Trends....and other things to avoid.
At the risk of sounding snarky, stiff or averse to all things hip, I suppose I'm going to have to start offering overt opinions about coffee trends here on the West Coast...and probably other stuff too. That's what a blog is, isn't it? Unsolicited commentary by those who never quite achieved the status of a bonafide Talking Head? But here I am, getting ready to unleash adjectives into the blogosphere.
So, trends in coffee. I don't follow them. Now that's not to say that I don't engage in a bit of espionage. I do, which is to say that I visit cafe's that feature the coffees of other roasters. Sometimes this is a helpful exercise. Any covert coffee cupping experience that sparks a pang of jealousy motivates me to up my game or seek out a heretofore never experience flavor combination. This is fun stuff for me. Roasters NEVER give up their secrets, so the game is: what single origin coffees in what combinations roasted in what particular style could produce this flavor? I do like a good mystery.
In running this little covert operation however, I have experienced a mystery of another sort. Some of the cutting edge roasting trends, at least here in Sacramento, are, well, kinda baffling. Allow me to be more specific. The potential flavor components available in Arabica coffees are extraordinary. According to experts there are approximately 800+ discernible flavors ranging from delicious to disgusting. With regard to my individual palette, I enjoy a fraction of these potential flavors and aromas. For instance, I very much enjoy chocolate, nut, caramel and some fruit such as berries etc. The coffees I enjoy have these taste components in copious amounts. There are others, lots of others, that increase the complexity and depth of experience. As you might imagine, there are other taste components that could be less enjoyable such as dirt, loam, grass, metals such as copper, mushroom etc. Now these later tastes are considered flaws that would inspire any coffee roaster to reject prior to purchase. There is one component however, that has gained quite a following in the past few years: citrus. More specifically Lemon.
Lemon. Hhmmm... I like lemon. I like lemonaid. I like lemon as a garnish with sushi. Goes well with most fish for that matter. But, lemon with my espresso? "Come on Man"! Now I'm not referring to Cafe' Romano, which is an espresso served with a slice of lemon, in other words an espresso wherein you can exercise your God Given Right NOT to spritz your espresso with the most face puckering fruit known to man. I'm talking about lemon IN the coffee afforded in part by under-roasting the coffee. This is a trend that I choose not to follow. Now by bucking the trend I might well be restricting my available customer base. Maybe it's just the consequences of having an older man's palette and the requisite stubbornness that come with advancing age. I don't know. Don't care either, because when it comes to whether to go with the trends or go my own way I opt for...
...the Stevie Ray Vaughan theory of life and business management.
Which will be the subject of my next blog.