Seasonality of Coffee?

growing, harvesting, processing, cupping, purchasing

Postby malachi on Fri May 11, 2007 8:12 pm

trish wrote:
Jaime van Schyndel wrote:
Steve wrote:I guess this is what scares me about freezing coffee, over sorting defect free etc. Take too much away and it becomes corporate polished and no personality not the kind of person I want to hang around.


Humor me a bit... So you would pay more for a coffee that had more defects? You would pay more for a Panama Esmerelda that had 15% under ripe than one that had 5% under ripe? More molds or bug bites would add dollars and cents to the price you would be willing to pay?

I know there are those who espouse the 'charm' of defects but as long as they are willing to pay more for those coffees over coffees with less defects, that's fine.



Defects are not where you are finding the character in a coffee.


AMEN!!!!
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Postby Jason Haeger on Sat May 12, 2007 3:04 pm

trish wrote:
Jaime van Schyndel wrote:
Steve wrote:I guess this is what scares me about freezing coffee, over sorting defect free etc. Take too much away and it becomes corporate polished and no personality not the kind of person I want to hang around.


Humor me a bit... So you would pay more for a coffee that had more defects? You would pay more for a Panama Esmerelda that had 15% under ripe than one that had 5% under ripe? More molds or bug bites would add dollars and cents to the price you would be willing to pay?

I know there are those who espouse the 'charm' of defects but as long as they are willing to pay more for those coffees over coffees with less defects, that's fine.



Defects are not where you are finding the character in a coffee.

Just so it's known, that's not at all what he was saying. The question is why would anyone want to pay more for a coffee with a higher ratio of defects?

There are those who believe that defects can (and often do) add character to coffee, and that's what he was talking about. I think we're all on the same side on this.
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Postby SL28ave on Sat May 12, 2007 6:23 pm

Christopher Schooley wrote:See, that's just the problem Peter. What do you mean by "freshly harvested" coffee? Are you saying you prefer coffee that has not been rested in order to drop to the proper moisture levels needed for over the water shipment? Or even more literally, do you roast pre-fermented coffee? Language is important! By telling the consumer that this coffee is freshly harvested we are belittling how important processing and handling are to the finished product. I love super fresh coffee, and I consider myself to be fairly progressive considering how much Prog-Rock I have on my record shelves. Let us not create misleading vocab in the name of progress.


A AAA coffee roaster shouldn't sell nondried or prefermented/predemucilaged coffee in this decade (probably forever). Nor can my customers brew it at their home before the picker drops the cherry off for processing. I work with many of the freshest raw coffees in the worldwide market and am aiming for even fresher in the future.

Christopher Schooley wrote:I just feel like seasonal is too much of a blanket term to use when we are trying to get the consumer to CELEBRATE the wonder of each coffee in its own unique way. I am always highly suspect of language which lumps together the many and the few.


If the term "seasonal" is reductive, then obviously you're a proponent of many details about a great coffee being clearly presented to the consumer, right? Should we have a section on the bag's label titled: 'These Beans: A Biography�? Intelligentsia is the first that I know of to put harvest dates on their retail bags.

FYI, I do prefer some key coffees before they even hit the US port. So I'm a major proponent of oxygen-barrier packaging. In protest, I no longer wear textiles.
Last edited by SL28ave on Sat May 12, 2007 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby trish on Sat May 12, 2007 6:36 pm

Jasonian wrote:Just so it's known, that's not at all what he was saying. The question is why would anyone want to pay more for a coffee with a higher ratio of defects?

There are those who believe that defects can (and often do) add character to coffee, and that's what he was talking about. I think we're all on the same side on this.


I feel pretty strongly about it...defects are not delivering character to a coffee. So I suppose I'll have to say - with respect- I'm not on that side.
Can you give me some examples of how defect can often add character?
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Postby barry on Sat May 12, 2007 8:40 pm

trish wrote:Can you give me some examples of how defect can often add character?



Triple-pick vs double-pick Sumatra. Triple-pick, for me, is a little "too clean" and comes across more like a PNG or Celebes than a Sumatra. This leads in to a discussion on regional archetypes and whether such archetypes should exist (if, indeed, they do exist).
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Postby barry on Sat May 12, 2007 8:53 pm

sutono wrote:
geoff watts wrote:99.9% of all 'specialty' coffee is shipped in jute


And .1% is shipped right below the forklift hole in the jute. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sdjt6Bl5qdY



oh jeez! that reminds me of a railroad training film from the '40s that we used to watch... where the brakeman would bleed off air from the brakeline w/o holding on to the air hose, and would promptly get smacked in the important bits with the end of the hose (which has a rather large piece of steel on the end). we never quite worked out how they did that for the film w/o actually hurting the actor (pre-CGI days, eh?).
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Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Sun May 13, 2007 9:43 am

Steve wrote:I guess this is what scares me about freezing coffee, over sorting defect free etc.


