A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘single-origin coffee’

Do You Take Your Coffee Wet or Dry?

In Drink on March 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

Earlier this year, I ordered a cup of single-origin Verve Ethiopian Worka to-go and grabbed a bag of the same beans from SO (which stands for Single Origin) in the Original Farmers Market. Despite my protest that I don’t like super fruity coffees, the barista assured me it was “amazing.” And amazing it was. But not in a good way. At first I thought the fancy pour-over technique must be to blame for the drink’s curiously familiar nuances, but when I got the beans home and brewed a pot myself, my 3 year old confirmed what I was already thinking. “Mommy, I smell poop.” More specifically, it smelled like a dirty diaper, a sentiment I uncharitably tweeted later that day.

But I’d had enough. Single Origin. Coffee Cupping. Pour Over. Cold brew. Coffee culture was, to my mind, spiraling out of control—and this coming from a wine writer! Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, and I love GOOD coffee. But I hate that at the serious coffee joints in San Francisco and New York that a cup of joe is accompanied by a condescending sigh when I ask to add a splash of milk to a sludgy cup. So it was with great surprise that I opened a friendly email from Colby Barr, owner of Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, in response to my unfriendly words about his elite beans.

“Sooooooo, you didn’t like the Ethiopia Worka. Cool,” he wrote in an email entitled “Worka no Workie.” And thus began my education. The Worka, he explained, is what’s known as a “dry-processed” coffee. Dry processed coffee beans, or cherries, are dried with their skins on, which leads to an influx of sugars and fruit compounds into the coffee. “Wet-processed” coffees are stripped of their skin and fruit (i.e. pulp) before the beans are dried, yielding cleaner, crisper coffees—the kind of coffee I like to drink. He sent me these photos to illustrate:

Wet-processed coffee beans

Dry-processed coffee beans

“I think it’s safe to say that you do not like dry-processed coffee,” Colby concluded. “They can be love/hate for sure.” So I decided to give one of Verve’s wet-processed coffees a try and got a pound of Don Mayo from Costa Rica, which I served at brunch that weekend to a bunch of neighborhood girls. Everyone—myself included—loved it. Creamy and smooth with honeyed notes, it was perfection. And I’ve tried several more of Verve’s wet-processed coffees and am one smitten customer. And for those of you who like fruit bombs (and, I’m sure, all sorts of nuanced molasses complexity that is lost on me), do give the dry-processed beans a try. Thank you, Colby!


Talking Coffee with Oliver Strand, Coffee Curator for the New York Times

In Drink, Media on October 19, 2010 at 8:13 am


Chemex coffee maker © Dan Neville / The New York Times

 

One of my favorite columns in the New York Times “T” Magazine is Ristretto by Oliver Strand, an arbiter of taste in every sense. I am fascinated by individuals who take obsessions to new heights, which is why Strand’s coffee missives are so completely delicious. This morning, Strand takes a few moments in between cups to dish on his coffee habits with The Foodinista—so grab a cup of your favorite joe and settle in. Spoiler alert: I can already tell you that I’ll be spending the next few hours debating whether to splash out on the handblown glass version of the Chemex coffeemaker with a wood and leather belt (at first glance you’d swear it was an Alexander McQueen corset belt), though I think we probably know the answer…

What’s your typical coffee order in a restaurant?
I rarely order coffee after a meal – I don’t drink coffee at night, so that’s out, and because most restaurant coffee is phoned-in there’s little point. That said, I’ll sometimes have an espresso after lunch if I need to jump back into work that afternoon. Or I’ll go with what the restaurant does best. Recently, I had a terrific cup of coffee brewed in a Chemex at a groovy taqueria here in New York.

Japanese Ceramic Beehouse Dripper

How do you enjoy your coffee at home?
A friend recently said: you like the method you’re liking. Meaning – for the coffee-curious — if you’re playing around with a bee house dripper (which is a ceramic filter cone from Japan), you’re probably liking bee house drippers, and if you’re messing with your Chemex you’re liking Chemexes. I’ve been on a Chemex tear for a while, though I’m also messing with the Aeropress right now. Sometimes I’ll pull out my V60. All of these gadgets are in the $20-$40 range, which makes it easy to be promiscuous.

