Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Barismo's Guatemala Nimac Kapeh (Atitlan Region)
After I wrote a review of Ritual's Kenyan Kiandu, Muthecka Co-op coffee (review here), I received an e-mail from Jaime van Schyndel at Arlington, Massachusetts-based roaster Barismo saying he has the same coffee but at a different roast level, and offered to send me some to review. Barismo sent me that coffee and this one, the Guatemalan Nimac Kapeh (Atitlan Region). I'm reviewing the latter first.
I received this coffee three days after it was roasted, and have been drinking it for more than a week now, prepared it several different ways. Each preparation showed a different facet of this coffee, though I preferred a pour over the best.
Wet pour over grounds had an interesting scent of lavender (more of a hint, actually). In the cup I found red apple acidity, toasted wood notes, some red fruits and it finished with lavender and pink grapefruit components.
As a French Press prepared coffee, I found a stronger chocolate profile, with coco powder leading the toasted wood and baked apple pie notes. There was also an interesting beefy flavor, sort of like the juices you'd find on your plate while cutting into a medium-cooked steak.
In the small cup, my espresso machine highlighted different spices in these beans - along the lines of nutmeg and cinnamon, followed by deep layers of currants and milk chocolate.
Like many Guatemalan coffees I've tried, this isn't a powerhouse. It's not going to bowl you over with huge flavors like an Ethiopian or Kenyan coffee would. But it has nice subtle layers and has a complexity that would be lost in those other coffees.
The other thing I noticed in this coffee was the roast notes as a toasty, wood-like flavor. Unlike overroasted coffee, these notes didn't overwhelm the other flavors, it added a nice layer to the cup, much like oak barrels can, if used sensibly, impart added structure and flavor in wine.
Barismo describes the coffee's flavor profile this way:
"Tea like, floral, and a mellow soft red fruit acidity.If I knew enough people had tasted Teaberry gum, I'd use teaberry to describe this coffee but you just have to trust me on that one."
"Dry Aroma(the grounds): Soft Cherry
Wet Aroma(brewing): Cherry Blossom
Hot Cup: Dark Oolong Tea, Ripe Cherry, Soft Red Fruit
Aftertaste: Brown Sugar
Cool Cup: Raspberry and Red Fruits"
The coffee sells for $14.95 for 12 ounces - a nice price for a coffee of this quality.
The coffee was vacuum packed at origin, meaning that it wasn't exposed to the elements during transportation like coffees packed in jute bags are. This is a really great development for the coffee world, and Barismo stores all of its green coffee beans in vacuum-sealed packages (whether they were shipped that way or not, though they are trying to get all of their coffees vac-sealed at origin going forward). What this does is slows down the aging process, keeping the beans fresh until they want to roast them.
I was e-mailing Jaime about this, and he described the problem with "unprotected" green coffees stored in jute bags:
"Aroma fades first, then acidity turns, then finally sweetness gives way to hard wood. You can compensate up to a certain point. As far as the moisture problem, we approach our roasting drastically different than the traditional roaster, so I am not sure many people can gather much from our notes. The best way I can describe it is that you can push a vac packed coffee harder to get more from it and the coffee can come out rounder and deeper in it's flavors. The same profile to an older coffee in jute would show the baggy or 'agey' notes."
I've had coffee from specialty roasters here in San Francisco where the aging was evident. I won't name names, because I don't have proof, but these coffees should have had bright acidity, lively flavors, and instead tasted dull. You could tell something was missing. This wasn't the case with both of the coffees I had from Barismo. I'll have more about them in my next coffee review of their Kenyan offering.
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