September, 2007, Anonymous gabe rodriguez said...

so are you the guy that wants twist on caps on wine bottles? :)

just got my shipment of brown coffee over the weekend, your coffee made our week. thank you!!!

At Tuesday, 11 September, 2007, Blogger blanco said...

you know, everyone's talking. just cause corks have "always been the way we do it" doesn't mean "we should always do it that way." i'm torn. :)

if there's a noticeable difference in wine preservation (and no accidental corky mouth with floaties to worry about) then hey.

you know me by now...i'm all about questioning why people do what they do in hopes of finding better ways.


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