What’s That Flavor?
So, I’ve been thinking about what factors most affect the taste of coffee.
Roasting? Varietal? Process? Terroir? Micro-climate?
For the sake of discussion we have to approach this is with the assumption that all involved in the process are doing what’s best for the coffee. It’s obvious that the roaster could turn up the gas and make any coffee unrecognizable charcoal. Or the mill could leave the coffee in the fermentation tank too long. “Natural” coffees could be left to mold. Sure Sure. This is why we need to run on the assumption that everyone is doing the best work possible. This is also not an indictment of any roasting style, growing region, or coffee process. What I’m interested in are people’s opinions of the level of influence of the above factors. Currently, based on my very limited cupping experience and little else, here is my opinion in order of most to least influence.
Look at coffees such as the much fabled Panama Esmeralda Especial Geisha or Aida Batlle’s Finca Kilimanjaro and its “Kenya” varietal.
I remember the first time I tasted the Idido Misty Valley. It still had the jasmine, Darjeeling, lemon character of a Yirgacheffe but tasted like it had on a BooBerry sweater. The Natural process was evident and powerful but it couldn’t hide that Yirg flavor.
Roasting is a skill and art. To preserve and accentuate those flavors naturally present in the coffee and not obliterate them is tremendously difficult. Much respect to those who can do it.
Then I feel it’s micro-climate followed by soil. I have little to back this up other than feeling. Jamie wrote an interesting piece about soil and micro-climate here.
Again, I am certainly not any where close to an authority on this. Which is why I hope that those out there with more to offer on the subject will chime in.