There's more than one way to roast a Wondo

Wondo - 2

I considered, in a former post, the contribution of the roaster (the human, not the machine) to the flavor of any particular bean; how, given the same initial green offering, two different people can end up with two very different results. Case in point: this coffee, sourced from the Wondo Cooperative in the Yirga Cheffe region of Ethiopia, specifically two instances of it, offered by two different roasters.

Up until recently, the newest kid in town – Four Barrel Coffee Roasters – was receiving its coffee, fully roasted and ready to brew, from the Pacific Northwest’s “3rd wave” pioneers, out of Portland, OR. – Stumptown Coffee Roasters. While Four Barrel patiently waited for its own fledgling roasting operation to get off the ground, an unparalleled opportunity presented itself. Here, with substantial variety, was a uniquely convenient opportunity to get one’s hands on coffee from a renowned Pacific Northwest coffee roaster without having to book an expensive plane flight or pay for shipping costs.  It was an opportunity to expand on and confirm my impressions of Stumptown’s offerings without having to don a waterproof shell and trudge my way through the the wet winter streets of Portland or Seattle (this was, of course, in a time before our Bay Area weather decided to open up the flood gates). Many other people besides myself took advantage of this situation before Four Barrel began – in the very same hand-stamped brown paper bags into which it used to repackage it’s weekly delivery from the Pacific Northwest – to quietly substitute its own roasted beans for those of Stumptown’s.

The ever enigmatic “Man Seeking Coffee” was one of those who took advantage of the opportunity and, with respect to the Wondo – but also, it seems, more generally – had a less than exemplary experience. Brewed by any other method besides espresso, the Stumptown roasted Wondo had a distinct lack of personality. Statements like…

The Wondo is barely interesting brewed as a French Press, pour over drip or syphon

…in addition to…

The coffee is pleasant but not particularly complex and just barely compelling.

…should give you an idea of what he thought.

Stumptown, though, is not the only establishment to obtain green beans from the Wondo cooperative. A look around the web will net you a vast array of different roasters, who have roasted coffee on offer, from the very same producer. One of those is Ritual Roasters of San Francisco.

Roasted by Ritual Roasters, I found it to be a pleasant cup out of the french press. Nose to the bloom, there was a pleasing aroma of concentrated dried fruit. Raisins, mostly. In the cup, there was that familiar Yirgacheffe lemony acidity (especially as the cup cooled) with hints of tobacco, dry dark chocolate, a subtle dark berry, with black tea barely peeking out in the mix – partially in the acidity and partially in the aroma. Dry in the finish when hot, with a medium to heavy body, a mellow, round sweetness remained as the cup cooled. This, certainly, cannot be the same coffee…yet it is.

Two different roasters. Same bean. Two wholly different experiences. It’s just one of the many reasons I never tire of drinking coffee, that such variety of flavor can be found in such seeming uniformity. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my Wondo is getting cold.


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