Category Archives: A tasting note

beri berry

It’s been some time since I grabbed a bag of Ritual beans but I was overdoing it a bit for awhile, there, and Daniel of Arabica was starting to look more like Daniel de la Ritual. Bag after bag after bag here in “The Lab”. I was a starting to get into a rut. A good rut, to be sure. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying myself. One could appease all of their coffee yearnings solely with the variety of quality beans Ritual has on offer but I had to draw the line. Don’t want to be accused of favoritism. I have a reputation to maintain…I think. But it had been long enough. I figured it was safe to venture back.

beri berry
beri berry

Off to the Mission, then, to cavort with the hipsters, pick up a few bike ideas and, by the by, drop by Ritual to score a bag of beans. Ritual’s Ndumberi Peaberry from Kenya, say hello “The Lab” here at Daniel of Arabica world headquarters. This bag, also, is a sort of shout out to m’lady, Danielle, who loves a good Kenya. Here ya go, babe.

Back in “The Lab” I have subjected my latest acquisition to the usual battery of tests. Here is what it has to say:

In the Chemex

Molasses. Sharp acidity. Full body. I get the lemon curd from the description (tart, sweet, egg?!) but not the strawberries. I did get some berry quality but I didn’t specifically get strawberry. The sweetness is dark, caramelized and concentrated. It’s on the bright side for a peaberry, especially, but not for a Kenya – similar, in this way, to the Flying Goat Brazilian peaberry I tasted earlier – but the body and sweetness provide a balancing backbone; it’s at once smooth and soft yet bright and citrusy. Like two coffees in one bag or a blend. As it cools the acidity becomes more berry-like and becomes more pronounced but broader and less sharp.

In the press-pot

Dark molasses aroma. If “lemon curd” wasn’t mentioned on the bag, I never would have found it but, again, I can see the point: concentrated, carmelized sugar and candied lemon. The acidity is tingly sharp but not at all unpleasant. Nose in the mug, there is a unique ripe garden tomato aroma paired with a “brothy”, resin-y herb (like rosemary).

And so…

…another fine coffee from the folks at Ritual. I had it as a cold-brew as well but I’ll be damned if I can find my notes on that prep. I’ll tell you it was tasty, that the acidity was out front but not overbearing and that the berry and lemon shone through the sweetness like a warm light welcoming you home. That good? Good. Now, go get yourself some. Tell ’em I sent ya.

Want it? Get it…

Brazil…via Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa, CA is where I was first introduced to good coffee. There’s Susan Koshow’s Centro Espresso (the progenitor of the venerable but long defunct Western Café – Andrew Barnett’s seminal effort in the coffee biz and now with two locations: downtown and up the hill on Stagecoach Road), there’s Mr. Barnett’s subsequent venture into roasting – the highly acclaimed Ecco Café and, finally, there is the 3rd wave local coffee mini-empire that is The Flying Goat. That’s a surprising amount of good coffee for such a small town and one that has an undue, yet tenaciously held, reputation as a sort of Northern California backwater. But it was in this supposed backwater that I was exposed to what good coffee, prepared with care and skill, was all about and where I was made aware of entirely new concepts of how coffee should be and could be treated. It was coffee as an artisanal culinary ingredient, as art and craft. “Revelation” may be a strong word but certainly, it goes some way toward explaining the nature of my experience that first time I took my first sip of a latte produced by the master hand of Andrew Barnett at The Western.

Boa Sorte Peaberry
Boa Sorte Peaberry

And, so, when I return every so often to visit friends and family, I make it a point to visit at least one of these joints to reminisce, to get my quality coffee fix and, of course, to pick up a bag of beans. This last trip resulted in “the lab” being graced by the presence of a bag of The Goat’s organic, pulp natural, Boa Sorte Peaberry from Brasil.

I love Brazilian coffees for their nuttiness and smooth, sweet character. That this was a peaberry ((It seems as if there is more controversy about the value of peaberry coffee than I though there was. Regardless, I find them generally more roundly sweet than other coffees.)) only made me more excited over the possibilities: take a coffee noted for  its sweetness and separate out the beans that promise to deliver that sweetness in an even more concentrated form. It sounded very promising. But did it deliver?

