From Origin; To Cupping Room; To The Final Cup
Sadly, these coffees are becoming more and more scarce, as Kevin Knox, vice president of Allegro Coffee, and noted coffee expert points out, “At origin, farmers are only going to grow coffee as good as it needs to be for the intended use - if that use is dark roast in steamed milk, any sound hard bean or better coffee will do just fine. The nuances, subtle, multi-dimensional coffees George has offered are truly an endangered species without a roasting and consumer audience.” Knox adds that, in his opinion, “Moderately roasted single origin coffees are the essence of real specialty coffee.”
Ultimately, we must all decide for ourselves the degree and depth to which we roast our coffees. We will base our decisions on taste, experience, habit, and the desire to satisfy our customers. But just as when I was a teenager and thought great coffee was a tablespoon from a can that promised European sophistication - just add hot water, my taste is still evolving. Now when I wake up, I crave a cup that tastes of the sunlight that has soaked the cherries, the slight smokiness that the coffee tree filtered from volcanic soil, the kiss of neighboring honeysuckle bushes caught from a passing breeze...and when I get it I’ll raise my mug to George Howell in recognition of his tireless pursuit of cups of excellence. 7
Author note: In the time that I spent researching roast terminology for this piece, I concluded that there is far more diversity than consensus. One roaster’s full city roast is another’s French roast. As a reference point, Kevin Knox’s Central American coffees, roasted in the Coffee Connection tradition, and to what he considers a full city roast to be, are between 65 - 72, using the Agtron scale. The global average SCAA roast is Agtron 42. The darkest roast that I have seen offered is Agtron 18. To some this is French roast, to others, Italian. As an industry, we have our work cut out for us.
Amy McMahan is the roaster at Rao’s Coffee Roasting Company in Amherst, Massachusetts. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Rao’s at 17 Kellogg Street in downtown Amherst or on the web at: www.raoscoffee.com.
Tea & Coffee - April/May 2002
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