I organized a coffee tasting with the guys from Artidoro Rodriguez coffee. After five hours of learning about coffee and drinking coffee, I was too caffeinated to write this blog posting… I realized how little I know about coffee. For the food geeks, there is a coffee tasting certification class in Lima (one week for eight months–not sure why they don’t do a two month class). Anyway, back to what I didn’t know…. Notice in the photo below that there is some magical ratio of weight of ground coffee to water at a certain temperature (I think this is why the Brits say, “water from a freshly boiled kettle”).
The coffee tasting class cost 100 soles (about $30) per person. It was planned from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. but we got a five hour class, freebies, coffee (duh!) and so much info that I had a buzz not solely from the coffee! The owners, Felix and Julian, are experts in tasting and roasting respectively. Felix is the grandson of Artidoro Rodriguez so a legend in the making (Juan Valdez was made up by marketeers!). You heard it here!
I set up the class with Julian via email. The class was in Spanish as Felix feels more comfortable in Spanish. Julian’s English is good so he translated when he could. Plus, I had my secret superpower with me (a bilingual friend who is professional level simultaneous translator level, and a subject matter expert to boot!). We tried more than ten brands of coffee and around six methods of making coffee. As it was a tasting, we could choose to not swallow the coffee and spittoons were provided… but I drank the coffee (hence the buzz).
We learned so much that I can’t recall most of it. But, there are two types of coffee beans and Peru has lots of areas where both kinds (robusta and arabica) of beans can be grown to produce gourmet coffee. We learned about weighing our coffee when we make it. We learned that there is a coffee grading scale from zero to 100 points. 80 or above is gourmet. Aridoro Rodriguez is 84 (no shame in that!). Coffee from 60 to 80 is commercial coffee. Below 60… fuggedaboutit. We learned that shiny beans are no good. Shiny beans have been over roasted, one way to compensate for deficiencies. Notice the shiny burned look of the two groups in the photo below. The smallest bunch of beans are roasted correctly. No oily sheen. Just a healthy luster.
We learned that slurping is good when tasting coffee. We looked at runty beans called “snails” and how they are picked out as a specialty. Just smaller, uglier, but with equal potential (some deep zen going on here, amiright?).
We learned that beans need to be separated before roasting so they roast at the same degree. That it’s a matter of seconds from the “first pop” of the first bean roasting to the full on fireworks of popping, and, that in those ten seconds, the coffee roaster can make or destroy a batch of coffee. A roast lasts around eight minutes but I can’t recall the exact details. We also learned that after roasting, coffee grounds should “exhale” for eight hours before being used to brew coffee. We learned about “fragrance” and “aroma” and all the other ways to know one’s coffee. We even learned about coffee “tea” (see raisin-like things next to weak cup of liquid in photo below), and then our minds were blown.
We learned even more. About people, livelihoods, the environment, pride in product, taste, and that Felix and Julian are looking to open up a coffee bar somewhere in Miraflores. We learned of the coffee places approved of by Felix. We sniffed… we sipped… we giggled… we roared with laughter… we… take the class! Learn. Get caffeinated. Get mo’ on joe!
The key point that Felix told us was… no two cups of coffee will be the same… each cup is as individual… as an individual…
O-M-ega. This just got deep.
Drink up, my friends, may your cup runneth over. In the best of company.