Taking a little break from talking about coffee this week to talk about our garden! The Pablo's warehouse is not your typical warehouse. We have fruit trees growing in the front (most of them have never produced a single fruit) as well as mint, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes. In the back we have raised beds were we grow a variety of seasonal vegetables. The soil in these beds is, I'm estimating, about 40% coffee. From used coffee grounds, to old samples that didn't make the cut, to chaff, a byproduct of the roasting process, most of the soil is coffee.
This week at the roastery we started a very important program: production coffee cupping. In production coffee cupping, we are simply cupping our coffees that we currently have roasted, sort of checking in to see where they're at. As Pablo's has grown as a company, all of our jobs have changed, some more than others. Part of the way that my job has changed is that I'm am moving away from spending all day standing next to a roaster , and spending more time ensuring the quality of the coffees we offer. Maintaining quality means that I have to taste our coffees, all of them, every week, and, seeing as we have upwards of 20 coffees on offer every week, this can become a bit daunting. Luckily, we have some fancy new cupping tables custom built by Nick Cobbledick to help with this task. Initially, I had assumed that there would be no surprises on the cupping table this week, but I soon realized that I have some pretty strong preconceived notions about what some of our coffees are like. When cupping coffees, it is important to be open about what you are about to smell and taste, preconceptions can affect the way that you experience the coffees. Whenever I am choosing a coffee to drink I tend to stick to single origins simply because they tend to be a bit more interesting, blends tend to be more middle of the road-y in general. This isn't always the case. An excellent example is our "Two Stroke Smoke." I was really blown away by the complexity and intense fruitiness in this coffee when we cupped it this week. The Two Stroke is one of our oldest blends, and has evolved over the years as we have adapted the blend to work with the ever changing character of its constituent ingredients. In recent years, the trend in specialty coffee has been away from blends and has been more focused on single origin coffees, so sometimes the blends tend to be dismissed as a lesser coffees. I believe, that if done properly, a blend can become greater than the sum it's ingredients. The "Two Stroke Smoke" is an excellent example of this idea, and is well worth a revisting.
Last week, as some of you may know, I visited the San Francisco area to attend an advanced roasting course offered at http://bootcoffee.com. After the three day course I headed into San Francisco to check out some local coffee shops/roasters. This was also a great opportunity to visit one of our major importers, http://www.royalcoffee.com. I made arrangements with my contact at Royal, Jeri Idso, to meet me at the B.A.R.T. station and headed into Oakland. The outside of the Royal coffee main office building offers no hint at the coffee glory that it contains. upon arriving, Jeri showed me around their sample room where they keep samples of all of the coffees that they currently have in their warehouse.