Coffee Notes: Square Mile Wote Yirgacheffe

Aeropress: A bergamot tea-like aroma with peach hits the nose preluding a promising clean cup. On first sip, big peachiness opens a very flavoured, complex cup that has bergamot acidity well balanced with apricot jam sweetness on light caramel background. The finish is long and delicate reverting back to the bergamot tea notes.
Brew Parameters: 19 grams in, 250 grams water, 200 degrees, 1:15 minute immersion with 0:30 press. It was hard to over-extract this coffee, while lower extractions highlighted more tea-like notes.
Who Would I Recommend To: One of my favourite drip coffees this year that I would recommend to anybody to try as it has such big flavours and many nuances. Those who like bergamot tea-like delicacy will be the biggest fans.

Toronto Coffee: Shot Impression from Crema

Cafe: Crema in the Freshii at Bloor
Roaster: 49th Parallel Roasters
Espresso Blend: Epic Espresso
Notes: Extraction time was around 45 seconds on my watch resulting in a cup that felt like a 70% ratio. Nose was small with mostly dark chocolate, molasses, and light florals. The shot was mostly one noted with dark chocolate with a woody hints behind light sweet citrus acidity that gave a cleaner silky mouthfeel. The finish was long beginning with dark chocolate and turning into woodiness. Poorer than the average shot usually at Crema.

Coffee Rant: Thoughts on Branding and Transparency on Bags

The topic of whether you should choose a coffee or a roaster first has come up quite a bit on the web including a comment that I saw recently “Choose a coffee not a brand”. My thought? Let taste experiences form your brand impressions which effect your buying decisions. Continually question these perceptions and try to approach each cup critically with your biases in mind. Let me tell you two stories that lead me to these thoughts.

Two stories around Brand
A friend from work recently went to Montreal and was staying close to Cafe Myriade. I asked him to pick up some coffee for me. Which coffee? I left the choice up to the owner, Anthony. Essentially, I trust his brand to deliver quality coffee selection. The result was a bag of Kenyan Ngunguru Peaberry by 49th Parallel Roasters, another brand which has delivered great tasting coffees to me over the last year. When I went to taste this coffee through the Aerporess, I approached it critically with a positive bias, and the coffee delivered. A pronounced dark chocolate aroma with floral and light raisin hints introduced this well balanced cup. The main cup had apricot sweetness featuring dark chocolate contrasted by light lemon and orange acidity leaving a dry cocoa finish intermingling with raisins. I enjoyed this coffee quite a bit, as did some of my friends who I shared it with. It was not a mind blowing coffee, but certainly very pleasing and meeting expectations.
The other day, I dropped by Crema in Toronto which normally serves and stocks 49th Parallel Roasters coffee. For quite a while, Crema has been putting its own brand on the bags of Epic Espresso it sells, although they clearly acknowledge that it’s 49th Parallel coffee in the bag. Despite the Crema brand on the bag, I always assumed that no matter the coffee, it was always 49th Parallel in the bag. So I picked up a bag of drip Top Lot ECX Yirgacheffe coffee from Crema. Again I went for the Aeropress with a positive bias, but this time I was a little disappointed with the cup. It lacked the usual big aroma that I am used as it appeared flat, the cup had nice sweetness and balance, and the long finish was a bit chocolately, but then turned a bit woody and ashy. This was below what I have come to expect. I emailed Geoff from Crema to see if it was 49th Parallel. He replied that it was not (my guess was Detour) which prompted me to ask why the roaster was not on the bag. He replied that …

no reason in particular. I just don’t think it really matters. what matters is that it’s a great coffee roasted exceptionally well. I buy lots of coffee from different roasters, and choose what I think are the best ones for our customers. to say it’s from one roaster or another tends to cause prejudice and I don’t think that’s really fair to anyone.

I do agree that all information on a package influences taste perceptions. However, I am not as much of a pessimist that customer palates are not smart enough to be objective enough to taste coffees. To me, it is a little insulting to tell me that I can’t taste objectively enough, so I will pick and choose which information to filter. Maybe origin should also be left out? Great coffee is the result of many consecutive steps. Labeling is perhaps the most straight forward way to recognize each member of that chain allowing taste associations to be formed about each of them based on taste experience.