I was only responding to what I perceived as an implied criticism of 'defect free.' I really don't understand the tangent that was taken away from my commentary. Clean is not generic.


Steve,

Have you ever had a coffee that was sorted absolutely 'defect free?' I mean, if you are game, it's easy to arrange some?

Some Panama Esmerelda with zero under-ripe, no discolorations, no molds, no bug bites, no deformities, not even a shell, absolutely zero visible defects? Then I would look forward to your judgement on 'defect free' being so scary or not.
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Postby Steve on Sun May 13, 2007 9:50 am

Jaime van Schyndel wrote:
Steve wrote:I guess this is what scares me about freezing coffee, over sorting defect free etc.


I was only responding to what I perceived as an implied criticism of 'defect free.' I really don't understand the tangent that was taken away from my commentary. Clean is not generic.


Steve,

Have you ever had a coffee that was sorted absolutely 'defect free?' I mean, if you are game, it's easy to arrange some?

Some Panama Esmerelda with zero under-ripe, no discolorations, no molds, no bug bites, no deformities, not even a shell, absolutely zero visible defects? Then I would look forward to your judgement on 'defect free' being so scary or not.


I have Jamie and it was wonderful, I bought as a normal punter some of the Esmerlda from Tom at Sweet Marias. I loved it very much but I remember cupping it with a close friend and his remark was 'it's the most un coffee like coffee I've ever had� which I guess is my problem

It's a great show pony to bring out but I wouldn't want it every day at all. Its special its something to wonder at but it's the very thing I talk about, incredibly polished.
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Postby Christopher Schooley on Sun May 13, 2007 11:34 am

I no longer wear textiles.


Rubber? All Leather? F'n sweet Mr. Peter Lynagh. I commend the goal of delivering the freshest coffee in the world to the consumer.
READ ENTIRE STATEMENT PLEASE
As far as defect characteristics go; Harrar, Nat. Sidamo, and Yemeni coffee can be show some defect but still also have something special to offer. The fact of the matter though is that if you sit down and take the time to sort out as much as you can (I have) a much more wholly spectacular coffee is the result. A better sorted coffee is just a better coffee in my view.
Triple Picked Sumatras show a better represented herbal sweetness without giving you the rest of the jungle floor. Some people prefer the wilder Sumatras. Some people put cola in their whiskey. I think the pursuit of the flavors at the heart of the bean is a noble one.
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Postby SL28ave on Sun May 13, 2007 12:05 pm

Christopher Schooley wrote:
I no longer wear textiles.


Rubber? All Leather? F'n sweet Mr. Peter Lynagh. I commend the goal of delivering the freshest coffee in the world to the consumer.
READ ENTIRE STATEMENT PLEASE


Not rubber or leather. Rather, a diamond coffee bean Transformer.

Mr. Christopher Schooley, can you see the plausibility of coffee seasonality if one is after fresh raw coffee at the expense of less fresh raw coffee - or whatever poetic name one wishes to give it?
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Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Sun May 13, 2007 12:16 pm

Steve wrote:I have Jamie and it was wonderful, I bought as a normal punter some of the Esmerlda from Tom at Sweet Marias. I loved it very much but I remember cupping it with a close friend and his remark was 'it's the most un coffee like coffee I've ever had� which I guess is my problem


I was referring to a coffee with an extra manual sorting process added to it after transport from origin, beyond the normal processing and not specifically Esmerelda. I have a bag of two samples of FVH sent to me processed in this manual fashion by a third party ready to cup tonight. Whatever the coffee... by simply removing the under ripes alone improves the sweetness of the cup so much while also removing an unpleasant sourness. I wish it were easier to arrange more stringent sorting on coffees at origin.
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Postby Steve on Sun May 13, 2007 1:58 pm

Ohhh ok I misunderstood, but it still works as a good example as an incredibly small micro lot from a particular part of the farm that has proven to produce this very special coffee. I cant imagine that the lot used for the Panama auction has too many broken beans in it and I would guess is sorted more carefully than an average fine coffee lot.