Aromas and fragrance

Sticking my nose into the bag, the whole beans gave off aromas of roasted peanuts and hazelnuts as well as a sort of milk chocolate creamy sweet character. Freshly ground, they had an amazingly powerful tang to them, suggesting a prominent acidity. There was a floral element, wet earth, loam, wood and some dried fruit (cherries, cranberries and strawaberries). The most perplexing aroma? Something I tentatively termed “aromatic root”; something like root beer or sassafras.

In the press pot

As expected – this is a peaberry after all – there was a generous amount of sweetness on hand. And it was that soft, round, concentrated sweetness you might expect. Medium to heavy body in the mouth. Richly sweet, not cloying, there were aromas of nuts and wood. There was also that same “aromatic root” component in the cup that I detected earlier, in the fresh grounds.

The acidity was surprisingly direct, both for a natural processed Brazilian as well as for a peaberry. “Melon or grape”, I wrote. It was thin, though. Not sweet and not containing much complexity or character. Probably the most disappointing aspect of the brew, really. It certainly didn’t ruin the experience; the intensity of the other flavors were such that the acidity, while prominent, was but a small portion of the overall flavor profile.

Cold brew

The acidity, though, took its toll on this coffee as a cold-brew. While cold-brewing reduces the harsher aspects of a coffee’s acidity, it doesn’t cancel it out. In fact, I’ve found that, if anything, cold-brewing a coffee accentuates and amplifies the characteristics of a coffee’s acidity. Is it juicy, citrusy? You’ll find those flavors utterly popping in a cold-brew. If you’re not happy with the acidity in a pot of any particular coffee brewed hot, don’t expect it to get any better after twelve hours in the refrigerator.

So, that thinly grape-y, melon-y acidity in Flying Goat’s Boa Sorte made for a less than stellar cold-brew. It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great. It had sweetness, a little berry but those flavors couldn’t drown out the coffee’s harsher aspects.

Keep it hot and you’ll have an entirely more pleasant experience.

Where, oh where…

There are only three places to get Flying Goat’s coffee, as far as I know:

Brazil…via San Jose

I try to get into San Francisco to pick up a new bag of beans as often as I can but, even given how easy the trip is from Oakland, there are still times I cannot find the time to take the BART ride over. Luckily, I have a few other avenues with which I can acquire quality beans – some are personal connections, others are work-related. Still another option I am lucky enough to have at my disposal is the Whole Foods market that exists practically right down the street from my house and their small selection of beans from third-party roasters. The

Whole Foods, Oakland
Whole Foods, Oakland

selection may be a bit small but for a last-resort coffee source I can’t complain too much about the depth of product on offer, even as shallow as it is. Ritual is represented, although I can’t imagine ever choosing to buy their beans from the Whole Foods shelf. Terrible rotation. I have found beans over a month past their roast date on the shelf and it is incredibly difficult to find a bag that is any younger than a couple of weeks ((Somebody remind me to check in on when the Ritual supply at my local Whole Foods is replenished. I wonder if Mr. Ford has any idea how old their selection of beans are over here)). Sad, really, and not a good representation of the quality product that Ritual produces.

Represent!

Another roaster represented at my local Whole Foods, and one which apparently has a better rotation program, is Barefoot Roasters. I was peripherally aware of Barefoot for some reason (blog mention? Twitter post? hmmm…) so after a fruitless digging session through my Whole Foods’ collection of aging Ritual beans, seeing the name on the shelf was a welcome relief.

Santa Colombia in the cupboard
Santa Colombia in the cupboard

Barefoot hails from San Jose. Imagine my surprise when I found a specialty coffee roaster hailing from my hometown. Not exactly the town I think of when I consider the various locations associated with the burgeoning coffee v2.0 scene. Seattle? Check. Portland? Check. Los Angeles? Check. New York? Check. San Francisco? Check. San Jose? Uhhhhhh…no. So, then, a diamond in the rough, that’s what Barefoot Roasters seems to be ((Feel free to correct me in the comments section)). I can deal with that. After all, the proof is in the mug.

