A few weeks ago, four Twitter-ers got together to initiate a coffee exchange. It was dubbed The Great Coffee Exchange, Spring 2012. Daniel Nettleton, David Simon, Randy Levine, and myself, Drew Moody (pleased to meet ya), picked a coffee from our favorite local roaster and sent equal shares of it to the other three participants.
I picked Passion House of Chicago, Randy picked Rojo’s Roastery of Lambertville, New Jersey, David picked Barismo of Boston, and Daniel picked Bluebeard Coffee Roasters of Tacoma, Washington.
Unfortunately, a mix-up occurred in the mail and I never received my package from Bluebeard. Both Daniel and the owner of Bluebeard, Kevin McGlocklin, felt terribly about the mishap and, so, sent me another pound batch and a second consolation 1/2 pound package.
Today we are, at long last, going to taste Daniel’s submission in the Great Coffee Exchange.
Before we get into things, let me first make mention of a little bet I made with McGlocklin: that I could write an entire review of one of his coffees without making one reference to pirates. Think it can’t be done?
Watch and learn, dear Reader.
Or be prepared to walk the plank.
Avast ye maties! Welcome to my table, here in the corner of this cafe. The grog we are going to be swigging today is Guatemala Los Volcanes Antigua, from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters in Tacoma, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Los Volcanes is a collection of small farms about 40 kilometers away from the city of Antigua, Guatemala.
The Antigua valley, one of Guatemala’s oldest and best-known coffee growing regions, is home to some of the best coffee-growing conditions that Gaia Earth has to offer. The valley’s volcanoes and shallow water table create a dry micro-climate with low humidity, with lots of sun and long, cool nights.
The coffee region of Antigua is an enclosed valley formed by three volcanoes—the Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego. With a flat or gently sloping terrain, it is unlike the other, more rugged coffee-growing regions of Guatemala. Most of the coffee trees are planted on the valley floor, which sits at 1,500 meters, and some farmers cultivate the slopes of the volcanoes up to 1,700 meters.
The soil here in this region is rich in minerals, nutrients and sediments which are ideal for growing unique and outstanding coffee. All of the coffee plants are shade grown under gravillea trees and carefully hand-picked and selected
origin: Antigua, Guatemala
farm: Los Volcanes
elevation: 1500-1750 meters above sea level
cultivars: Yellow Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of the Los Volcanes when I open the package is a wonderful mix of chocolate and berry; while it’s brewing, though, the scent shifts to caramel and a flutter of floral aromatics.
Immediately post-brew, this cup has a slow pour of cocoa and almonds, floating in on a syrupy bed. It’s sweet and smooth and each sip finishes crisply. After it cools off a little bit, the cocoa melts into a chocolate syrup flavor, a belly of fruits begins to rise up—I’m picking up tastes of juicy red delicious apple and slightly tart, sweet raspberry.
At room temperature, the chocolate flavors vanish while a very smooth and sweet caramel takes charge. The apple flavor becomes juicier, the raspberry flavor gets sweeter, and I’m getting a few more flavors out of the bottom of the cup: blueberry, strawberry, pear, apricot, nectarine, some floral notes (lilac), and a zesty lemon acidity presents itself; it’s a little sour, but the cup is so balanced and so well-rounded.
Light body; silky mouthfeel; zesty acidity; clean finish, slightly lingering aftertaste.
the bottom line:
This cup of coffee, the Guatemala Los Volcanes Antigua from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, was a real treasure. It had a crystal clear clarity, like the sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea that Bluebeard himself sailed so many years ago, was very smooth and clean, with a crisp finish that was satisfying.
This cup is everything you want a Guatemala to be, a Yellow Bourbon varietal to be, and an all-around great cup of coffee to be.
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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.