This is a guest post by Henry Foote, of Ascension Coffee in Dallas, Texas. If you are interested in writing guest articles for the Table, feel free to contact me.
In an homage to the familiar comfort that a house full of family invokes, as well as the drama and trauma that can spring forth, we offer our latest limited-time-only seasonal espresso blend: Cabin Fever.
This blend is comprised of 50% Altos del Abejonal, Costa Rica; 25% Karatina AB, Kenya; and 25% El Alto, Costa Rica.
Altos del Abejonal, Costa Rica
Outside the town of San Pablo de León Cortés, in the Tarrazú region of Costa Rica, Mauricio Vidas grow Caturra and Catuai variety coffees at elevations touching 1915 meters. This will be our fourth season offering coffees from Alto de Abejonal, named for the honey bees that reside on the mountain. Mauricio processes all of his coffee on the smallest of the Panagos aquapulpers that he hot-rodded himself.
Once pulped and washed, the coffees are then dried on raised beds and sorted by hand. With 5,000 new coffee plants, including the Villalobos Typica variety, we should be seeing more and more excellent coffee from this farm in the years to come.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: I, unfortunately, could not find much background information about this component.)
El Alto, Costa Rica
The folks at Ritual first came to know the coffees from the Los Crestones micro-mill through coffee from one of it’s most celebrated farms.
Grace Calderón Jiménez grows these Caturra variety trees 1885 meters above sea level on her one-hectare farm, El Alto, near La Piedra de Rivas, Costa Rica. The coffee is processed at Los Crestones Micromill, a diamond in the rough in a region that is not generally known for the quality of its coffee.
Nevertheless, at these elevations, with cooler temperatures, the maturation of the cherries is slow, developing the complex acidity and sweetness.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Cabin Fever Seasonal Espresso, from Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco, California. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: San Pablo de León Cortés, Tarrazu, Costa Rica // Nyeri, Karatina, Kenya // La Piedra de Rivas, Chirripo, Costa Rica
farm: Alto de Abejonal // N/A // El Alto
producer: Mauricio Vidas // smallholder farmers // Grace Calderone Jiménez
association: N/A // Barichu Farmers Cooperative Society // Los Crestones
elevation: 1915 // 1700 // 1450 – 1950 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Catuai // // Caturra, Catuai, Villalobos, Typica
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The first sip yielded that wonderful tartness I taste in a ripe grapefruit or Blood Orange. It was an exciting acidity that made me immediately want another one. On the second pass the body came into play and balanced out the bright acidity with a sweetness and depth like an apricot or plum. The texture was velvety and viscous like warm honey (SCAA definitions like “whoa”) without being too heavy and oppressing my tongue. The sweetness was perfect, elevating the flavors of citrus fruits and lending depth to a heavier red fruit note (pomegranate?). The finish was smooth and the tartness faded away to a warm, sweet caramel coated apple.
the bottom line:
Ritual is known for their lighter roasting style and many have tried to follow their lead without producing a coffee that retains complexity, balance and depth. Cabin Fever is evidence of just how damn good a light roasted espresso can be and why so many people have followed in their footsteps. What’s more impressive was the fact that I received this sample at the same time their stores got bags of Cabin Fever. For a first run of a blend, it’s damn near perfect.
Dialing in Cabin Fever was not difficult. The espresso was pulled consistently and gave me a lot of feedback on any small adjustment I made in my dose, grind or pressure. Thankfully Ritual does a great job of providing information to help zero in their coffees, but the espresso was talkative enough to give me any information I needed to coax it into the sweet spot. Many espresso blends react to change the same way a 1960’s Buick would react to steering input: slow, lazy and lends to over-correction. This stuff was a Ferrari on a racetrack, and told me everything I needed to know to steer it in the right direction. Quick to respond and a lot of fun to play around with. That being said, the sweet spot is pretty small and it took a few shots to really nail that perfect mix of acidity, sweetness and body.
I read Ritual’s notes after making my own and they summed everything up perfectly: “…reminiscent of your favorite Old Fashioned cocktail.” It was one of those shots that made me say ” Oh wow man, come try this!”
The Cabin Fever seasonal espresso is testament to how much time and effort Ritual Coffee Roasters puts into constructing it’s espresso blends. To those who would speak ill of blends, I will say “Try some Cabin Fever and then we’ll talk.”
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about the author
Originally born and raised in New York City, I was first exposed to great coffee in Chicago. The Wormhole blew my mind with my first taste of excellence and I was trained by Intelligentsia as the manager of one of their wholesale accounts.
Since then I have moved to the Lone Star State and now work as the Head Barista and Director of Coffee at Ascension Coffee in Dallas, Texas.
My passions outside coffee include my family (back up in NYC), my wonderful girlfriend Bri and classic American muscle cars. Though still a Yankee at heart, I can now say “Texas forever, baby!”
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.