by Ted Stachura
I recently received an email from a self-proclaimed, coffee obsessed reader. The question she asked was a difficult one to answer. It had to do with that feeling many coffee drinkers have had. You know the one, that feeling of coffee being in some way better in the past. It could have been last year or twenty-five years ago, but that memory of the way coffee used to taste lingers. Maybe it was your first cups of specialty coffee after years of drinking canned conventional coffee. It could have been those espressos you had while on vacation in Rome, or when passing through Seattle. Those moments might have been in your own home, in the still morning hours, when the stars were aligned, with fresh packages of coffee, and those ritualistic sequences of events – the boiling kettle, the purring grinder and the Hario V60 dripping into your mug. You remember it like it was yesterday, sublime. Yet somehow you can’t seem to duplicate that taste again, either at home or in your favorite cafes.
“That” taste that is so hard to define. Everyone has a unique relationship to coffee that is influenced by factors such as where someone has lived, how old he or she is and the cultural traditions they have experienced. Someone who grew up in an immigrant household in New York’s Little Italy in the 1960s likely has a different relationship to coffee than a 25 year old living in Williamsburg today. So to offer one answer for all coffee drinkers is task beyond an emailed response or even this blog post. The Coffee Review website endeavors to provide context needed for individuals to figure out on their own what that taste is and how it can be rediscovered.
For many adults living in North American, however, the coffee taste remembered from many years ago can often be found in medium roasted, washed processed, heirloom varieties of Colombian coffee. There has been a long tradition of importing coffee from Colombia into the United States and Canada, and there are generations of people who have come of age drinking this type of coffee. As an agricultural product coffee changes over the course of seasons and generations, sometimes by naturalization and sometimes by design. This holds true for Colombia as well as other coffee growing regions throughout the world. Over time many farmers in Colombia have been encouraged to transition to from traditional varieties to higher yielding ones and this, in part, has had an impact on the way much of the coffee from this country tastes today. Still, there are many small-holding farmers in Colombia that produce the older heirloom varieties that deliver flavors that will remind many coffee drinkers of the taste they remember from years past. Over the last few months we have received several Colombian coffees in the Coffee Review lab that might very well meet the expectations of this group of coffee drinkers. I won’t list them here, but those of you who are interested can search the site to uncover these hidden gems. If these coffees don’t match up with your memory of “that” coffee experience, then there are a myriad of other reviews to peruse to help you rediscover the flavors you are looking for.