Are you loyal to one bean? Or do you like to mix it up?
You mean one cultivar? (Don’t let my coffee geekiness frighten you.) Cultivar is graduate-level coffee talk. Many coffees these days are labeled as “single origin,” a general term that refers to a region, or a farm, or a part of a farm. In certain circles, it’s no longer enough to call a coffee an African or even an Ethiopian. Instead you talk about a Sidamo, which is a region, or a Yirgacheffe, which is a village in Sidamo, or even better: a particular Yirgacheffe cooperative.


Maybe it sounds too obsessive. And just because there’s a place-name on a bag doesn’t mean it’s great. But most of the great coffees I taste have a place-name on the bag. Right now I’m working my way through the last of Aida’s Grand Reserve, roasted by Counter Culture Coffee. It’s Bourbon, Kenia and Typica beans all grown on farms owned by Aida Batlle, in El Salvador. It’s one of the most expensive coffees you can buy, but I’ll argue it’s worth it. In fact, this is my second batch. In September, I bought one of the last of Aida’s Grand Reserve from Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

I think what you’re getting at is: do I have any favorites? The answer is yes, but coffee is a seasonal crop, so I go by what’s on the shelves. If I like something I savor it, then I wait until it’s available next year. Just like produce at the greenmarket here in New York: tomatoes ended three weeks ago, but the pears and grapes are crazy right now. I’ll see what coffees are around next week. I’m already looking forward to Aida’s Grand Reserve in 2011.


Where were you most surprised by a good cup of coffee or espresso?
Most recently, at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. There’s a kiosk by the gate to the alcazaba, the fortress that looks out over the city, where I had a beautiful cortado. It was break time for the groundskeepers, and there were dozens (I want to say hundreds) of workers mobbing the counters, and even though the shack was cramped — it was built around a well and had trees growing through the roof — the coffee was immaculate: saucer, glass, spoon, water on the side. Everybody served in order. There was this breezy sense of ceremony, that coffee should/could be elegant even if it costs $1 and you’re outside and leaning against a wall next to a dude in a dusty jumpsuit.

Plaza de Armas en la Alcazaba in the Alhambra of Granada, Spain

Do you have any guilty pleasures at, say, Starbucks?
I like my mochas, especially after the first cold snap. That’s not as much a Starbucks thing as a coffee-wide impulse. I’m just balancing the summer, when I’ll go out of my way for a Carvelanche.


Where is the coffee capital of the world?
New York, of course. And the Yankees are going to take the Rangers in six.

In all seriousness, New York is becoming a great coffee town, in part, because there’s no dominant roaster – this is the only place in the country where you can get an exceptional shot of espresso made with beans roasted by Counter Culture Coffee, or Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, or Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Blue Bottle Coffee started roasting here this year, and now PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. is making a run at the city, then you have local talent like Café Grumpy, Dallis and a dozen more. There are few cities anywhere with such a broad selection. Just as important, the baristas here are good and getting better.


It’s an exciting time for New York. Though to be fair, I should say that Seattle, Portland and San Francisco all have deeper benches. Then you have cult coffee cities like London and Melbourne, Oslo and Copenhagen. Notice I didn’t say Paris.

Favorite movie moment with coffee?
Pulp Fiction. Five Easy Pieces. I Am Love.

How much do you drink daily on average?
Two cups in the morning, then more depending on the day. I’m the author of the Filter, a guide to New York coffee from the New York Times for the iPhone and iPad (it’s free and available on iTunes – not coming on too strong, I hope?), which means I’m always checking out new spots, popping in at old places to see if they’re still up to it. It’s done wonders for my mid-morning social life. My dance card is full from 9:30 am to 10:30 am.

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