We're pleased to bring you the first in a series of pieces by our exclusive on-the-ground Melbourne International Coffee Expo correspondents from Oslo, Norway's Kaffikaze. Harald Johnsen Vøyle and his sister, Ingri M. Johnsen, armed themselves with a notebook and camera, and went on a whirlwind dazzle-tour of the Showgrounds “Tent #3” circus of whimsy and pleasure throughout MICE weekend.
They saw it all, and now we can take you there! First up, a visit to Proud Mary's MICE booth, one of several enormously impressive cafe installations that graced the floor at Tent #3. Look for more MICE coverage in on Sprudge in the coming days.
Proud Mary's booth at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo was one-half pop-up, one-half living room. A choice record collection poured out onto the carpeted floor, from which someone was spinning The Rolling Stones (obviously) when we first walked up. Deep in the back, a German father and son duo were debuting their beautiful new line of grinders (we'll talk more about those later).
But just outside this living room space, for $100 a piece, folks had a chance to cup and take home some of the world's most expensive (and rare) coffee – the HR61 from Hacienda El Roble in Bucaramanga, Colombia. We featured these $100 cuppings on Sprudge before as they happened, and while intrepidly exploring the show floor we were able to get our sticky beak upon some of it.
Let's call this an exclusive breakdown of the world's third most expensive coffee. Nolan Hirte, the owner of Proud Mary, Melbourne, was gracious enough to give us gave a taste of HR-61, and he also talked to us more about the story behind it. This coffee is still only available in very small quantities, so don't expect it to come flooding your market anytime soon.
Presented with the HR61, we slurped and we gargled – expensive tastes should be gargled with care! You could strongly detect tastes of peach, mango and cream, as well as a delicate floral aroma reminiscent of lily and rose. What's more, you can actually feel the florals in the actual taste as well. Clearly this was a special cup of coffee, but the story behind it is pretty cool as well.
25 years ago, the producer Oswaldo Acevedo at Hacienda Roble in Bucaramanga, Colombia was given 74 different varieties, some known, some disease resistant and some strange. However, a few were also unknown. A genealogist investigated the plants and discovered that the now so-called HR61 was not the Geisha it had previously been believed to be! It was unclassifiable. The name was derived from the farm itself, Hacienda El Roble, and the number is simply the number of the lot.
The farmer, having tasted the few but amazing fruits of this lot over the past five years, finally decided this year's harvest of 22kgs would be the first to actually be sold on auction. As a side note, it must take some extreme patience working as a coffee farmer. Respect!
In cuppings (including the inaugural #Sluparama in 2011, which Sprudge attended), Proud Mary's Nolan Hirte was part of a team that scored El Roble's Geishas at around a 90, while the HR61 scored a full-on 94. Nolan Hirte was inspired, driven, and super into it; hence he felt obliged to buy this coffee no matter what. The end product was extremely expensive at $286 per kg, but also completely and utterly delicious. After the MICE expo, this coffee was sold at Proud Mary for $30 a cup. Yikes!
“This is coffee pioneering at it’s finest and I’m proud to say [I] could be a part of it,” Mr. Hirte told us, and we are inclined to say his gambit was worth it. Following that Cupping Extravaganza #Slurparama event at El Roble, Nolan felt that the the HR61 varietal had all the appearances and qualities of an Heirloom varietal from Ethiopia. “The aroma on the HR61 contains strawberry, peach, lily, rose, apricot tones and floral aromas with a cream body in the cup,” he told me after we cupped. Pretty close to our notes!
Let's call this a win for everyone – for Nolan Hirte and Proud Mary Coffee, for Oswaldo Acevedo at Hacienda El Roble, and for MICE attendees like Kaffikaze who were lucky enough to taste this coffee. For more information visit Proud Mary's website.