Notes from the Cupping Table: February 2024

Posted by Lauren Lathrop on

Even for a short month, February flew by. During the past 29 days, we had the chance to cup 43 different coffees. About a quarter of those were purchase samples we considered for our greens, retail, and class inventory. The rest were production roasts, cupping as part of our QC program, and evaluation cuppings that customers send to us for critique and constructive feedback. 

Here are some takeaways from our side of the table. 

Papua New Guinea Wahgi Valley

For darker blends and single origins, we look for sweet and earthy coffees from Indonesia. For the past few months, a terrific Java from the Frinsa Collective has filled that spot on our toll roasting and green coffee menus. It's time to start shopping for a replacement coffee, so we brought in a sample of a coffee from the Wahgi Valley in central Papua New Guinea.

The PNG sample was a delight. Notes of dried fruit, cocoa, spices, and roasted chicory were supported with a medium/heavy body. Bryant noted a pleasant herbaceousness and sweetness that reminded him of a Twix bar (a top-tier Halloween Candy). The earthy and spicy notes give us confidence that this coffee will perform well at darker roast levels, and the per pound price is a little lower than our current Java. The savings will help us keep our costs controlled on our Espresso for Darker Roasts pre-blend as the price central American component fluctuates. We grabbed five bags. 

Democratic Republic of the Congo

During our February class, a friend from Cafe Imports tipped us off that they had some new coffees from the DRC that were worth a look. It's been a while since we tried coffees from this region, which borders more well-known coffee producers Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. We sampled two offerings for reference to see if either would work for our retail greens program. 

Both samples were unique and distinct. Sample #1, from the Bugarula Micro-Station, was floral and fresh with flavors of jasmine, sugar snap peas, and a savory element like sweet cherry tomatoes. Cup #2, produced by a Women's Project, was fruitier with notes of raspberry and pomegranate. The notes from Cafe Imports included "Tangy malic acidity and sugary sweetness" which we agreed with. These coffees were very nice and we so appreciated the chance to try something different from Africa, but after tasting another group of coffees from Rwanda, we ultimately went in a different direction. 

Rwanda COOPAC Kirorero

Maybe this was a little over-ambitious, but we brought in six different coffees from Rwanda to taste. It's a region that we love, but haven't carried since 2021, so it was time to revisit. Of the six samples, two caught our attention. One was from the Kabirizi region of Kigali, which is the same coffee we carried in '21. The other, which we decided to purchase, came from the Kirorero region a little farther south. 

Kiorero Kaganza is an organic coffee composed of Bourbon, Jackson, and Mbirizi varieties. The sample had a sweet, caramel apple-like fragrance and bright, lively acidity. Bryant liked its sweet and starchy quality, like a banana, and said it reminded him of gummy bears. The description on La Bodega's website says this coffee is "Sugary, sweet and savory with tart, tangy acidity, sugarcane juice, black tea and grapefruit flavors."

We're excited to add a new coffee from Africa to our greens page - look for it online in the coming weeks. 


A photo of the Kirorero Kaganza station, courtesy of Cafe Imports

Notable mentions

In our cupping table wrap-up from January, we mentioned a coffee from Peru that we'll be keeping in mind when it's time to restock. This month, we checked out another option from Cajamarca just to see if it was better. This one was very nice, with flavors like brownie, baked bread, and toasted macadamia nuts, but we still like the FTO Norte more and we'll be buying that when we're ready. A good reminder to keep your options open, but also to trust your gut. 

We're working with a customer from Ethiopia who now lives in the Twin Cities, helping him build new profiles for two coffees sourced from his home country which we will eventually private label for him. Last week, we did an initial sample cupping on a washed and a natural coffee from him, and, reader, these coffees are beautiful. It feels unfair to talk about them here since you can't buy the greens and the roasted product isn't available yet, but both cups were just classic, lovely representations of everything people love about Ethiopian coffees. The washed was delicate, floral, and crisp and the natural was sweet, fruity, and well balanced. We are so looking forward to profiling these coffees and getting them out into the world for others to enjoy. 

If that all felt like a lot to read, just imagine how it felt to taste. What coffees are you shopping for or excited about as we wrap up the month of February? 

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