Coffee is the world's most popular beverage after water, with
over 400 billion cups consumed annually. The coffee bean is the seed
of a cherry from an evergreen tree that grows in a narrow subtropical
belt around the world. The three major growing regions are: Latin
America and the Caribbean Islands, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula,
and Indonesia. Coffee is also grown in Hawaii, India and in Southeast
Asia. The term "varietal coffee" refers to an unblended coffee from
a single country, region, and crop.
How do varietal coffees differ in flavor and characteristics?
Virtual Coffee asked some of the premier specialty coffee roasters
in the country what their favorite varietal coffee isand why.
The second piece in our series is by William R. Siemers, president,
Coffee Roasters of New Orleans.
By William R. Siemers
my favorite origin coffee is difficultI like a number of coffees
for different reasons. When I evaluate a coffee, I primarily consider
cup quality, and all of my favorites are very tasty indeed. But my
reasons for liking a particular coffee are often complicated by other
concerns. For example, perhaps I have visited the farm where a coffee
is grown and admire how it is produced, as I do coffee from the Costa
Rican Doka Estate. Or maybe I like the coffee and the economic and
environmental sustainability that is part and parcel of every cup.
Sumatra Gayoland and Nicaraguan Segovia fair trade and organic coffee
are examples of this type of favorite. I also love coffees
that have specific and unique flavor tones, such as Ethiopian Harrar
and Sulawesi Toraja. While I may not want to drink these coffees everyday,
they exemplify the diversity of flavors within the specialty coffee
universe, which makes them favorites also.
Despite all of the above, I must say that my personal favorite origin
coffee does not have a unique, specific flavor tonenor is it
a certified organic or fair trade coffee, and I have never been anywhere
near the region where it is grown. When it comes to a day-in and day-out
favorite, I love a good cup of Kenyan coffee. A number of flavor tones
can be at work in this coffeecitrus, berry, or winebut
these tones generally do not predominate. Instead, the tones add shades
of complexity to a wonderful, pure coffee flavor that is both nuanced
and well-balanced, which to me is the best of all possible worlds
in a cup of coffee.
Not all Kenyan coffees are this good. In fact, some are downright
ordinary. But many good origins are available year after year. Through
the years I have enjoyed Keekoruk, a German preparation, blended Kenya;
Mweiga, a Society (Co-op) mark; and a peaberry, which is great for
dark roasts. While these coffees have different flavor profiles, they
all share this wonderful combination of nuance and rich coffee flavor
that gets me every time.
Unfortunately, I am not alone in my opinion. Auction prices for
the better Kenyas are reaching record levels relative to other origins.
In some cases, Kenyan coffee costs almost three times as much as the
best Central American coffees. Even so, Kenyan coffee still remains
a very affordable luxury and one that no coffee lover should miss
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