Reading back I've not been clear in what I'm trying to describe, and perhaps the 'defect free� isn't quite what I'm term I want to be using. I'm trying to put across that take everything away that isn't perfect, in my mind you don't gain perfection. The person who spends a fortune on plastic surgery often isn't as attractive as the person who has small imperfections.

Sorry if I'm making it worse trying to explain it by digging a bigger hole.
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Postby SL28ave on Sun May 13, 2007 2:10 pm

Steve wrote:The person who spends a fortune on plastic surgery often isn't as attractive as the person who has small imperfections.


Taking out flawed beans is like cleaning a dirty window to reveal a beautiful landscape. The cup goes from fuzz to high-definition television. (George's analogies)
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Postby trish on Sun May 13, 2007 6:41 pm

I don't know if the plastic surgery analogy works for me. We are talking about the character inherent in a coffee, not an artificial representation. I like the clean window analogy, though.

It's imortant that we are all talking in the same terms, also. A defect is a serious problem. I think of phenol, ferment, mold among others. If my Harrar or Sumatra shows me those things, it's serious. It's not supposed to be there. It's just wrong.
The Sumatra discussion is a good one, though. I'm worried we are off-topic, so I'll leave it for now.

Back on topic-Freezing is a great idea for some, but I don't know how many of us are interested in getting into it. I do like a coffee as it ages a bit. ..like Harrar when it goes from blueberry to milk-chocolate over time.
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Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Sun May 13, 2007 8:45 pm

trish wrote:I don't know if the plastic surgery analogy works for me. We are talking about the character inherent in a coffee, not an artificial representation. I like the clean window analogy, though.

Defects are quantifiable in the way they affect a cup in the negative so I really don't understand the plastic surgery analogy. In all honesty, I just think people need to try some manual sorting rather than conjecture. It's incredibly educational on cup quality.

trish wrote:Back on topic-Freezing is a great idea for some, but I don't know how many of us are interested in getting into it. I do like a coffee as it ages a bit. ..like Harrar when it goes from blueberry to milk-chocolate over time.


I don't really enjoy Sumatra or Harrar so I can't really comment on them having worked very little with them. I can say that what Geoff mentioned earlier holds some truth about how high growns age. Assuming you had a 90+ coffee, you would want it to hold up over the life of it's being served to consumers. Having it fade would mean that many people were not getting what they paid for. If you bought an uber expensive green or competition winner, it could make sense.
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Postby Steve on Sun May 13, 2007 11:43 pm

trish wrote:I don't know if the plastic surgery analogy works for me. We are talking about the character inherent in a coffee, not an artificial representation.



I hear you and your spot on, not the best Analogy, but its better than dogs

trish wrote:It's imortant that we are all talking in the same terms, also. A defect is a serious problem. I think of phenol, ferment, mold among others. If my Harrar or Sumatra shows me those things, it's serious. It's not supposed to be there.


Again agreed, me bad I didnt mean to create and confusion sorry :(

trish wrote:Back on topic-Freezing is a great idea for some, but I don't know how many of us are interested in getting into it. I do like a coffee as it ages a bit. ..like Harrar when it goes from blueberry to milk-chocolate over time.


I kind of think this is what's been missed by me in ramblings and confused arguments, I couldn't agree more Trish.

Jaime van Schyndel wrote:Defects are quantifiable in the way they affect a cup in the negative so I really don't understand the plastic surgery analogy. In all honesty, I just think people need to try some manual sorting rather than conjecture. It's incredibly educational on cup quality.


Jaime I've tried similar experiments three or four years ago and it and you still wont convince me its the new black. I understand the arguments just don't agree with them. That's not to say your right and I'm wrong, its just to say I prefer my coffee to have a little personality (and let me state I don't like phenol, ferment, mold so no I don't want to buy all of these lots)


Jaime van Schyndel wrote:Assuming you had a 90+ coffee, you would want it to hold up over the life of it's being served to consumers. Having it fade would mean that many people were not getting what they paid for. If you bought an uber expensive green or competition winner, it could make sense.


But how do you know at that point in time the coffee is the very best it can be. Of course fading would rending it weaker, but as we are discussing sometimes coffees mellow and improve with some time. I'm incredibly interested in it all, I don't think coffee just fades.

