It isn’t necessary to travel the world to enjoy gourmet coffee. But it helps to know a little geography. Like Indonesia, Central and South America, and Africa. These areas all have common characteristics. Fertile soils. Temperate climates. Located no more than 10 degrees north or south of the equator. And growing region altitudes between 4,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. It is here that he highest quality coffee beans in the world – called Arabica – are grown.
What it all means to you is that coffees are distinguishable, like wine grapes, by where they are grown and specific growing conditions, as well as the preparation methods inherent to each unique region. As unique, in fact, as your individual taste.
The following list classifies the coffee’s geographic origin and its correlating flavor and aroma characteristics. Use it as your passport, if you will, to the wonderful world of Gourmet Coffee.
Step One: KNOW THE COFFEE GROWING REGIONS AND THEIR FLAVORS
- Ethiopia Harrar – Flavor characteristics of wine with a lingering aftertaste. Medium body and acidity.
- Ethiopia Yirgacheffe – Has a delicate body with a slight sweetness, and a rich chocolaty aftertaste.
- Kenya AA – Rich, full-bodied with a blackberry aroma.
- Mocha Yemen Mattari – Bold-bodied and rich yet with a smooth taste.
- Tanzanian Peaberry – Medium-bodied, vibrant, with a sweet flavor.
- Zimbabwe – The sweetness of Kenya beans with a milder flavor.
CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA
- Brazil Santos – Medium-bodied with a smooth flavor and pleasant aroma.
- Columbian Supremo – Rich in body and flavor with medium acidity. Classic and well balanced.
- Costa Rican – Hearty flavor and medium-bodied. Blends well. Strictly hard bean.
- Guatemalan – Lively, full-bodied. Strictly hard bean.
- Mexican Altura – Light body and nutty flavor.
- Panama Borquette – Smooth, mild flavor and light body.
INDONESIAN & PACIFIC
- Celebes Kalossi – Heavy-bodied with good acidity and rich flavor.
- Java Estate – Full-bodied, low acidity, rich and spicy.
- Papua New Guinea – A consistently mild, well-balanced, flavorful coffee.
- Royal Kona – A mild, nutty flavor, with mellow acidity and smooth.
- Sumatra Gayo – Full-bodied with a slightly nutty flavor.
- Sumatra Mandheling – Rich, full-bodied with bold, spicy flavor.
Step Two: EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS AND YOUR VOCABULARY
Opening your mind to the world of Gourmet Coffee can be an enlightening experience, when you know the language. This short list explains some basic coffee terminology. Use it to distinguish coffee-tasting properties.
- FLAVOR encompasses aroma, acidity and body. It can be used in a general sense (“This coffee is flavorful”) or with specific attributes in mind (“This coffee has a chocolate flavor”).
- AROMA is the odor or fragrance of brewed coffee.
- BODY refers to the sense of weight or density of the coffee in the mouth. It can range from watery and thin, to light, medium, full and heavy.
- ACIDITY is the sharp, lively quality inherent in all high-grown coffees. One shouldn’t confuse acidity with bitter or sour. Acidity is the brisk, snappy quality which makes coffee palate-cleansing and refreshing.
Step Three: BE GOOD TO YOUR COFFEE AND YOUR COFFEE WILL BE GOOD TO YOU
What you do with your coffee when you get it home is just as important as which coffee you choose. There’s a right way and a wrong way. With correct storage, grinding and brewing, the Gourmet Coffee you brew at home can be just as delicious as the coffee you buy in your favorite café or retail shop.
Storage – Weather you buy whole bean coffee from the bins or prepackaged, you should follow these practical guidelines:
- Proper storage can help extend the flavor-life of your coffee.
- Remember that heat, air and moisture are your coffee’s three worst enemies.
- It is recommended to use whole beans within 4 weeks of being opened from their valve-bag.
- Store the whole beans in an airtight container and keep in a cool dry place.
- Despite the popular misconception, it is not recommended to store beans in the freezer.
Grinding – Whole bean coffee holds its flavor much longer than ground. A home coffee grinder is worth the investment for daily fresh coffee flavor.
Want to learn more about your daily cup of Java?
Stop by and talk to Chef Anthony
Cup of the Day
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
This article was written by Chef Anthony and appeared in the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News on October 8, 1997.