Proof

And, indeed, the proof is in a mug of Barefoot Roasters coffee. At least in the case of this, the only coffee I have had the opportunity to try as yet – their Brazil Daterra Santa Colombia – which I found to be, if not spectacularly unique, then at least a solid Brasil offering and a coffee I would be neither embarrassed to recommend or hesitant in picking up again should the desire strike me.

What do I mean by “solid”? Well, I have come to expect certain characteristics from the better coffees of Brasil. A certain nuttiness (indeed, sometimes peanut butter). A certain smoothness. Full body. Some sweetness. Maybe some fruit in there as well. Barefoot’s Brazil Daterra Santa Colombia covers all those bases and covers them well. No surprises. From the notes:

In the Chemex

  • nuts
  • berries (cherry)
  • full bodied w/a dry, almost grainy texture (like peanut butter)
  • nice vegetal character (green stalk veggies)

In the Press-pot ((As a qualifier to my experience of the Brazil Daterra Santa Colombia in the press-pot, I feel I must mention that, due to head cold that knocked out my capacity to smell or taste much of anything for some time, by the time I was able to honestly deduce anything from this coffee it was already ten days past the roast date. Full disclosure.))

  • aroma in the cup is sweet and nutty
  • tobacco
  • still green and vegetal
  • hazelnuts
  • cumin
  • dark sugar
  • a bit of sharpness in the acidity showing its age, I think.

Sum it up, Mr. Arabica…

As you can see the stand-out flavors, over and above the usual Brazilian traits, are the vegetal character out of both the press-pot and Chemex preparations and the cumin spice that came exclusively from the press-pot.

So, like I said, solid. Not “oh-my-god” unique but certainly worth picking up should the desire for a good example of what Brasil has to offer should strike you. I’m glad Barefoot is an option for me as a retail offering that I can pick up without resorting to mail-order and I’m, admittedly, just a little proud that my hometown of San Jose is also home to, what has so far proven to be, a quality specialty coffee roaster.

Where?

The land of Gayo

IMG_0324I’d never had the opportunity to taste anything from De La Paz before I picked up their Sumatra Gayo land “med. roast”. I’d heard of them through other blogs but I had never seen their beans for sale anywhere until I decided to check out The Mission neighborhood’s newest café addition: Haus. Haus is one of the newer quality-focused cafés that seem to be appearing in more and more locations. In lieu of establishing their very own roasting operation – and all that entails – these cafés instead carry beans from one, two or a few highly respected roasters. Ideally, just as in the case of the roast-our-own bunch, the skill level is high and the end products are both delicious and beautiful to behold. Haus, as of this writing, carries beans from both Ritual and De La Paz. I picked up a bag of and headed to “the lab”.

The beans and the grounds

I’ve talked about Sumatra’s appealing aroma in whole bean form before: roasted chiles and tobacco. To that description, In the case of De la Paz’s Sumatra Gayo land, add a hit of berry and a hint of sweet toasted bread. The grounds were another matter entirely. In ground form the Gayo land’s whole bean fragrance blossomed into a complex – and for me, highly evocative – fruity tobacco symphony.

In the press pot

“Lab” time was short on this one and so my notes are limited to a press-pot preparation. This is one of the more simple and direct “Tasting notes” you’ll find here at Daniel of Arabica. To that end, the cup was relatively lively for a Sumatra and managed to retain some of the aroma found in its ground state. Full bodied, the cup also had a sweetness about it that lingered and increased its presence as the cup became cooler and cooler. Nice.

Mysterious

Funny but I can’t find any reference to this coffee on the De La Paz website. I put an email in to the folks at DLP. We’ll see what comes of that.  In the mean time, the best place to look for a bag would be to go Haus. Its worth a trip anyway.