Furthermore, I am not certain that this choice was made purely to help roaster impartiality. From a business perspective, landed wholesale costs of coffee between 49th Parallel Coffee and Detour Coffee are different. Given the hefty $16 price tag per 12 oz for the Yirgacheffe, I would anticipate differing margins as well.

Bottom Line

Having opinionated a lot, the bottom line is that the coffee on which the Crema brand was on, did not taste as good as I expected. I had always equated the Crema brand with the 49th Parallel brand. When I tasted something below expectation, I started questioning both brands, but investigation led me to delink these brands and create a separate brand for Crema in my mind. How do I view this brand? In terms of coffee quality based on taste, not something I trust anymore. What if the coffee had tasted great and it was a Detour Coffee? I would have probably continued to think that it was 49th Parallel and continued to link the brands which also would have not been fair.

I usually buy coffees from roasters that have delivered good coffees, and I try to taste objectively being aware of incoming dispositions. I sometimes try and retry roasters based on curiosity and what is recommended to me by trusted professionals. I am biased towards certain roasters because they have delivered great tasting coffees, but I believe my palate is strong enough to overcome biases, both positive and negative.

Impressions and News from the Canadian Coffee and Tea Show

It has been two years since the show was in Toronto, and although I didn’t have high expectations based on my last show, I couldn’t resist going. From a consumer angle, my complaints from last time was that there was little educational opportunities to learn about coffee and little willing expertise on discussing consumer machines. What has changed? Let me sum it up:

What was better?

  • The BeanLink booth that was showcasing a variety of different roasters by sampling V60 brews of them. The best tasting cups of the show were from this booth, although I found the a tad underextracted. Although different roasters were sampled all day, I had the pleasure of trying a Honduran from Bows and Arrows and an Ethiopian from Transcend. Both these cups piqued my interest on these roasters.
  • Willingness and interest of some dealers to showcase and discuss some home equipment. Particularly, I had some great conversations with Fred from Morala and Slawek from IDrinkCoffee.

What was lacking?

  • Good tasting coffee and espresso. The specialty coffee that I tasted from local roasters Detour, Social, and Te Aro Roasted was disappointing. Pour over and Chemex cups that I had were under extracted tasting weak. Espresso shots were sometimes off, or sometimes the coffee was flat or dirty. Frankly, I was expecting coffee that would have been somewhat memorable.
  • Educational courses around coffee. The national organizers should take inspiration from the Prairie Regionals and organize similar events.
  • Other competitions. The Cuppers and Brewers Cup competitions we’re not present.

What was some of the news?

  • Morala Trading is now representing Kees Van Der Westen in Eastern Canada. A Speedster at home is starting to look closer.
  • IDrinkCoffee is now getting in on commercial machines by representing Synesso in Eastern Canada.
  • Prairie Baristas topped the barista competition with the top two spots going to baristas from Phil and Sebastian from Calgary. A roaster whose coffees I am looking to enjoying more of.
  • Three baristas from Eastern Canada made it to the barista finals. Randy from Bridgehead was third, Georgia was fourth, and Sameer from Fahrenheit placed fifth. Congrats to everyone.
  • Detour will be switching from using a Diedrich roaster to a new Loring. They are very excited about their expected new results.
You might also like:
Canadian Coffee and Tea Show
International Espresso Tasting Event Recap
  1. It’s unfortunate to hear there was so little well-prepared coffee on hand, especially at a high-end trade show, considering the easy availability of quick feedback from refractometers. I have some reservations about the quality of coffee coming from very busy pourover bars in general, though.

    Your comment about the Speedster at home reminded me how little it has actually interested me for a while now. I think it’s a work of art, and I would love to own one, but I never will. I came to the conclusion this year that a commercial, plumb-in machine will probably never have a place on my espresso bar again, because there are just so many good machines that are more convenient and suitable for home use. I am also a lot more excited about the potential for pressure profiling on the GS/3 MP with a group head gauge than I am about anything the Speedster offers. There are some interesting equipment developments ahead of that really catches on like PIDs did.