It’s that time of year again. Time to welcome family and friends with sights and aromas that recall warms memories of seasons past. What better time for the gift of coffee? While there are many wonderful concoctions you can make that include coffee, simple pleasures are often more enduring.
Let’s say your hosting your own holiday party and you want to do something a little different. Why not offer a coffee tasting? Brew single origin coffees from around the world—Africa, Indonesia, Central America—and arrange them so that your guests can taste and talk about the differences. Offer small tasting cups. Display a map of the world with your particular coffees marked. Ask your specialty coffee roaster for a little research so that you can share with you guests interesting details about the coffees on your table.
Single origin coffees have very interesting stories and your roaster is a great source for this material. In specialty coffee, every effort is made to establish a relationship between the grower and the roaster, with both sides working together towards quality and sustainability to achieve a mutually beneficial goal. For example, at our roastery we offer a Guatemalan coffee from the Antigua region that comes from a single estate, “Finca El Valle,” which is owned and operated by third-generation coffee farmer Cristina Gonzalez. Her estate is a sanctuary for migrating birds, does not rely on pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, recycles their water used in coffee production, composts, sun dries their washed beans, and is a model of sustainability. Every year we meet with her at her home to discuss crop productivity and quality, review her costs of production and come to an agreement on crop price for the coming year.
Guatemala Finca El Valle would be a great choice for a holiday tasting, as it is often described as chocolate-infused, heavy caramelly body, with rum and spicy notes. To accompany the Guatemalan on your tasting table, you might offer a Sumatran and an Ethiopian coffee. The Sumatran will give you a heavier body with a nice herbal acidity, a hint of bell pepper and cedar and perhaps a touch of sweet tobacco. The Ethiopian will probably astonish you with its sweetness–classically blueberry, often candy-like (I once heard someone describe the taste as “grape bubblicious”). None of these coffees are boring.
By the way, these flavor notes are inherent in the bean and come from the variety of coffee plant along with the growing conditions of the region (sometimes referred to as “terrior”). Nothing has been added. In order to taste these notes, your guests ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT add sugar or cream when tasting!
Don’t want to have a party? Then let’s talk about coffee as a gift. Those of us who are no longer children appreciate a gift that can be used up, consumed. Delight your family and friends with a coffee that might be new to them. Include a story from the region. If you’re in the mood to splurge, add a cup, a travel mug, a brewer. Most specialty coffee roasters create a limited edition blend for the holidays, typically formulated to provide a satisfying counterpoint to the extra rich food of the season, and this coffee usually comes in special holiday packaging.
What about yourself? Why not treat yourself to a high quality, very limited production, microlot coffee (ask your roaster or your favorite coffeehouse)? Try something different. Next time you’re in your favorite coffeehouse, ask your barista to help you select a coffee you’ve never had. Ask them about the body and flavor notes you might expect from that coffee. Ask if they have any information about the region, the farm, the people. When you get home, put the Blackberry in another room. Close the laptop. Brew a pot of coffee. Invite a friend. Talk to each other. Simple gifts. Happy Holidays.