This is a theme that now drives me…compels me… looking for the perfect espresso, to bring together the parts that make up a sum greater than the individual parts.
Perfect Espresso is like the holy grail of coffee. One is meant to seek and never find. It is powerful and seductive. It lingers in the mind long after having gracefully faded from the palette. Perhaps one finds it then it becomes an exercise of trying to recreate it. Whatever the experience, it is the goal of every modern roaster for the espresso to become the signature piece in her collection, the drawing card, the source of reputation, pride and bragging rights.
My goal is to break it down. Like any project or challenge, climbing the proverbial mountain is a daunting task when approached from a distance. As you begin to walk, setting realistic short-term goals allows the mind to wrap itself around the task at hand. How far do I need to get today? How will I plan for tomorrow?
At this point in time I have surveyed the field from afar, I have done surveillance, reconnaissance, reconnoitering and aggregated sensorial arsenal of data to launch into battle. Seductive battle. Now it’s time to break it down.
I will start with the green. Not money. Not grass. The seed of coffee. The diminutive drupe – ripe and red for the picking. That is the key. Without great green beans, one does not have a hope of attaining better anything better than ‘par’. I feel as though I have reached a point where I know what to look for. In a word? Sweetness. As simple and obvious as that may seem (to some perhaps realized long ago). And as counter intuitive. Why do we need sweetness in green coffee beans?? Surely we can add sugar (and do) to the brew if it needs it. In fact, it may come as a surprise that coffee beans can be sweet. Certainly, any mass-produced coffee will not have this character, even if it once possessed it on the tree. It’s also a fleeting thing. Once roasted, the sweetness is a volatile or fleeting thing, not lasting past a few weeks of roast date. Or perhaps more accurately, the sweetness becomes subverted by the growing staleness, bitterness imparted by the oxidation of all the complex, volatile organics.
The search is on. Only relentless sampling and cupping will reveal the stashes of ripe, sweet green coffee. Coffee that was carefully picked at the peak of ripeness. Carefully processed, dried and stored, protected from extremes of temperature and humidity and odours. The first hint will be at the opening of the bag. An intense aroma will signal good thing to come. I eagerly embark on this journey by taking the first steps. My bags are packed. I may be gone for a while…