Hacienda La Esmeralda Especial
About the coffee:
I probably don't need to write too much about this one. If you have been living under a rock, or if you just happen to be one of the few people who doesn't follow the coffee auctions, you might not know that this is currently the world's most expensive coffee. Previously, that dubious honour went to kopi luwak. (I'll spare you the jokes - google it if it's news to you.)
Esmeralda has an impressive back story; in a nutshell, the gesha varietal that makes up the Esmeralda Especial lot seems to have basically gone extinct except for a few random rediscoveries in Panama. It just so happens that this particular farm's gesha offering has won something like four Best of Panama auctions and every single other cupping competition it has been entered in. In terms of scores, the consensus seems to be that it's a 92 at a minimum, with some tasters going as high as 97!
So how much of it is hype? How much of it is mystique? How much of it is actually in the cup? Recently, a very generous person coming to Melbourne from the US of A offered to drug mule some coffee over for me. So naturally I asked for some Esmeralda. (Before you ask, no, this was not the auction lot stuff - it was the pre-auction stuff that sold for exorbitant but comparatively sane prices.) As fate would have it, the coffee arrived right in time for the first of this year's Melbourne Barista Jams, which I was running. (Perhaps I will blog quickly about that in the future; for now, you can take a look at my crappy photos and Syd's rather better photos.)
Syphon/Vac Pot: Dominant and unnatural mandarin. This is a definite shock to the system. In Peter's words, "coffee shouldn't taste like that." Dry finish. Hints of Earl Grey tea (is this what they call "bergamot"?) in the first few days after popping open the bag, but these subsided. I didn't get the cornucopia of subtle aromatics that many others have waxed lyrical about, but I put it down to being ten days after roasting and having travelled half-way around the world. Most of the US coffee that I have tried just gives up the will to live on the plane trip, so the phenomenal coffee that we were producing really is a testament to either, or perhaps both, the inherent quality of the bean or Miguel's roasting and packaging.
French Press: Mandarin. Dry finish from the syphon wasn't really there. Creamy finish (I usually associate "creamy" with "vanilla," so I hasten to add that there was no vanilla flavour.)
Espresso: Yes, I couldn't resist the temptation to pull two shots with some of the remaining coffee. No, none of them were perfectly dialled in. The better pair had a fair whack of orange, but a slight astringency that I tend to associate with coffee being roasted a bit too light for espresso. This coffee has gained notoriety against a backdrop of Americans who drink drip, so it is unsurprising that it was more suited to preparations other than espresso. Indeed, a lot of the commentators online say so quite explicitly.
The Wrap Up:
A sensational coffee for anything except for espresso. Espresso is unique and interesting, but I didn't feel that it showcased the coffee as well as the brewed methods. Perhaps it would make a good foil to a rich, heavy style of espresso as a small component in a blend.
Many of these people have tasted the coffee under fairer conditions ... ie. without it having travelled half way around the world. It is interesting to read their taste descriptors.
Hacienda La Esmeralda - the farm's webpage; quite a bit of info on gesha
Stoneworks - final auction results
CoffeeCuppers.com - tasting notes for green Esmeralda roasted by Jim and Bob
Coffee Review - Kenneth Davids tastes Esmeralda from multiple sources
Sweet Maria's - tasting notes from Tom
Paradise Roasters - where my lot came from
Digression 1: Syphon coffee - dryness + bitterness
The dryness of the syphon coffee warrants more investigation. To my mind, there were three possible causes:
(1) a taint inherent in the coffee;
(2) contamination from past brews in the hario cloth filter;
(3) the sunbeam grinder that I bought for non-espresso use not cutting the mustard.
Number 1 was eliminated with the french press preparation. However, I used the ditting at work to grind the coffee, so numbers 2 and 3 are still on the cards. I am now storing my cloth filter in a solution containing cafetto and doing a cleaning brew with just water before brewing, following some tips from Toshi. We'll see how things turn out.
Digression 2: Back to Basics
Well, it has been a while since I started this blog and I can't say that I have been prolific in generating a set of tasting notes for me (and others, I guess) to refer to. I will endeavour to correct this in future. This might entail me just putting up some basic posts; just the notes, with a minimum of chat and without photos.