Slightly different (great another off topic alert) to the freezing thing, for years we have bought a farms coffee that we love very much. This year from the COE vac packing in Brazil we bought coffee from the same farm, just so we can see the same harvest from the same farm in different packing methods and storage conditions. Now in no way scientific as they were milled at a slightly different time, I'm looking forward to forming my own view on vac packing and if it really does anything to the coffee. I've also just bought a vac packer to play with.
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Postby Christopher Schooley on Mon May 14, 2007 7:29 am

I guees to button hook my original point I'd say that I think it's better to work with your customers to help them to understand that coffee is living and changing thing and to get them to embrace that and to build the trust that you won't sell them a coffee that you think has degraded beyond an expected quality rather than to umbrella the whole endeavor under seasons. Within this scenario I think you could push the idea of "fresher" new crop coffees without taking anything away from the coffees in your line up that have mellowed a bit. I truly believe that when you push a concept like seasonality, people begin to only be able to see through that (freshly windexed) window and you might find yourself left with a lot of fine coffee that is left in the corner with no one wanting to dance with her.
Trish, I was talking more about removing faults from Sumo's and Harry's rather than defects. I strongly agree that defects add nothing good to a coffee (hence the title DEFECT, as in wrong). By removing the damaged and mis-sized beans in a Nat. pro-ed Harrar, you can remove alot of the excess noise in the cup giving you a lovlier tone. This has already been stated in this thread but I wanted to clarify my own statements.
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Postby barry on Mon May 14, 2007 9:16 am

Christopher Schooley wrote:I think it's better to work with your customers to help them to understand that coffee is living and changing thing and to get them to embrace that and to build the trust that you won't sell them a coffee that you think has degraded beyond an expected quality rather than to umbrella the whole endeavor under seasons.



DING! DING! DING!


Get the customers to recognize and embrace the adventure in the cup, instead of trying to lock a dynamic product into a static taste (about the same as weighing dry ice).
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Postby malachi on Mon May 14, 2007 6:50 pm

blah blah blah


if it tastes good... it IS GOOD.
as taste is subjective, change the above to "if it tastes good TO YOU... it IS GOOD (for you)."

the rest is just hegemonic masturbation.
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Postby Jason Haeger on Mon May 14, 2007 8:54 pm

malachi wrote:blah blah blah


if it tastes good... it IS GOOD.
as taste is subjective, change the above to "if it tastes good TO YOU... it IS GOOD (for you)."

the rest is just hegemonic masturbation.

I've been told that taste is the only morality. I've since disagreed.

I love the taste of those cheap pecan spinwheels you can find nearly anywhere. The problem, is that the quality is extremely low.

A whole lot of people love the taste of coffee and chocolate iced milkshakes. The problem, is that the quality just isn't there.

A lot of people love dirty coffees. The problem, is that the highest possible quality just isn't there.

Are we promoting "what you like", or are we promoting quality?

If it's just about "what you like", then maybe Starbucks is onto something.
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Postby Christopher Schooley on Tue May 15, 2007 7:24 am

blah blah blah


if it tastes good... it IS GOOD.
as taste is subjective, change the above to "if it tastes good TO YOU... it IS GOOD (for you)."

the rest is just hegemonic masturbation.


Whatever, Dude.

And by the way, hegemonic onanism would have made you sound way cooler. But that's just verbal self-gratification.
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Postby geoff watts on Tue May 15, 2007 7:38 am

Jason makes an important point. Most coffee drinkers in the world don't really understand coffee and have little to no experience with 'high quality'. They've never tasted it, don't know it's out there, and in most cases don't have any immediate access to it. One way to look at this whole issue is that it is our job as coffee professionals to take them by the hand and lead them to the well.

To me there is good reason to challenge the notion that Harrar or Yemen coffees riddled with underdeveloped beans and a large variety of processing-related defects are quality coffees. It may be that the general public likes these coffees because they've grown used to them and they are comfortable when they drink them. Familiarity guides the experience--we enjoy what is familiar to us.

For years the public has been sold Sumatran and Yemeni coffees at high prices (relative to everything else), recommended by their local shops, and it is no surprise that by now they've come to regard those coffees as high quality...they've been trained to do so!

Colombia did it very well in the 80's with the whole Juan Valdez gig. Ever since Colombia has been a big seller and among the most recognizable origin names at the consumer level.

I often cup with groups of farmers who have never learned to appreciate their coffees and habitually drink defects--bad, bad, bad defects that are worse than what we are calling defects in this thread. Most of them catch on really quick when they start focusing on sweetness as an indicator or quality. But some say they still prefer the gnarly, fermenty, bitter 'segundos' that they are accustomed to. How can it be? I believe it is because they'd adapted to that taste, and they recognize it--but that they could change to appreciate clean coffee fairly easily, with a little more exposure.

