by David Pohl
I am just back from SCAA in Anaheim. This wonderful event highlighted some spectacular advances in coffee quality. In particular I had the pleasure of cupping coffees from Ecuador and Colombia that "reset" my expectations for these origins.
Nico Velez, a coffee farmer/exporter/roaster and native of Ecuador, has started a boutique-grade coffee renaissance in his country, focused around the capital, Quito. At a cupping at the SCAA, Nico's first attempts at micro-lot coffees were placed around a table for a group of 20 coffee professionals to sample. Tasted blindly, the coffees showed an array of flavors, some of which were very unusual for this origin. In particular, the Ecuador Perla Negra, grown by Magdalena Zavala in the town of Nanegal in the provence of Pichincha, just outside Quito, far exceeded our expectations, showing an abundance of floral aromas and flavors, peach and green apple. This 100% typica coffee, was full-bodied and bright, but very nuanced. Furthermore, we are proud to be the owners of the first lot of this coffee ever exported from Ecuador - having just arrived last week. We have been searching for just such a coffee for years, and came upon it through our good friends at Exclusive Coffees, who until recently have focused on micro-lots from Central America, but branched out into Ecuador this year.
The best part of the cupping was that we were able to compare our lot to the current harvest, due to ship in June, which is just beginning to be picked and which was also on the table. Both coffees were world class, and left us excited at the prospects of this fantastic origin! Available now on facebook.
The other surprise at the show was a cupping of Colombia micro-lots, with boutique exporter, Virmax. Among the coffees on the table was none other than the winner of the Coffee of the Year Competition at the SCAA, the coffee which received the highest score overall from a panel of judges. What we did not know is that there was also a decaf coffee on the table. Well, to everyone's surprise, the coffee that rated highest at the end of the cupping was the decaf! We were all shocked, and those of us from Equator were delighted because we had just received this very coffee a few days earlier!
This unusual coffee is called Colombia Las Serranias and is currently available on facebook - it is like a sweetly acidic southern Hulia, but with banana, pineapple and cream notes no doubt imparted through the decaffeination process that uses a derivative from sugar-cane known scientifically as Ethel Acetate (EA). It isn't that this is the first lot of coffee to be decaffeinated using EA, far from it, but the difference lies in the fact that Las Serranias is an A grade coffee, selected by Equator BEFORE decaffeination. This, tied in with the pleasant characteristics sugar cane adds during the decaffeination process, rather than the "off" flavors often associated with decaffeinated coffees, makes this a wonderful option for decaf drinkers, and one of the most popular coffees at the SCAA!
These and other wonderful events at the SCAA demonstrated the vigor and dynamism evident in the specialty coffee industry right now. The bottom line is that coffee drinkers will have some wonderful new options to choose from today and, I think, some even better options as origins like Ecuador gain momentum!
Best, David Pohl