Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting fleeced for caffeine?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Speaking as someone who already tried the world's most expensive coffee once, to mild disappointment, I have to admit I'm both intrigued by and skeptical of the $95-per-pound coffee that will go on sale this upcoming Friday at Colorado Coffee Merchants.

According to a CCM newsletter I just received, the outfit has procured 40 pounds from a Colombian estate that only produced 2,300 pounds this year and that won this year's Cup of Excellence, an award that distinguishes the finest coffee from a given area inside a given year.

Read all about the award here, including how it is rigorously judged and how its winning coffee is auctioned online to the highest bidder.

People pay big amounts for the best of these little beans.

I called CCM on Monday and chatted with roaster Harry Nicol, who shared a little more on the coffee and his excitement for it.

It's called Finca Primavera, and the farmer's name who grew the winning beans is Arnulfo Leguizamo. CCF obtained the coffee through one of its distributors, Minneapolis-based Cafe Imports, which bid online for it.

Nicol and his coworkers have already been sampling and playing with the coffee, and he says that it doesn't come with any instructions for optimal roasting. So they roast lighter than normal "so that you can experience the oils and sugars more than the caramelization."

When I playfully share my skepticism about the coffee being that much better than others — like, say, as noticeable as eating a high-dollar, grass-fed steak vs. a cheap, feedlot strip of meat — Nicol stands his ground.

"Maybe the average Joe might not understand why it's so good, but to me it's amazing," he says, going on to explain how many people can distinguish a fine red wine from a lame one, but not as many people tend to have trained their palates for sophisticated coffee sampling.

I press for tasting details.

"Firstly, sweetness and acidity play a huge part in actual taste," he says. "This acidity is not a bad acidity, it's more of zest or liveliness. This coffee is not sour at all — a lot of time you will get a little sourness. It had sweet and citrus notes, was floral in its aroma and very delicate. ... It was more tea-like in a sense, not real heavy, partly because of how we roasted it — we could have darker-roasted it to make it more heavy. It would not hold up with milk or sugar added, which we don't recommend doing with this coffee."

I press again for a 100 percent, no-BS assessment.

"If someone brought this to me and I cupped it blind, I would have said it is way better than average coffee. ... This compared to Starbucks would be a like a Bristol beer versus a Coors."

Fair enough.

As for the price, CCF paid about 15 times what it normally pays for coffee by the pound, says Nicol, so the $95 per pound isn't his organization making a killing.

If you care to just sample the coffee without going all-in, catch a tasting from 3 to 5 p.m., Friday, July 22 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, July 23, where 12 ounces will set you back $10.

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