Variety, Origin, Terroir...

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Postby DarrinD » Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:30 am

http://wetmill.tumblr.com this thread has been really interesting and I thought it might be useful to pose some questions related to variety and its effects grown in areas outside of where it has been traditionally cultivated? What matters more, where is the future of "origin" vs. variety? Is it all too intertwined? The thread has meandered into a lot of different discussions, but thought it would be great to have this conversation continue.
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Postby Andrew Hetzel » Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:36 pm

I'm having difficulty following the Tumblr format, but can support Peter G.'s assertion that variety, harvest technique and processing are far more important than geographic origin in determining ultimate cup profile. In fact, for a little more than a year, I've been having my Ethiopian-style naturals made in India.

Two years ago we were buying Ethiopian naturals (specific details withheld as to not identify the producer) as a component of a client's espresso blend when the market started going nuts. Prices were climbing, quality dropped, shipments were delayed and ultimately containers were rejected. Communication went from bad to worse and my clients were growing impatient with production delays. We were having difficulty finding the characteristics that we wanted from those coffees anyway, so we started looking elsewhere for suitable substitutes to maintain the desired flavor profile; ultimately deciding to make it ourselves as a sort of 'designer coffee'.

In India we found that SL9 carefully picked and processed gets us about 85-90% of the way to the characteristics that wanted originally from our Ethiopian component... sure, it wasn't a 100% match (lacking the same silky body and with a slightly more strawberry-like flavor instead of the preferred blueberry-like flavor), but it was consistent, we could lock-in availability of as much coffee as we wanted at a reasonable fixed price and in a much more reliable and business-friendly climate. With a little more tinkering (soil chemistry, etc.) I think we can get even closer. Essentially, production of our Ethiopian coffee was outsourced to a more competitive origin.

Quite frankly, I hope to do it again with other origin styles: for example, Miguel Meza has had intriguing results from giling basah experiments that eerily turned some of his Hawaiian coffee into something you'd expect from Sumatra. It wouldn't be cost effective to produce here, but why not somewhere else?

Cultivar, growing conditions and processing are the determinants of flavor and other cup characteristics... country of origin, in my opinion, is a business decision.
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