Surprise, surprise and surprise…and surprise…

Have you ever had sour worms? They’re a type of candy (not a stomach ailment). They’re like gummy bears only in worm shape. They’re also like other gummy worms but have ascorbic acid added to them. You can tell the difference between the two just by looking at them. The regular gummy worms are slick, shiny and colorful. The sour worms, on the other hand, are matte, the bright colors of the normal worms being muted by a thick coat of ascorbic acid powder. You know ascorbic acid as Vitamin C but you also know it as the tartness in orange juice. And, oh yeah, I hear it also has antioxidant powers.

Kids love ’em. Why worms? I dunnow. Probably the gross-out factor in part but it’s also, in the case of the sour version, a test of fortitude. Because they are sour. They pucker the mouth. They’re incredibly sharp on the tongue. They’re food as physical experience in much the same way that hot, spicy food is. Spicy burns. Sour almost tingles. It’s actually quite fun for a time. But, as with all things, excessive consumption of the sour worm only leads to harm. I know. It happened to me. At a movie theatre. Sour worms from the bulk candy bin. Soooo goooood but what at first was a pleasant experience ended up costing me dearly. Its as if someone had taken a little Dremel tool with a sander tip to my tongue. It literally took me days to recover as my taste buds regenerated themselves out of the wasteland that all of that ascorbic acid had created.

Worms…and coffee?

Why, you might be asking, am I bringing up a terrible candy experience on a blog devoted to coffee? Well, for one, because this, my friends is a tasting note on a Costa Rican coffee and, because my unfortunate experience with sour worms is good analog for my past experience with the coffees of Costa Rica. In my experience, Costa Rica is the sour worm of the coffee world: pleasurable at first, tongue destroying in the end. Even in milk, once, in a takeaway au lait from the Blue Bottle Kiosk in Hayes Valley, that Costa Rica acidity reared its ugly head. Traveling through San Francisco on foot, cup in hand, I only got as far as Market Street before my tongue was begging me to stop. Add to Costa Rica’s brutal acidity, a lack of anything else of much interest – at least anything else of much interest that has the power to shine in the face of such an overpowering flavor component – and, yeah, you could say that my experiences with Costa Rican coffees have been a tad negative.

I’m all for surprises though.

The head roaster at Ritual Coffee Roasters recently made a “trip to origin” to Costa Rica ((A “trip to origin” is a trip to a country – and many times, more specifically, a farm – that produces green coffee. When I hear it mentioned it is, many times, spoken of in tones normally reserved for a sort of pilgrimage. For those that really care about coffee it is that important. I understand that the sheer volume of information gained by traveling to origin can be mind-boggling.)). That Ritual had gone through the effort of sending their head roaster to the country was a strong signal, to me, that there may be some Costa Rican coffees showing up at Ritual in the very near future. I’ve had very good luck with Ritual, especially within the last year. I’ve been impressed with both the variety of coffees – the whole bean coffee shelf at Ritual is an ever changing feast of coffees and countries of origin – and the quality and depth of what’s on offer. And so, I decided I was willing to give Costa Rica another try should the trip result in Costa Rican coffee on the shelves. My tongue was ready. I steeled myself for the pain to come.

And I was right. On my next trip to Ritual Roasters, on the shelf was a Costa Rican – Los Chacónes Organic Costa Rica – challenging me to make good on my promise. There was but one thing to do.

Bringing it home, I subjected the Los Chacónes to the usual round of preparations on hand at the Daniel of Arabica Laboratories© (AKA, the kitchen of our apartment): the press pot and the chemex. I added to that bunch of preparations one more method but I’ll get to that in a bit.

With my nose in the bag, the whole beans had a zesty, spicy fragrance: salt, lime, cayenne. It was the same with the grinds only more intense.

