Why is espresso either really, really good…
…or really, really bad?
The key components of espresso are sweetness, smoothness, consistency and balance. The intrinsic qualities are aroma, taste and aftertaste. A well-constructed espresso will “launch” itself over the taste buds, exhibiting a tanginess and creaminess with a dark chocolate-like finish.
The “theories” of espresso roasting and blending are diverse. A roaster who may blend a certain origin could be at odds with another roaster who does something completely different. Such is the nature of the Specialty Coffee business.
Since 1993, Cravens has cut across the grain, choosing to avoid the traditional espresso ingredients (they are woody and rubbery to us) instead working with exemplary stand-alone origins and blending for a balance of sweetness and body, with variations in degrees of roast.
The espresso extraction process is the best, as well as potentially the worst, in coffee brewing. Because of the intensity of the process, the oils within the coffee are emulsified. The roasting of coffee for espresso has to be gentle. The objective is to tease out the best flavor components, not blast them. Subsequently, any flaws are exposed in a dramatic fashion (the really, really bad part). While, if the details are adhered to – fresh crop green (pre-roasted) coffee, careful roasting and intelligent blending, you have, what is known as, the nectar of the gods…which is the really, really good part.
Examples of our best known espresso blends:
Spokane Express – the original Costa Rica Monte Crisol based, lighter roast degree
Big Sky – Guatemala Finca Vista Hermosa based blend, medium degree of roast
Moon Bean – darker roasted, Sumatra Mandheling IKA as one of the ingredients
Last year’s trip to Guatemala included visiting two farms from which we directly source our origin coffees – Finca Vista Hermosa in HueHuetenango and La Laguna in Fraijanes. After spending time at both farms I was fortunate to be involved in researching farms for sale in other growing regions and a Cup of Excellence project selecting the country’s best coffees for export.
Following on, ‘we’ ventured back to Guatemala this past month to visit with the Zelaya Family in Antigua, along with a freelance foray into Atitlan to look at organic farms.
“Who is ‘we’,” you ask? While many families join in on business trips, they may not include packing hiking boots and pepto bismol. With the amenities being a bit challenging, Becky and our sons Ben and Adam hit the road with me to participate in this coffee sourcing trip to Guatemala.
We visited Finca La Follie, Hacienda Carmona and Finca Bella Vista. The Thompson boys especially liked our time at the end of the day as the ripe, red cherries were being received at the wet mill. A uniquely energetic and colorful scene as Mayan families converge into the receiving area.
We finished our trip with a cupping on the finca, from which we have selected a classic Antigua profile coffee with a tangy, milk chocolaty, full bodied flavor you are sure to enjoy. This coffee should arrive from Guatemala in May. We will keep you posted.
We will continue to search out great coffee for you. In the meantime, visit our home page as you may enjoy the slideshow featuring Guatemala.
New crop Central American coffees have hit the cupping table and they are outstanding.
Our Central American coffee selections are Costa Rica Monte Crisol, Guatemala Finca Vista Hermosa, Nicaragua Dipilto, Organic Nicaragua Segovia, Organic Guatemala La Laguna and Organic Mexico Pluma CEPCO. So far the Costa Rica has been incredibly bright and sweet, while the Nicaragua Dipilto is buttery and chocolate-y, the latter at the darker roast profile (see Northwest Dark Roast).
The Finca Vista Hermosa crop is the best ever. A late season rainfall allowed the cherries to finish ripening with a flourish, which increased the tanginess and spiciness of this Direct from the Farm coffee.
More news as it comes in….
I’ve just returned from Guatemala having spent a lengthy visit with Cravens friend and coffee grower, Edwin Martinez. Edwin’s family farm, Finca Vista Hermosa, is truly special. It is a high elevation farm in the coveted region of San Pedro Necta. We are honored to partner with Edwin to bring you this exceptional coffee.
After a few days at Finca Vista Hermosa I traveled south to Roberto Orantes’ La Laguna farm. I’m not alone in believing this to be one of the best organic farms in the world! They possess unbelievable attention to detail in every phase of the process, while exhibiting a passionate stewardship of the environment. Now roasting this coffee at Cravens.
The end of my trip entailed a stop at the Cup of Excellence where I participated in cupping the top 10 coffees of the competition. We’ll keep you posted as these coffees become available.