Today's coffee ain't estate-grown high end stuff. But it is teaching me that I generally enjoy coffees from Guatemala. I'm not saying those are the best, just my preference. Maybe something about the soil there? I'm currently in-between coffee sources...we'll get to more on that in a minute.
But my current selection is just some very decent Rainforest Alliance Certified Guatemala El Paraiso from Caribou. I enjoyed their Columbia last week as well, but to me this has more flavor complexity. It's a light roast that has cranberry and almond as the taste notes. I'm also getting a slight sugary/caramel in the whole bean smell and the flavor is a delicate, sweet, smooth first impression with no bitterness in the finish. It doesn't quite stay as perky as a higher end coffee, but I'm fairly impressed given it's something you get down at the chain coffee shop.
Back to my search. I've fallen out of love with my local source for roasted so I'm currently trying to find a reasonably-priced single origin or estate light roast to replace. I'm a big fan of Central America and Africa (Rwanda and Kenya) although South American coffees are sometimes to my taste, too. Shipping is a killer with online purchases. It's easy enough to find a cheap pound of good coffee, but that $5 to get it to your door makes it so you might as well buy the higher-priced local stuff and call it a day.
Which also brings me to the continuing research I'm doing for starting my own coffee roasting. Personal or business, you have to deal with where the beans come from. Sourcing without being a buyer means you're talking about someone selecting the coffee for you and questions of trust come in. In case you missed it, NPR yesterday did a nice piece on Fair Trade. Short of forming a relationship with the actual farmer it seems the best route. But then the question becomes how importers deal with co-ops, individual growers, the plant where it is washed and dried and processed, how soon it gets here and is stored. By definition you're a middle man as a roaster--even if you also are the end consumer. I've seen several places online that offer a good selection of single origin coffees from all around the world and they sell in amounts that would even be ok for a small roasting business. I guess we're to the point where I just need to start experimenting, but my experience here locally makes me wish for a better way to buy coffee.
I know there are clubs who pool resources for buying power. At the very least I appreciate the companies who include info about elevation, variety, and processing method on their bags. This is a trick I hope becomes more widespread. Especially if you want to convince customers a bag of coffee is worth paying for a luxury item. We need to know the quality.