Time for the week's most leisurely cup of coffee.
Place and ambiance add so much to our perception of flavor and this is a good cup: freshly ground, pressed, made by someone other than me, enjoyed in my pajamas.
But I attended one of John Piquet's coffee classes at Caffe d'Bolla last week, and a cup of coffee I drank there will remain my Platonic ideal of the perfect cup. Everything else is bound to be a shadow on the cave wall.
I've attended lots of wine classes. Until Tuesday, no coffee classes. A small group gathers at Caffe d'Bolla after hours and gets serious about coffee, or espresso or whatever the night's topic is. This was basic beginners' tasting. Every cup is ground and siphon-brewed before your eyes and nose while Piquet, with the prompting and comments of his wife Yching, gives you an hour's worth of his vast coffee knowledge.
After a brief talk about coffee basics–each coffee bean has over 200,000 cells; coffee has three times more flavor components than wine; a bit about the chemistry of brewing– we were offered a cup of grounds to sniff and a cup of coffee to sniff, taste and compare.
The coffee? Starbucks Dark Sumatra. Predictably bitter and stale. Piquet explained why so many coffeehouses over roast their beans, the meaninglessness of best-buy dates, the importance of fresh grinding. he walked us through Ted Lingle's Coffee Cupper's flavor wheel and tainted flavor wheel.
Tasting the next two coffees, cleansing our palates with water and crackers between sips, stirring the grounds to arouse the aroma,
we used the wheel and made our own flavor notes, first for a cup of Ethiopia Illubabor Camp Cooperative (tasting of peach and mango, with notes of toasted hazelnuts) and then the crown of the evening, my Platonic cup, Guantemala Huehuetenango Finca Rosma (I think I have that right) which won the 2010 Cup of Excellence. Starting with a honeyed, floral aroma it progressed to deep cherry flavors.
If you're curious about good coffee–and if you like coffee, you should be curious–sign up for a class here.