Mid-year for roasters is both a frustrating and exciting time. Frustrating because a lot of our green coffee is now old and roasting profiles must be regularly checked to compensate for aging…But exciting because around this time the fresh coffee harvest starts to arrive from various exotic locations. When a fresh bag is opened the Roastery is filled with the beautiful fragrance of green coffee. Almost all our coffees are now arriving in GrainPro plastic bags, which preserve the coffee from going stale or absorbing gasses. Some coffees which would usually be noticeably faded at six months, are now still tasting great because of GrainPro.
Coffee has an annual harvest, which happens at different times in different countries depending on the ripeness of the cherries. A lot of work goes into the harvest, processing and shipping of coffee, and oftentimes things don’t work quite to the schedule one might have been expecting. Involvement in this process does require a certain amount of flexibility, but from May container ships start to arrive on our shores packed with beans ready for roasting. MAF like to check containers – especially ones coming from deep Africa – and occasionally our containers are flushed with oxygen, or frozen to eradicate any bugs (organically, of course).
This year the African ports are delayed (again) and we will run a bit short until the container ship traverses the shipping routes and clears customs. This is fairly common – African coffees are regularly held up (for some reason or other) and we don’t always receive the coffee when expected.
As a customer you may not actually ever notice, but every roaster at some time will find the need to re-work a blend; to change the ratio of coffees, or to re-blend a new origin in to maintain a consistent flavour. Some coffees have a reasonably interchangeable nature and are accommodating if a blend needs to be re-worked, but others are more unique and harder to replace without drastic flavour changes.
Most of our coffees we have brought from the same farmers for nigh-on 10 years, and while it is the same land, as with all agricultural products there can be variations from year to year. Sometimes a coffee will have a slightly different fruitiness, or have more body relative to the last harvest. Over the next few months some of our coffees may be slightly different in nature, and hopefully the noticeable difference will be a fullness of flavour that is lively and pleasing.
Each year I use the new harvest period as an opportunity to assess all our coffees; what we like about them, and ways we can continue to hone our delicate roasting and brewing protocols to always bring out their full potential. Over the weeks that the coffees are arriving I am continuously sample-roasting each product in different ways to understand its subtle flavours and qualities, and to develop the retail roast profile. This maintains consistency while making the coffee taste better.
I have been very excited this year about the Bolivia, which is our current Single Origin Espresso. This is an excellent coffee and has allowed me to experiment with some new roasting techniques for espresso, by which I have been trying to eliminate all bitterness from the short black, and promote sweetness and fruity acidity.
We will also be releasing some new Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Ethiopia Wenago, and perhaps a Congo as they arrive.
Keep your palate handy,
June 20th, 2014