Notes from the Cupping Table: April 2024

Posted by Lauren Lathrop on

April seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Even with a break from our group roasting classes, our team stayed busy! A few of us hopped over to SCA Expo in Chicago to connect with old friends and customers, we hosted a few private trainings here in Minneapolis, filmed two videos - a roaster rundown & roast along featuring the 2kg electric coffee roaster and we cupped about 40 coffees. 

The big focus for this month, as mentioned in last month's cupping recap, was updating a few of our flagship blends with fresh crop components. We also hosted a few tastings with customers who are joining our Toll Roasting program, helping them select coffees to build their first menu with and sharing recommendations for how to plan out their online catalogue. 

It's beautiful in Minneapolis right now. We've had some rain, some sun, and some wind. All of this spring weather has resulted in new growth; bright green spots creeping all across the city, and tiny flowers poking up everywhere we look. Just like bees to the garden, our coffee team swarms around the cupping table looking for the tastiest options. 

Here are some highlights:

Peru Cajamarca Sol & Cafe Cooperative

Another Peru?? We go through a lot of Peru when it's in season and we needed to find a second replacement for this type of coffee on our Toll Roasting menu. This coffee comes from a cooperative farm that's been producing Fair Trade Organic coffee for over 15 years.  

Both of the Peru samples we considered at the beginning of the month had notes of malt, chocolate, and wood. A sample that we passed on also had dominant notes of nuts with earthy and herbaceous flavors. This offering from Sol y Cafe piqued our interest with vibrant, fruity acidity. Notes of raisin, black cherry, and orange peel, with a lightweight body. We love Peru coffees that have darker fruit flavors, they tend to be flexible in the roaster and take on darker profiles will while maintaining good sweetness. 

As soon as we selected this coffee for Toll and our retail greens page, we requested samples of fresh Guatemalas. Now that we're a week into May, we know that a new FTO Guatemala will take the place of this Peru on our greens page. But the Peru was desperately needed for our espresso blend, see below. 

Updated Espresso Blends 

The beauty of carrying blends is all in the eyes of the customer. These are coffees that are reliably available, consistent in flavor and solubility, and at a price point that seems to never fluctuate. For the roaster, blends can be a source of stress and a labor of love. Running low on a crucial component in your blend can create anxiety, especially as the volatile C Market results in price swings of almost $1 per pound. 

Our Espresso for Lighter Roasts is a blend that is designed to be crowd-pleasing and approachable. The base coffee is a natural processed Brazil, nutty and chocolaty and available year-round. To that, we add a coffee from Latin American to bring better sweetness and body. Finally, a washed coffee from Ethiopia creates punctuated acidity and red fruit flavors. The Latin American component can be a coffee from Mexico, Peru, or Colombia, depending on the season. 

We tasted the blend with each of these options last month. The blend with Mexico as the component coffee was high-noted and bright with flavors of citrus pith, lemonade, and green apple. With the Colombia, the acidity was still too high with notes of "zippy" lime and tart Smarties candy. Finally, the version of the blend with the Peru component brought everything back into balance. In that cup, we tasted cherries, chocolate, and strawberry with a creamy body. It hit the notes we aim for in our Espresso blend, so we knew it was the winning iteration.

FTO Guatemala Huehuetenango

Guatemala is on the medium-to-small size as a producer and they only have one harvest season, so coffees from there will come on and off our menu more quickly than large growers like Brazil. When we shop for a Guatemala, we're looking for a sweet coffee that's great on its own and plays well with others as part of a blend. Sometimes, these coffees can present as a little too nutty or vegetal, so we're careful to look for an offering with good complexity and layers of flavor. 

When fresh crop Guatemalas arrived on the Cafe Imports portal, we requested two different samples. One of them had a few of the notes we tend to shy away from with Gauts; green flavors like sugar snap peas and fresh cut grass. It was good but a little too tart for us, with characteristics like red currant and cranberry. The other sample was more nuanced and balanced. Our cupping sheet noted sweet and rich fragrance, grape, cocoa, red licorice, and a clean mouthfeel. 

Later in the month, we tasted this coffee again with a new member of the roasting team as an introduction to our line-up. Roasted at a more developed profile, the notes listed milk chocolate, brown sugar, and dried apricot. It's a lovely coffee that we're excited to roast with students and highlight on our Toll Roasting menu. 

Want to read more? Check out last month's notes from the cupping table.

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