Anette, Gwilym and I were having a chat in the roastery yesterday and the topic turned to expectations. Obviously as a start up you feel there is a certain level of expectation about the coffee we will produce, and whilst we certainly have very high expectations of our own, it is very good to be grounded now and again.
Really this harks back to the first time I read tasting notes online for blends like Stumptown’s Hairbender, or Intelli’s Black Cat. All across coffee forums users of varying degrees of expertise were writing about these coffees with such rich and vivid descriptors it made me terribly paranoid that I wasn’t doing it right. Not only were people loving the shots they had at home but their descriptions of drinks they had had at the retail outlet’s of these shops were often even more tantalising and so far away from what I was drinking. Perhaps we should blame the colourful language on Tacy because around this time (2005-ish) no one was writing as much like this or being as well read (when it comes to coffee blogs anyway!) I was a big fan/reader of his blog but it did make me feel a little inadequate.
So eventually we travelled across the world, and we had shots pulled well in the places and they were interesting, delicious and amongst the best I’ve had.
But they still tasted like coffee.
Yes, I could get how someone could write about a shot being a chocolate covered cherry bomb, but it was still just a nice espresso not dissimilar to the better espressos I had made at home.
There is an increase in demand for coffees that don’t taste like coffee – Aricha lots, some Biloya and Misty Valley lots, perhaps even last year’s Gethumbwini and of course the Esmeralda. I wonder if they are really as far away from coffee as we think. If I gave them to my Mum’s would she even have a moment’s hesitant before telling me it was coffee? I don’t know – I am too close to coffee I guess, and what might startle and amaze me may not faze someone who doesn’t cup a lot of pay that much attention to their coffee. We also worried that coffees that do taste like coffee – that aren’t huge fruit bowls, or lemon teas – don’t get the recognition they deserve for being simply delicious.
Overall I am not complaining about this, or being derogatory towards evocative descriptions, crazy coffees coming from forward thinking producers and washing stations, or my Mum’s palate. I think we, especially me, needed to be reminded that it still tastes like coffee.