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. Read our coverage from Boston here and here.

Barreling south from Boston, bound for Philly, the Fermentation & Fruit Bombs road show trekked through stormy weather and possible (but unconfirmed) tornadoes near the Martha Stewart District of rural Connecticut. We drove ever-so-close (I could almost smell it) the Big Apple – which was at the time we passed it more of a Windy Apple, or maybe even a Tornado Apple.

But onward, to Philadelphia, where F&FB held a delightful engagement in the brand new Counter Culture Training Center situated above the brand new (and as-yet unopen) Ultimo Coffee. It was there that Katie Carguilo and Tim Hill delivered a lovely cupping and tasting to around forty fine Philly folks.

USBC champ Katie Carguilo made around 35 signature drinks, while Tim Hill held a cupping similar to the one I covered last night in Boston. Fortunately for our readers, Sprudge.com staff writer Alex Bernson was on hand to attend this cupping with fresh eyes. Let’s check out his notes, shall we? Take it away, Alex:

Bernson: I did indeed take a Bolt Bus down to Philly to check out this event, where I was privy to slurping some pretty damn tasty coffees. First up, the Finca Mauritania coffees from Aida Battle. Both the regular and the shade processed Finca Mauritania had juicy cacao and honey notes with a well-integrated acidity. The shade dried had a especially pronounced sweetness with greater overall articulation and a smooth sugar-cane snap on the finish.

Next, the Ethiopia Haru, processed in the Kenya style and natural style. Both processes had big, slightly fermented tea notes with an ample dark chocolate base and chamomile floral notes. The Kenyan process was more delicate, with more pronounced black tea and a crisper citrus and blueberry acidity, while the natural was a fuller bodied, bolder coffee with more of a jasmine tea note and juicier red-fruit acidity.

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We also got to try an Ethiopia Biloya natural, which was impressively clean and delicate for a natural, with a bright blueberry acidity paired with a smooth light caramel body and a highly drinkable hazelnut finish. Highly drinkable.

Last, we tried a natural processing experiment from Rwanda’s famed Buf Cafe. On the real, this coffee was kind of problematic for me. I found it to definitely exhibit defects that seemed somewhere in-between fermentation problems and potato, which struck me as a kind of jalapeno/tabasco sauce thing. Despite those issues it was definitely a tasty, center-focused coffee, with a very light red-pepper juiciness and a candied orange acidity.

Tim Hill had some interesting things to say about potato and fermentation and how there is some conjecture/speculation coming out of Rwanda right now. People are starting to think that water contact may exacerbate potato defect, perhaps by giving the bacteria we think causes this defect a better environment to reproduce. Consequently, people are very interested in Buf Cafe’s natural experiments, and Tim said that it seems to have a low incidence of potato defect, what little potato they *have* encountered seemed to be much milder and not immediately detectable by smell.

Experiments like this Buf natural highlight what makes the whole “Work In Progress” part of all this road show concept so cool. A delicious table of coffees all in all, and much love to Tim, Katie & co. for sharing them with us!

Thanks, Alex! Next it was time for another installation of Katie Carguilo’s signature drink demo. Let’s let her speak, shall we?

“My presentation is not going to be as educational as Tim’s but it’s going to be way more fun!” (Audience woops and hollers) “For me, a barista competition is great because it gives a platform to talk about and showcase coffees that roasters are really excited about and the relationships that roasters with producers for creating special coffees to bring to a one time event. For me, specifically, as a barista and a coffee trainer, I love the opportunity to compete in the barista competition because it gives me a reason to get better at making coffee. And it gives me a reason to get better at explaining what I love about coffee to people.”

Ms. Carguilo lead the group through the creative process of inventing a signature beverage – in this case, the drink that helped her win the 2012 United States Barista Championship. Inspired by the Bi-Rite Cookbook‘s Vinegar Spritz drink (soda water, tasty vinegar, simple syrup), Katie used fermentation as the theme of the presentation. Fermenting food stuffs was at one time necessary to fight bacterial growth, but now it’s done around the world because it makes foods delicious. Coffee is the same way; you don’t have to ferment the coffee to yield a caffeinated beverage, but producers take the time and implement different fermentation techniques because it makes coffee delicious.

In addition to serving up a variation on her signature drink, Katie selected four naturally fermented wines to serve at the events – three from France, one from Italy. They were delicious.

Some scattered Philly notes!

*While in town, we visited the following cafes:

* We went to a place called Sabrina’s for brunch, where they serve three different styles of French Toast as an appetizer. One of the French Toast specials was the “Treat Yo Self”, a concoction made with crumbled up grasshopper cookie pieces. The menu was chockablock with Parks and Rec references I didn’t really understand, but you know me, I’ve never met a piece of food I didn’t like.

* The road show crew also stopped over at the original Di Bruno Bros. in Philly’s Italian Market for meats, cheeses, olives, and fermenty goods. Di Bruno Bros. has a wide selection of coffees available for retail (and a coffee flavor wheel).


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