El Salvador Orange Bourbon
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I’m a very fortunate person. Running a coffee review website has given me the opportunity to try some of the best coffees this country has to offer—shipped directly from the roaster to my doorstep on a regular basis, usually free of charge. While some roasters might do it to take advantage of a great free advertising opportunity, I believe that most of the roasters are genuine in their generosity. Then there are the sort of roasters who I’ve come to really love—those who send me stuff because they genuinely want an outside opinion of their coffee.

The folks behind Oil Slick Coffee Company are like that.

Not so long ago, I received an email from the founder of the still recently-founded company; he expressed interest in having a couple of his coffees reviewed here at the Table.

I, of course, was all too happy to oblige him. So a few days ago I received a care package with a beautiful note and two coffees—one from Ethiopia and the coffee we’re reviewing today, which hails from El Salvador.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of El Salvador Orange Bourbon, from Oil Slick Coffee Company in Alexandria, Virginia. Feel free to pull up a chair.

The Orange Bourbon is a meticulously hand picked and processed coffee, developed at Finca El Molino—one of Santa Ana, El Salvador’s finest and most innovative coffee farms—and it has a really interesting history.

Several years ago, famed coffee producer and good friend of the Table, Aida Batlle, was working with Jose Antonio, owner of Finca El Molino, when they discovered this new, mysterious natural mutation on the Red Bourbon trees. At the time, it seemed like a lot of work for very little, if anything, in return.

Fortunately for us, she convinced Jose to separate this unique phenomenon and cup them for quality. The separation had begun and they have been farming the Orange Bourbon lot ever since.

the basics:

origin: Santa Ana, El Salvador
farm: Finca El Molino
elevation: 1300 – 1500 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

The aroma coming off the El Salvador Orange Bourbon is nice—really nice. Caramel collides with apple and citrus, while lightly floral aromatics lilt out of the cup.

After sniffing this cup’s incredible aroma, I wasn’t expecting the first few sips to be so roasty; but they are. As a matter of fact, this is the sort of roastiness that I typically experience with a Peet’s coffee. It is over-roasted, yes—but there are still recognizable flavors in the cup; so at least it’s not completely charred. It has some faint hints of caramel and cinnamon, but, yeah—that metallic roastiness is pretty overbearing.

As it cools off, I wish I could say that the roastiness backs off, but it really doesn’t. It’s still right there in the center of the palate—very dominant.

Medium body; juicy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; dry finish.

the bottom line:

This was an over-roasted coffee—one that was abrasive and really attacked the palate.

The El Salvador Orange Bourbon, from Oil Slick Coffee Company—as we’ve seen before at the Table—, is a gorgeous coffee; one that is graceful, and elegant, and refined, and subtle. This is a coffee that needs to be roasted with a lot of respect and approached very cautiously because its flavors are very finicky as it is.

The good news, though, is that this coffee isn’t beyond all hope. It certainly wasn’t a perfect coffee, but it also very certainly wasn’t the worst coffee I’ve ever had. Far from it. While there is still a lot of room for growth, this cup did have some nice attributes to it as well.

I wish I knew a thing or two or three or ten about roasting, because I’d really like to be able to offer possible diagnoses. Unfortunately, the best advice I can offer is “Keep at it, man. You’ll get it.”

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