Sprudge.com co-founder Zachary Carlsen is embedded all week long in the traveling caravan that *is* Counter Culture Coffee’s Fermentation & Fruit Bombs road show.
The Counter Culture Coffee Boston Training Center opened its doors for the first stop of the four-city Fermentation & Fruit Bombs tour. We cupped, we slurped, we made friends – it was a great kick-off to the F&FB East Coast tour, currently making its way through Tornadoland en route to Philadelphia.
Counter Culture green buyer Tim Hill will be leading cuppings all week long, so let's delve into what's on our mobile table. I'll be using a lot of coffee processing terminology in the next few paragraphs, so it's a good thing I'm in the car with Tim and Co. right now to double-check my notes.
First up to cup: Two washed coffees from Dulce Nombre de Jesus, a farm in Honduras owned by the Caballeros family, whose coffees from Finca El Puente put them on the map. We tried one lot that was mechanically dried and one lot that was dried on raised African beds. Raised African beds are fairly new for the Caballeros, and this year marks their first harvest of full-scale production using this drying style.
Next, we tried two lots from Aida Battle's Finca Mauritania, one dried on patios and the other dried on raised beds under shade. Patio drying is traditional in El Salvador, but the raised beds are something new. Aida and her crew have been testing out the raised beds for the last few harvests, but now they're banging out some truly delicious coffees using this method.
Also on the table, three coffees from Ethiopia, or more specifically, from the Haru region of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. The YCFCU incorporates several well-known washing stations, Adado, Idido, Biloya, Aramo, Hafursa, and Worka – if you've had an identifiable washed Yirg since the ECX came into place, it's probably from the YCFCU. The first Haru we tried was processed using a 48 hour underwater fermentation process, which is the norm in this part of Ethiopia – this was the same lot of coffee used by Katie Carguilo in her winning NERBC and USBC performances. The next Haru we tried was processed using what Tim Hill called an “old school Kenyan-esque” fermentation: water is drawn from fermentation tanks, then left to wilder in a big gooey pile of depulped coffee for 2 whole days. The third lot was a natural processed coffee – “sun dried”, as it were, a style that is common in other parts of Ethiopia but totally foreign to the Haru washing station.
In the past, YCFCU coffee was essentially “one lot of coffee” from each washing station. By doing experiments like natural and Kenya-esque processing, it requires the producers to separate lots of coffee, helping create more of a small-lot system. This is most definitely a good thing as far as quality is concerned.
The last coffee on the table was the fruit bomb – a natural processed coffee from Rwanda's Buf Cafe. Sprudge.com recently visited Rwanda's famed Buf Cafe alongside Tim Hill and Fair Trade USA, and on that very trip, Tim negotiated the purchase of 50 bags of natural processed coffee with Sam Muhirwa, Buf Cafe's owner and operations manager. This is the first natural processed coffee Buf Cafe has ever exported. The coffee has mild-citric tones up front, then goes into gummy bear/jammy raspberry territory. “One of the cleaner, lighter naturals I've tasted,” Tim told the crowd. “For me, the more I go out and try natural coffees from around the world, the more I realize that the terroir is there. There's no mistaking a natural from Central America with a natural from Rwanda. There's no mistaking a Rwandan natural with anything else.”
Our cupping concluded, and our minds suitably blown, it was now time for reigning USBC champ Katie Carguilo to present. Katie gave us a presentation on the genesis of her signature drink, one that featured the very same traditional Haru we'd cupped moments before. “Using coffee as an ingredient in a signature drink is a fun way to tell the story about the coffee,” quoth Miss Carguilo, and then she prepared for us an updated version of the sig drink that helped make her United States Barista Champion: Nectarine and lemon mash (lightly fermented overnight), simple syrup, jasmine green tea, few drops of white vinegar, soda water, and washed Haru espresso. She made over 50 in total!
As the night wound down and we got towards the bottom of a keg of Baby Tree beer, folks in the crowd munched on cheese (blue, stilton, and stinky Roquefort), sourdough bread, and delicious kimchi. Close to a hundred raffle tickets were sold for a La Marzocco “Fermentation and Fruit Bombs” edition GS3, before finally the night came to a close, after which the crew cleaned up and we all headed to Bergamot for cocktails and lobster sandwiches. Boston is really super fun, and Somerville is particularly cool and beautiful, so big ups to CCC for putting their Training Center smack dab in the middle of it.
Some assorted travel notes from the road:
- Bagels are a very big deal in Boston, and most high-end cafes have them, and they are delicious.
- Are Boston Terriers simply terriers in Boston? In any case, I saw three.
- Boston's landmark micro-roaster Barismo celebrated its fourth anniversary yesterday by giving away free shots of espresso. Silas and Tim from Barismo pulled shots all day then came out to the event that night.
- Formaggio Kitchen has ample cheese samples, delicious sandwiches, and an enormous meat case.
- When you're next in Boston, go drink coffee and eat sandwiches in a bank vault at Bloc 11. Inside the vault, your coffee table is made out of a repurposed bulletproof bank teller window. They carry coffee from Intelli/Stumptown/CCC, and there's a video art installation in the back, inside yet-another vault.
- When you're at the CCC Boston Training Center, walk a block to Capone Foods and pick up house-made lemon pasta and pesto, a cannoli and maybe have an espresso made from a 40-year-old home espresso machine in the back. The proprietor's name is Al Capone and he's awesome.
- One of the attendees at last evening's festivities was a Latin Grammy award winner.
- While in Boston, I also had some espresso at Pavement Coffeehouse, and it was delightful. They carry CCC and Four Barrel Coffee out of San Francisco.