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Coffee table

Welcome to the first edition of my semi-regular thoughts on coffee, the coffee industry, and coffee culture. (Thanks, Kelly, for the idea to write about my love...one day maybe it'll turn into something bigger, time will tell.)

Today's take is on a micro-lot of Finca La Tina from Honduras roasted by Intelligentsia. Of the current selections of single-origin coffee on my kitchen counter--Ethiopia and Tanzania are the others--this one is the best. And I paid dearly for it. But good coffee is expensive. Why is the subject of perhaps other entries. It's about the difficulty finding good beans, those beans travelling a long way, being roasted and stored properly, then brewed correctly before they go bad.

And that last part is my topic for today.

But first, a word about the beans. What you drink when you walk into Starbucks or buy Maxwell House at the grocery...that's probably a blend. Meaning the beans from a given region or even worldwide as a commodity have been essentially piled together in no particular regard for quality to make your cup. Something along the lines of table wine. Ok grapes for everyday use. But good wine takes on the character of the soil and climate and has a taste and smell with thousands of compounds. Coffee has even more than wine!

My current "good" stuff comes from about 1500m and is a variety of bean called catuai...I won't go into details about varieties now. But it was grown in a particular region of Honduras and all those beans were then processed and sold together because when cupped (tasted) the flavors and smells of lavender, currant, orange, caramel, creme brulee, even rhubarb can be detected.

Of course, that flavor goes away the longer the bean sits around after roasting. It's strongest about a day after. By a week later, it may still taste like a pretty good cup of coffee but has lost a little something. That's why you always want to buy and brew the freshest you can get your hands on.

This particular bag of coffee made a very good initial brew last week when I first opened the bag literally the day after it was roasted locally then sealed. Not surprisingly, the days after that were quite typical with a decline in aroma and the coffee getting a little dead as it evened out to more of your typical morning mug. Above average still but not that absolutely amazing first taste.

This morning was a pleasant reverse though. Gone were the fruity and flowery top notes and the crispness (without acidity which I appreciate). In its place was a rich, smooth, candy taste. Almost like sugar-coated nuts. And I put some cream-top milk in the mug and the thing tasted like a maple covered pecan pancake or a Christmasy sugar cookie. It was brilliant again...which is the funny thing about coffee is it literally changes everyday.

When the experts cup for deciding whether or not to buy or award prizes or quality control they actually taste the coffee 3 times. Once hot. Once lukewarm. Once cold. Because the flavor is different depending on temperature.

These beans did something similar on my counter. Rather than getting bitter they got sweeter. That's the last of that purchase so now I'm left wondering what they'd do in a 2nd week. Two weeks is about the limit on roasted coffee unless it's sealed completely from air. One week really is noticeable with most beans, frankly.

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