Thursday, September 11, 2008

Don't Turn Your Nose Up At This One: CoffeeSnobs' Colombian Volcan Galeras


I gather that Colombia's coffees gained a reputation for excellence through the Juan Valdez campaign, against a backdrop of filter coffee drinkers looking for something consistent and clean. As a result, Colombian coffees are sometimes thought of as bland. Kenneth Davids writes:

At their best, the classic coffees of Latin-American manifest bright, lively acidity and a clean, straightforward cup. They provide what for a North American is a normative good coffee experience.
Of course, and as Davids goes on to mention, there are plenty of Colombian coffees that break the mould. Those that I have tasted build on the base of a solid washed coffee by adding a little something extra. For example, last year one of my favourite coffees from Veneziano was actually a supposedly generic 'Colombian Popayan Supremo' that was very sweet in the cup. This year, buyers of BBB's Colombian Bachue might be forgiven for thinking that it was from Africa.

I can't help but wonder if professional roasters consider selecting that ultimate Colombian coffee from a batch of generic samples to be a rite of passage.


CoffeeSnobs is a unique mix of online forum, green coffee buying cooperative, marketplace and coffee roastery. In order to order from CS, you must sign up as a member. Many new sign ups to CS decide to try their hand at roasting their own coffee at home. For them, the legendary sampler pack is a must buy; a once-per member offer of four 500g samples of green coffee for $20. (CS usually sells its green coffee in multiples of 2.5kg ... and I'm sure that packaging the tonne or whatever of coffee that it distribute every month is still a huge task.) Recently, Andy decided to introduce a roasted sample pack of 4 x 250g of coffee for $30. This time around, the Volcan Galeras was the pick of the pack.

I can't say that I know much about this particular Colombian, nor was I able to google up much, beyond finding out that Volcan Galeras is in the department of
NariƱo, a prolific coffee producer.

Espresso: Voluminous crema, lots of body and low acidity - in that regard, it was reminiscent of the last lot of CS coffee that I blogged about. Incredible marzipan flavour. (It's been a while.) Intolerant of shots that were run too fast; marzipan turned to metallic and bitter flavours.

Cappuccino: Fine, but marzipan fades into the background. Bitter and metallic flavours in fast shots seemed to concentrate in the crema.

Brewed (filter/siphon): Oddly, marzipan did not come through strongly. Potential for bitterness.

In summary, this coffee is like a lemon zester; it does that thing very well. That thing is espresso. You will find your cappuccino fine, but you won't remeber it in a week's time. As for all CS offerings, this coffee will be of particular interest to those who have bought it to roast at home.

If you buy this as part of a sampler pack, as I did, a good tip would be to plan to use it all at once, rather than changing the grind setting whilst swapping between different beans, as I did. This coffee will punish you for being overly sloppy. Get it right and Volcan Galeras has explosive potential.

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At 11:59 AM, Blogger "Grendel" said...

Nice review Luca - thanks. I hadn't tried taht particular bean and am now keen to do so - might have to put an order in to Andy.


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