There’s coffee .........and then, there’s coffee !
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Sunday, December 2, 2012 15:28 hrs IST
"A little bit of pineapple. Herbal complexity. Super-clean. Vibrant. Sparklingness...... Lush , tropical, hints of white, not yellow peach."
Any guesses as to what this pretentious yammering is all about? Could it be:
a.The ad copy for the latest perfume from a luxury marque?
b. Or the tasting notes for a high priced Shiraz from an exclusive vineyard in the Barossa Valley of Southern Australia?
c. Or, maybe, the long-winded description for a fancy, molecular gastronomy inspired sorbet from the uber modernist menu of a Michelin starred restaurant in tony Manhattan?
d. None of the above.
The answer is......... bazinga ......
(d) none of the above.
This is the cup profile used by "green coffee specialist" Leslie Wolford at a "coffee seminar event" (and I thought seminars were special classes for PhD students !) at the Olive Way Starbucks last week in Seattle, Washington to describe the taste of the newest coffee from the Starbucks stable, The Costs Rica Finca Palmilera. At $7 a 16 ounce grande cup, it is the most expensive coffee on the Starbucks menu, yet. Sure enough, coffee aficionados are delighted, and 8 ounce bags (that is 226 gms for the metrically challenged) at $40 per bag, are flying off the shelves at select Starbucks stores
A company spokesperson, Lisa Passe said in a statement that the Costa Rica Finca Palmilera coffee is made from a rare, difficult-to-grow varietal known as Geisha that is found in Central America. The new coffee is available only in 46 stores in the US Northwest that are equipped with expensive Clover brewing machines, and is part of the Starbucks' limited-edition Reserve line. According to Ms. Passe, "we have loyal Reserve customers who are interested in any opportunity to try something as rare and exquisite as the Geisha varietal. We are now offering more reserve coffees than ever before because of customer demand." .
Now, don't let the name Geisha confuse you. It does not refer to any exotic Japanese variety of the humble coffee plant. Instead, the name is derived from the small mountain town of Gesha in Southwestern Ethiopia, the original source of this rare coffee varietal. And any coffee which carries the moniker Geisha, is regarded as an "heirloom varietal," meaning that the seed stock is absolutely pure, and has not been hybridized or altered in any way (making it kinda like the "blue blood Boston Brahmins" of the coffee world ). And for a good reason too. Geisha coffee plants, because they are not cross bred (you gotta watch those blood-lines, silly!) are hardier and more resistant to fungal infestations. However the plant grows only at elevations of 3000 feet or more, and are also very low yielding. While the low yield results in a higher price, the advantage is that with fewer berries per plant, more soil nutrients leach into each coffee berry, thus creating a rich vibrant flavour (and maybe, just maybe, the hints of pineapple and "white, not yellow peach.")
The popular blog StarbucksMelody.com, reports that it was standing room only at the coffee education seminar, and coffee lovers were ecstatic about the new brew. Blogger Melody found it a " soft, juicy coffee.....had a little sparkle to it (with) soft, sweeter, tropical notes as the primary flavor, and then a complex, lush, herbal flavor as the coffee cooled." A lot of people were seen smelling and slurping the brew in true dilettante fashion, and one person was even heard blurting out deliriously, "I totally tasted pineapple in that."
There you go. Didn't Leslie Wolford say so?
Now, Starbucks, in their efforts to woo and educate customers worldwide into the fine art of coffee drinking, offers not only tasting notes, but also recommends food pairings for all their coffee blends. Some of them are quite frankly, hilarious. Try this one out for their Costa Rica Tarrazu Geisha blend. " Enjoy this with passion fruit cheesecake,and the special someone." Or what about this little gem for their French Roast. "Pairs best with toasted nuts, caramelized sugar, and roasted vegetables." But surprisingly, for their high priced Costa Rica Finca Palmilera, the Starbucks corporate coffee masters do not recommend a pairing with any kind of food. You are expected to just "enjoy the coffee." Maybe, they consider it an experience to be savoured in silence. Almost like communing with oneself.
Drat ! And here I was thinking that I could have my cup of Clover brewed Costa Rica Finca Palmilera joe with one of their rich, moist, melt-in-your mouth Chocolate Old Fashioned doughnuts.
Just goes to show that I will simply have to learn the ways of the true blue-blood coffee lover before I venture anew into a Starbucks outlet..