This week we had the opportunity to join in on two cupping sessions from coffee traders interested in expanding their offerings in China. The first was put on by Unitas International and the second by MTC Group. While both specialize in commercial grade coffee, we were able to get our hands on a couple great coffees we wanted to share with you. We cupped everything blind which always ends up in a mix of debate, Sherlock Holmes style detective work, and both friendly and non-friendly betting.
Up first was Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Koke. While this was a blind tasting, there was no hiding the Yirgacheffe of the bunch. It made itself known right away with the sweet fruity aroma of strawberry and blueberry. The fragrance was on par with some of the top Ethiopian coffees I’ve cupped, but unfortunately the flavour didn’t quite make the top grade. While all the right notes were present, they weren’t as loud and punchy as we would have liked. I think the more humble flavour profile of this coffee would make it an excellent candidate for a single origin espresso.
Next was a Kenya Makwa Peaberry. The Makwa AA is a famous bean known for it’s outrageous lemony profile and is often compared to a slice of fresh lemon meringue pie. This coffee was really interesting to us, because especially in the fragrance, it smelled nothing like the Kenyan coffees we know. The scent was bringing up suggestions like beef stew, pepper, and savoury spices – descriptions usually reserved for dinner at grandma’s. Once the water hit the cup the Kenyan started to come out with bright citrus, grapefruit and lemon, but still had a hint of the savoury spice aroma. This was the favourite on the table for most!
Next was Guatemala Don Antonio. This Guatemalan coffee had everyone’s attention while we were evaluating fragrance. It had the perfect blend of vanilla and caramel, and whatever that smell was, we all wanted to eat it. No one at the table pegged this as a Guatemalan. Unfortunately, it also started to fade as soon as the water hit the cup. The aroma had some of the same notes, but all had been subdued. Come time for tasting, it had transformed into a nice, but ultimately boring cup of specialty coffee. Wamp wamp. As a single origin I don’t think this would stand out in much of a crowd, but it could definitely find a place in an espresso blend as a nice rich balancing point for a sharp African coffee.
The last of the heavy-hitters was Kenya Wakulima. Named after the biggest market in Nairobi which feeds over 50% of the residents. This was another confusing Kenyan, because the fragrance didn’t have any of the sharp lemon grass or citrus notes we usually expect. Once the water hit the cup all the expected Kenyan flavours surfaced and what we got was close to unsweetened lemonade. This coffee could work as an example of very traditional Kenya single origin, or could be blended with a sweeter coffee to make a bold espresso. While it may not be the most outstanding Kenyan coffee we’ve cupped, we can admire it’s dedication to the most traditional flavours.