In the press pot

First up “in the lab” was the press pot. There it was. The acidity. But, wait. This isn’t bad. My tongue isn’t threatening to cry for mercy. My mouth isn’t puckering up. This is…nice! Lime, lime, lime in the acidity. That lime-like acidity became more intense as the cup cooled but it was still absolutely pleasurable. In the aroma? Sweet chili. I couldn’t get hot sauce out of my mind. It was the aftertaste. It was the way the spicy and almost savory feeling and flavor stayed in the mouth. And a nice, thick body.

In the Chemex

Next? The Chemex. I think I’ve mentioned before, how my prejudice of the Chemex has given way, of late, to a genuine respect. Paper filters, to me, had always meant a dulling of flavors when compared to the press pot. But the Chemex defies the presumption that it is, in any way, like your everyday, run-of-the-mill paper cone filter preparation. The Chemex can coax flavors out of a coffee that you would never find in the usual paper cone filter method or when solely sticking with the press pot. In fact, I’ve found some coffees that, while certainly good in the press pot, simply come alive in the Chemex. The Chacónes was one of those coffees. Indeed, it didn’t just come alive. It exploded. Mustard seed and dill in the aroma. It was dry. There was a fragrance of fennel that lingered in the mouth; green, vegetal, round and soft. Cranberry and orange peel cropped up in the acidity. There was a certain fresh spiciness to the cup. In fact, in the Chacónes’s characteristics of spice and fruit it reminded me, surprisingly, of some good Belgian White Ales I’ve had, which are traditionally made with coriander and curaçao orange peel.

This time, in the Chemex, the acidity was more persistent, staying on all through the coffee’s time with my pallet. Once again, though I was pleasantly surprised at how the acidity of this Costa Rica was a complete 180° turn from the carnage inducing acidity of the Costa Rican coffees in my past. I was truly surprised at how much I was enjoying this coffee.

Cold brew

There was one more method I added to the mix this time: cold brewed iced coffee. If you are at all interested in cold-brewing iced coffee, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. There are many, many resources to be had on the web so I won’t delve too deeply into the different ways of cold-brewing here. It’s incredibly simple, though. Here’s the short version of the method I used:

  • 1 cup of coffee beans, ground coarse, as if for a french press.
  • 4½ cups cold water.
  • Combine and stir
  • Leave in the fridge, covered, for 12 hours.
  • Drink.

It’s that simple. I put the Chacónes in the fridge at 10:30 at night and took it out at 10:30 the next morning. And man, was it tasty. Smooth and full-bodied. Fruity (cranberry again). There was this nice hit of acidity right after the brew hit my pallet that welled up and then disapperard as fast as it came, only to be replaced by the body, the subtle sweetness and that intriguing cranberry fruitiness.

Qué sorpresa!

So, what have I learned from this? Second chances can be a good thing. A name is just that: a name. Put the Chacónes and a Costa Rica from my past experience together and I would not have guessed they were of the same origin. Hmmmm…what else? Oh yeah, I actually like a coffee from Costa Rica! Qué sorpresa, indeed.

Where can I get me some Chacónes?

Places I know you can get some:

You can also try their other retail locations in Napa, at The Oxbow Market and their other San Francisco inside Flora Grub Gardens.

Shine, Kenya, shine

Kenyan coffee is under-appreciated. Or at least under-represented. Ethiopia is the darling of African coffees these days, to wit, the crazy-quilt-like ubiquity of “Wondos” and “Misty Valleys”. Look on the shelves – literal or virtual – of your favorite “coffee 3.0” ((Quick, somebody get my lawyer on the phone. I smell a trademark.)) roaster and chances are the African category is going to be dominated by one Ethiopian after another. I’m scratching my head on this one. Why is it, I wonder, that Kenyan coffee is so underrepresented? ((Sounds like a subject in need of further study…and possibly a good idea for another post…)) It’s certainly not an issue of quality. Kenya produces some of the finest beans on the market and has a highly sophisticated and well developed system for getting its beans out to that market ((Thompson Owen, of Sweet Maria’s, penned a rich and descriptive travelogue of his recent buying trip to Kenya. Combined with their Kenya page they offer a wealth of information about Kenya, its quality and well developed auction system.)).

