Now that I am not a total coffee novice, I have made the extreme (caffeine-induced) decision that new bean related challenges are in order. I have trained my eager taste buds and they appear to be keeping up, now able to detect at least the top three flavour layers in a cup. I have now fully admitted to myself that instant coffee is just a means to an end. Its purpose (though servile) is still vital. But the taste buds need their muscles flexed, so I have dedicated this week to the extreme coffee bean trial. Let the fun begin…
First up in the ring is Kopi Luwak:
Kopi Luwak are coffee berries which are found in South East Asia and are famous for being the most expensive coffee beans in the world. As well as the tastiest and the most refined. Recommended to me by friends, with a twinkle in their eye, this bean is one of a kind.
What make this bean special is the process it goes through to get from coffee cherry to cup. It is fortunate to be eaten by the Asia Palm Civet and then excreted. The bean is left behind and harvested from the, well, from the poo. Why, oh why, I thought initially would someone ever ever ever consider drinking something which had been to all intents and purposes rejected as waste by another living creature?
But there must be something about this oh so magical bean; it is the most expensive coffee in the world after all.
The beast in question, the Civet, gives us only the best beans, by eating the largest and juiciest during the digestion process. This ferments the beans perfectly so they are pulped and ready once they have dried. The flavour of these beans is refined and heightened by this process. Or so they say. I wrestle with my bank balance and order some with trepidation, tongue tingling.
Second on the hot list is the Peaberry, or Caracol:
This is hot contender, racing to the finish line with a hefty reputation to defend. Some call this the champagne of coffees, so I’m eagerly anticipating this one. The peaberry is so called because these are rounded with a cleft in the middle, one bean within each coffee cherry instead of two. Rejects in a former life, these beans have emerged victorious into the world of harsh coffee standards. They are now among the top echelons of bean glory. These tend to be found at the end of branches where less sap reaches the cherries or where the blossom is blown off so effecting the cross pollination process. They contain more flavour because it is concentrated into one bean.
Due to the soft round shape they roast more efficiently as the heat is distributed evenly throughout the bean. The flavour can be slightly acidic and complex in the upper aromatic ranges…apparently. So I’m going to have to nurture my taste buds to their full potential. I have a feeling these might become an old fave.
Third to step up to the fight, is Yirgacheffe:
This is a renowned, gourmet Ethiopian coffee which is a wet processed coffee. Oooh I can feel the caffeine expanding my mind. Once the pulp is washed off, these beans are fermented and dried which produces a clean cup off coffee.
This coffee is described as benefiting from a medium to light body with spicy and chocolatey quality. Did someone say chocolate? I’m hooked already.
If I was paying proper respect to these beans I would carry out an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, with incense burning and pound the beans with a pestle and mortar. But I won’t. I don’t think I can quite stretch to roasting them over a charcoal brazier.
And the final competitor and a true veteran to the race, Old Java or Old Government:
This wonderful bean is a traditional old brown Arabica bean from Java which harks back to the traditional roots of coffee and the slave trade itself.
These are particularly mature coffee beans which have been held deliberately in warehouses, usually located in port cities to mimic the flavour characteristics of the original Java coffee of the 18th and 19th Centuries. This was carried on ships during the passage to Europe for extended periods of time, infusing the wood aromas and salt from the journey.
Once all the extreme beans have arrived I shall have a coffee trial, direct competition. I’ll try them one by one and see which is the winner. This will be tough, but in the name of coffee I think I can do it. Will I do each bean justice? Check back to see the results.