April 24, 2012


Panama.  The Panama Canal.  That Van Halen song that worms into your ear.  Panama City, which turns out is a huge, metropolis next to the ocean with skyscrapers and huge video screens advertising Panasonic and the accompanying walls scrawled with graffiti and street art.  And it's one of the cheapest cities in the world to live in.  Weird. 

But Panama mostly brings to my mind:  Hartmann.  Hartmann Honey micro-lot #7, to be exact.  That was a great coffee.  One that was brought to us from the Hartmann farm through Ninety Plus.  Ninety Plus - you know them.  They sourced some of the great Ethiopians in our delicious coffee history.  Currently, Tchembe.

Ninety Plus invited me down to see their new farm in Panama, called Ninety Plus Gesha Estates.  It was my first trip to Panama and to a farm covered entirely by Gesha trees, though to my novice eye they didn't look that different from their cousins.  But they are different.  They ripen later in the season and their ripe cherries are harder to pluck from the branch and the flavor of their roasted seeds is outstanding.  

I walked around with my nose and ears perked up, taking in the amazing rainforest scents of exotic and mysterious flowers and trees and grasses, and the sounds of bugs and frogs and birds and the wind playing a song in the Gesha leaves.  And the indigenous coffee pickers, though unseen, working and chatting and calling out to one another.  I tasted the fruit.  And it was good.

We don't have any coffee from Ninety Plus Gesha Estates yet, but I hope we get some this year.  Until then, we have a bit of coffee from their neighbors, the Hartmann family, who were kind enough to take me into their farmhouse and drive me around to see the most beautiful and well-kept coffee trees I've ever seen.  Truly situated in an old-growth forest with towering trees all around.  Try our Panama Ojo de Agua and discover a melange of cinnamon, caramelized pear, and brown sugar.

Hear more about my trip to Panama on the next episode of the AA Cafe podcast (#80).

April 02, 2012


I've spent a lot of time in the woods, but not lately. Time has passed these 8 years of the DoubleShot and the sun has been shielded from my formerly-pigmented skin by the trestled roof over my roaster, and I miss the rustle of leaves overhead and the crunch of sticks underfoot.

I was back in the saddle recently, mountain biking at Turkey Mountain - our local urban wilderness. It's been a long time since I've pedaled on singletrack so the flow is dampened and my skills are weak, my balance is off. But I found myself on a twisty, leaf-covered path, spinning and smiling. And smelling. It wasn't until I smelled that familiar aroma of damp earth and chain lube and sweat that I really felt like I was mountain biking.

Smells are a powerful reminder. They set the stage. They burrow into your brain and connect themselves with events and places and people. Like mountain biking, everything seems to have its particular smell, and if you cross it up it's like a red flag. Something's not right. Smells have context.

I was in Panama recently, visiting a farm that is planted with more Gesha trees than you can shake a stick at. The rolling mountains are beautiful in the Volcan region, and I enjoyed climbing its hills to see the monstrous, enveloping rainforest and to hear the call of foreign, tropical birds and to feel the waxy leaves of adolescent coffee trees and to taste the fruit at the summit which looked like the sweet, delicious oranges we'd been eating down below, but turned out to be the sourest lemon I've ever put in my mouth. Repulsively, addictively sour. But what I loved the most were the smells. The unexpected aromas.

As I was walking by myself, I suddenly smelled something I'd never smelled before. It was a flower, but it wasn't just floral, it was fruity smelling. It smelled sort of like a cross between blackberries and jasmine. And I followed my nose and looked for flowers or fruit, but this smell was concentrated under a 10-foot waterfall raining fragrance down from a nearly-nondescript tree bearing teeny tiny purple buds. And I stayed and sniffed and soaked in this sauna of aromatics. What an amazing sensation.

That evening I was hanging out with Steve and Reid from Ninety Plus, the sun was beginning to fall behind neighboring peaks and we began to saunter back up to the farmhouse. But just as dusk began, the long row of goliath pink and white flowers that looked like showerheads pointing down from tall, leafy branches turned from scentless ornamentals into ladies of the night. Their perfume captivated me and it felt like I was in highschool again and love was in the air, and I swore that if we bottled that fragrance we'd be rich. I was later told that the scent is hallucinogenic and old ladies used to put it beneath their pillows at night to help them sleep.

The fragrance of this year's MADURO is equally as captivating. I've tasted it several times already in the name of science, because I want to make sure I describe it to you correctly. You're welcome. You have to go through this with me after you buy it because this coffee is just amazing. Get your water ready for brewing and then grind the coffee. Or just grind a handful so you can enjoy the fruits of so many hands - mine being the last, as I roasted our first batch of the year for sale tonight. The dry fragrance this year is heavy on the tropical fruits. I smell pineapple. Not the crappy pineapple at the grocery store; the fresh pineapple sold by the lady at the fruit stand in the central square in Concordia, Colombia who loves to carve the thorns off the outside and cube its meat and watch me delight in flavor and acidity. Fruit punch. Raspberry. Now pour water on the freshly-ground coffee and the aroma transforms into rose. The most fragrant roses that grow tall and thorny outside your grandmother's house and taunt you to put your nose in their silky petals. The fruit definitely remains, more nondescript tropical fruit, accompanied by sweet, beautiful honey. Honey in the nose. I've not even drunk it yet, but the honey vapors tickle my nose like pollen from a Bradford Pear. That sweet honey transcends into the cup, and as you taste it you'll taste what we're talking about - the raspberries and pineapple return in your mouth with great acidity and a body to match. But this cup isn't finished. Don't drink it too fast. Drink it slowly and taste it as it cools because once it's cooled to where you might not normally drink it any more, it tastes and smells like banana. Like a big Belgian Quad, but softer and sweeter. Banana pudding.

I guess I'm trying to say I like it. I think it's better than last year. I think it is a little cleaner in the cup and has more complexity than last year's, which was the most amazing coffee we sold. And Maduro is the only dry-processed Colombian coffee in North America. So you should come and taste it, and enjoy it, and linger over it, and take some home with you. We're selling it this year in 12 ounce canisters for $20, which I think is a huge value. It goes on sale tomorrow, so come get it.

Also available on the webstore: www.DoubleShotCoffee.com

Thanks to Ariel Montoya and Cristina Garces for producing such a beautiful coffee for us. Thank you!