Given this imbalanced situation, it’s nice to see one of Kenya’s quality products get some time in the spotlight for once: Ritual Roasters in San Francisco has but one African coffee on their menu at the moment. And it’s a Kenya. Not only that but, as a part of their “Sweet Tooth” single-origin espresso program, they are offering it up by the shot as well as by the bag.

In the spotlight

The Kenya Karindundu on offer at Ritual was the “mystery coffee” I mentioned was present at the Friday cupping in which m’lady and I participated. At the time, the “mystery” designation was warranted, not by the lack of knowledge of the coffee’s name or place of origin, but by the lack of knowledge of how it was processed and what its growing conditions were. That shortfall has been somewhat cleared up, it seems, as Ritual’s page for the Karindundu illustrates; that this is a coffee grown at high altitudes – 2000m above sea level – and that its refined acidity and “exotic flavors” are a direct result of this ((I imagine more general information about how Kenyan coffees are processed can be found at Sweet Maria’s but my curiosity is piqued about Karindundu’s specific processing)). I, myself – as did m’lady (no coffee slouch is she) – thought that this was one of finer Kenyas we have ever had the pleasure of tasting.

From the notes (in the press pot):

  • sweet, syrupy, molasses fragrance
  • gingerbread aroma
  • dark berry
  • “zingy” lemon acidity
  • slight floral
  • full body

The gingerbread aroma was the most surprising aspect of the cup but this may need a bit of an explanation: I’m not talking about an intense hit of crystallized ginger (although, wow, wouldn’t that have been interesting) but a more general flavor – that dovetails with the molasses – of a dark, sweet bread. The dark berry flavors were reminiscent of ripe Bing cherries.

The flavors are concentrated. That was another trademark of this coffee: intensity. The sweetness of this cup was not of the cloying, candy-like variety but tipped more toward the dark sweetness of molasses and raw sugar. Let’s call it a “mature” sweetness.

The acidity was wonderful. Kenyan coffees are known for their brightness, especially when compared to coffee from Ethiopia. I have tasted Kenyans that, after a few sips, were fatiguing for my tongue. Think sour worm candies – or many Costa Rican coffees, for that matter – and that cotton-mouth feeling you get after too much acid has taken its toll on your tongue. The acidity of the Karindundu, though, was well developed and incredibly enjoyable. Its presence was marked at every sip but was well integrated into the cup. No fatigue here. Lemony too. Yumm ((Official tasting term)).

Gimmee a “K”!…

It’s nice to see Kenya getting some attention. I am curious why Ethiopia is so dominant on the shelves of many of the 3.0 roasters especially considering Kenya’s reputation for quality but I will take what I can get. It’s wonderful, though, that, at least in the case of Ritual Roaster’s Kenya Karindundu, what I can get is such a unique and enjoyable cup.

Where to get it

The usual suspects:

Second chances with Ritual’s Sumatra Sidikalang

I was given a bag of Ritual’s Sumatra Sidikalang a few months ago. It was bran-spankin’-new. Not even a label on the bag, just a scrawl in ball point. “I have something you should try”, he said. “It’s a Sumatra but it’s a little different. Let me know what you think.” And so I did. I brewed it up two ways, wrote down what my palette said to me and sent it off to him as soon as I had the opportunity. But it never ended up here. The rest of my life got in the way. Time passed and soon it seemed pointless to put something up on this blog that would be of no benefit to anyone but myself and my own nostalgia. Enough time had passed, I thought, that Ritual was probably out of the Sidikalang or at least very close to it.

A funny thing happened on my way to a cupping

Fast-forward a few months. It was a friday. M’lady and myself were reveling in a new-found freedom that finally allowed us the opportunity to take part in Ritual’s weekly – and open to the public – cupping (and if you are at all confused about what a cupping is, I have a couple posts for you to read). There were six coffees lined up on the table: a Colombian, an African, three different coffees from Brazil and a Sumatran. But not just any Sumatran. The very same Sumatra Sidikalang I failed to write about a couple months earlier. Not only was there still more to be had, it was being given the honor of being a representative coffee in a cupping hosted by the lead roaster himself. “Well I’ll be damned”, I thought. “There’s still time after all”.

