January International Gourmet Coffee Month

Articles
January 12, 2009

January International Gourmet Coffee Month

What better way to kick off the year than to taste your way through the finest gourmet coffees from your favorite merchant? January is a celebration of gourmet or, as the industry likes to call it, specialty coffee, grown with focused attention to nurturing, harvesting, and, ultimately, roasting the beans to release their ultimately satisfying flavor.

What better way to kick off the year than to taste your way through the finest gourmet coffees from your favorite merchant? January is a celebration of gourmet or, as the industry likes to call it, specialty coffee, grown with focused attention to nurturing, harvesting, and, ultimately, roasting the beans to release their ultimately satisfying flavor.

Gourmet at the Source
Like wines, gourmet coffees come in unusual blends, reflect the singular taste of their countries of origin, and even more commonly now, are representatives of single estates or regions within a country. For example, elegant Kenyans,  rarely grown with chemicals, are among the most highly prized of gourmet-level coffees. Instead of a generic (albeit delicious) Harrar or Kenya AA, opt for beans from specific regions like those of Kiambu, Nyeri, Thika, Meru, Muranga, Ruiru, or Kirinyaga. Or, consider the redolent Indonesians for their consistent and flavorful cup. Branch out this month with selections from Sulawesi or Timor over the conventional Sumatra, or scour the web for selections from Java, Bali or Flores for new experiences in coffee pleasures. In fact, whatever your favorite country of origin for coffee is, explore its many varieties…you may encounter exceptional excitement to the palate. 

Gourmet via the Roast
The beans have been plucked, dried, and sorted to remove all detritus. Now it is time for the roaster to take these sage-colored beans and roast them with an attention that involves sound (to hear the first or second cracking), smell (to detect the richness before a burn), touch (to rotate the beans for an even roast) and taste (to make sure that all went well to honor the bean.) The over-riding roast of the last decade has been the darker ones from French to Italian to "Seattle" roasts. We believe it's more than time to explore the softer city or full city roast which provides a creamier taste with a clearer coffee fragrance and flavor. These city roasts are easier to digest, go well with both savories or sweets without overshadowing either, and seem to reveal the true character of the bean that renews a passion for coffee even in the most ardent fan.

Gourmet in the Preparation
The finest beans, the best roast, the most careful grind are all important, yet the brewing technique is a critical, final step in revealing the best of the bean. This month, consider patronizing shops that serve coffee in ways other than large-scale brewers or allowing the brew to rest in airpots. The new Japanese and Korean coffee shops sprouting up are a case in point where each cup is individually brewed, served elegantly--even reverently--and worth every single tantalizing drop. We especially love coffee preparation equipment like the dramatic vacuum pot, two glass bulbous carafes, one sitting atop the other where the coffee is literally siphoned from one into the other. This machine says "laboratory" but the research is conclusive, it makes enough fabulous coffee for you and several friends to enjoy, and provides a great deal of entertainment when you watch it work. If such a technique leaves you too bewildered, please consider the French press. It's simple, requires no electricity, and you'll get your own pot-per-person in coffee shops or you can opt for a variety of sizes for home use. Hot water saturates the ground beans, the right brewing time elicits the best flavor, and extraction via the push-down "press" of the equipment provides the perfect extraction of the most prized gourmet coffee.