One big question to consider is--what is best for the farmer? If we are not actively training consumers to understand and appreciate clean, sweet (ripe), defect-free coffees we are in effect eliminating the one undeniable advantage small-scale farmers in Latin America and Africa hold over the industrialized commercial coffee sector. They can differentiate their coffees in the marketplace by applying craftsmanship and human effort to pick ripe cherry, ferment well, dry well, sort well, and end up with a coffee that is cleaner, sweeter, and more articulate than their competition. For this they should get a higher price--but that equation only works if the consuming market is willing to reward those traits with more dollars. The alternative is that they have to do what they've always done--hope and pray for a good "c" price, or perhaps try their luck with one of the many different certification schemes that will likely bring them, at best, a very small premium over their normal differentials.

Another thing to reflect on is the habitual use of additives--sugar, milk, syrups, etc. It could be argued that the tendency to load up with sugar has developed in a reality where most people could only access coffees that had low levels of natural sweetness and a high level of bitterness, possibly some astringency. The sugar 'fixes' the coffee, makes it more palatable. The milk adds texture to thin, tasteless, underbrewed coffee and smothers the sourness that results when coffee sits on a burner or in an airpot for hours on end.

We live in a world where most people grew up drinking bad coffee, and they've modified their expectations accordingly. If we envision a world where the most skillfully grown, well-handled coffees get the best prices and have the highest demand, then we need to actively build that world by re-educating the consumer and helping them unlearn some of the habits the developed as 'evasive maneuvers' to protect themselves from unpleasant tastes while they dose up on their warm caffeine.

Part of that means praising and glorifying coffees that were intentionally produced--with skill, sound methodology, and care. This also means elevating them over coffees that were produced indiscriminately and accidentally, where more of the perceived flavor is a result of post-harvest processing impact than characteristics intrinsic to the seed itself.

It's a matter of taste, and also a matter of principle.

just my four cents

g
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Postby trish on Tue May 15, 2007 10:05 am

geoff watts wrote:
I often cup with groups of farmers who have never learned to appreciate their coffees and habitually drink defects--bad, bad, bad defects that are worse than what we are calling defects in this thread. Most of them catch on really quick when they start focusing on sweetness as an indicator or quality. But some say they still prefer the gnarly, fermenty, bitter 'segundos' that they are accustomed to. How can it be? I believe it is because they'd adapted to that taste, and they recognize it--but that they could change to appreciate clean coffee fairly easily, with a little more exposure.

One big question to consider is--what is best for the farmer? If we are not actively training consumers to understand and appreciate clean, sweet (ripe), defect-free coffees we are in effect eliminating the one undeniable advantage small-scale farmers in Latin America and Africa hold over the industrialized commercial coffee sector. They can differentiate their coffees in the marketplace by applying craftsmanship and human effort to pick ripe cherry, ferment well, dry well, sort well, and end up with a coffee that is cleaner, sweeter, and more articulate than their competition. For this they should get a higher price--but that equation only works if the consuming market is willing to reward those traits with more dollars. The alternative is that they have to do what they've always done--hope and pray for a good "c" price, or perhaps try their luck with one of the many different certification schemes that will likely bring them, at best, a very small premium over their normal differentials.


g


These are awesome points, gw. Thanks so much for that.
I can't agree with Tacy this time..."if you like it, it's good". We owe it to everyone to be clear about what is desireable and what is not.
I only harped on this question of defect because blogs and BBs get a lot of criticism for causing misunderstanding or for being the vehicle for misinformation...creating misinformed coffee enthusiasts who are just looking for an education. And GW has illuminated the discussion yet again.
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Postby barry on Tue May 15, 2007 10:07 am

in our march towards coffee perfection, let's please not do to coffee what the "experts" have done to various cat breeds:

Image


has become...

Image



ugh.
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Postby geoff watts on Tue May 15, 2007 10:30 am

No one here has been talking about breeding, modifying, or in any way adulterating the traditional coffee varieties.

It's just a matter of taking good care of the trees, picking the cherries when they are at their ripest, using clean water and clean storage materials, drying them uniformly and carefully, sorting out the damaged beans, and shipping them in a way that protects the beans from harm caused by excessive moisture/temperature change. Oh yeah, and cupping as close to farmgate at possible to intercede before any indiscriminate mixing takes place.

that's it. that's the definition of quality practice when it comes to coffee production.

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