A different kind of Sumatra, indeed

Sumatra is an earthy coffee. If there is nothing else Indonesian coffees are known for, it is for that quality. Much of it is in the processing. That earthiness comes from…well…earth: beans dried on the ground, an errant stick or leaf in contact with the beans during the process. From what I understand, it’s a unique region marked, partially, by difficulty in getting coffee from the source i.e. at the level of the farmers themselves. Beans from all over a given area are brought together into large batches for processing. Quality control is difficult. Apparently, this Sumatra has a different story, one that is notable for better quality control, more specific sourcing and a somewhat cleaner processing method. And that has made all the difference.

I have always enjoyed the aroma of Sumatra more than the flavor. Chile peppers. That’s what has always been, for me, the most alluring quality of whole bean or ground Sumatra. But there has never been much in the way of follow-through in the cup. Wine-y, sometimes, earthy, full-bodied and smooth to be sure but always a bit of a disconnect between what I smelled and what I tasted. It was, at once, both a unique and disappointing experience. Not the case with this Sumatra, though. This one was surprising.

First, there was the aroma of the whole beans which were true to my experience of the origin in that signature chili-pepper aroma. The grinds had a sweet melon fragrance which carried over nicely into the brewed cup and the aftertaste of the batch I made in the french press. Additional notes on the french press preparation were a hint of vanilla and a bit of toasted bread with some sweet tobacco in the aftertaste. This was bright for a Sumatra and wonderfully so. In fact this, finally, is where this Sumatra became not just a surprisingly complex Indonesian but, in fact, fulfilled the enigmatically aromatic promise of every whole bean Sumatran whose aroma has ever wafted up into my nasal passages. Chilies. Roasted chilies. Ahhhhhh, what a sweet, sweet fragrance. And there it was in the cup in the form of a fine and balanced acidity. A first. A fine cup of press-pot coffee but what about other preparations?

I also use a Chemex and I have become a fan, of late, of how miraculously different a coffee can taste when funneled through its dense paper filter. Instead of the dulling of flavors I ordinarily associate with the pour-over paper cone method, the Chemex possesses the ability to magnify certain flavors or even uncover some unavailable in other preparations. The Chemex also has the wonderful habit of giving off an intense aroma from the very first pour over the grinds (which is not the case with the press-pot) and so chilies were present from the first drop of water in the filter cone. The Chemex seemed to bring out a nutty, earthy aroma that was not present in the cup when I used the press-pot. It was full-bodied and sweet with less of the chilies and more melon in the acidity.

A few more things

Notable in both preparations was the tenacity of the acidity. The Sidikalang’s acidity, in its tenacity, reminds me of the Costa Ricas I have had. Here, it is more pleasent, though and I enjoyed it’s presence all the way through the cup. Sweetness, as well. The sweetness is very rich and fairly concentrated.

One of the more surprising aspects of both cups is the absence of the aspect that I, and I am sure many people, expect out of a Sumatra — or for that matter almost any indonesion — that of a pronounced and overriding earthy character. In the Sidikalang the earthiness of the cup was more than balanced out by the other aspects of the coffee and it was interesting to see what a Sumatra could taste like when it was subjected to a different processing method. It goes to show you how much of what I have come to expect out of many coffees has as much to do with the processing method as with any inherent quality of the bean itself.

Where to get it…

There are three places I know of to get Ritual’s coffees, two of which are sure to net you some of the Sumatra Sidikalang. The best place to pick some up is at any one of their retail locations (hmmmm…I sound like and ad). The fresher the better and, especially in the case of Ritual who roasts in-house in their Mission neighborhood café, that is where you are going to get it the freshest. Second, Ritual has an online store. Both of those are probably your best way to be sure to get a bag of the Sidikalang. There have also been sightings of Ritual’s beans in my local Whole Foods here in Oakland.