Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coffee Counting (and tasting!)

Where: Waialua, Oahu, HI
When: August 19, 2010

As if getting to witness the coffee roasting experience, as well as get educated on the production and processing of coffee wasn't enough, after THAT Derek invited us back to his office to learn about grading and tasting coffee!

So, grading coffee involves taking a sample of a batch of coffee - the size of the sample is always consistent - and going through each and every bean to see whether there are any with a weird shape, or discoloration, or mold, or anything that looks funny. This sample was split up between three people, so it didn't take so very long, but I imagine doing it on your own gets pretty eye-watering, so it helps to use a nice brightly-lit magnifying glass:

Once you've separated out all the weird/funky/not-quite-right beans, you weigh them, so you can get a ratio of good to bad beans in that batch. Of course, based on the banter we witnessed between Shawn (aka Dr. Coffee) and Derek, some bean counters are pickier than others.

Oh hi Shawn! You just drink your coffee there, no one's talking about you. ;)

The reason that the coffee grower wants to do this, is that coffee is assigned grades by the state, so there's an inspector who is going to do this. And if you can estimate what grade the inspector is going to give the coffee, then you can estimate your profits, because of course the better the grade, the more expensive (and, in theory, delicious) the coffee.

While counting beans, we got to drink some delicious coffee and also taste some awesome chocolate!! Coffee and cacao like similar growing conditions, so they are usually grown on the same plantations. At least, I assume that's why that happens, I'm not actually sure. But the point is - chocolate!!

That's Derek in the back, explaining stuff. The big hunk of chocolate in the front there was a gold medal winner at a recent chocolate convention, apparently - it was awesome. It was a milk chocolate, and had a lovely, delicate, complex and slightly fruity flavor. Delicious. And next to it on the right is some dark chocolate, which was also fabulous.

I am currently savoring a delicious cup of Derek's Waialua Peaberry coffee which I got to take away with me from this, and it is probably the most delicious cup I've had since I've gotten back to the mainland. I'm going to be awfully sad once this is gone. I'm going to have to go on a hunt...

If any of you happen to be in Hawaii, and want an awesome coffee education and to get to taste some delicious coffees, get in touch with Shawn! While he primarily consults with coffee growers on how to grow the most delicious coffee possible (apparently growing conditions have a tremendous impact on the taste of the final product - coffee is a lot like wine, actually), he also does private cuppings/tastings for us every day folks, and every time I talk to him I learn something new and awesome. Plus, he is delightful to hang out with.



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This is my first blog attempt. It hasn't been kept up over the last year, for some reason being pregnant really ate into my creativity, and I picked up the camera very rarely. I am thinking about starting it up again, but am not sure what direction to take it in.

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