All of us here at Seattle Coffee Works are such coffee fanatics that we find ourselves talking about coffee almost in terms of an alternate reality.
When we named our Guatemala-East Timor blend Chocolate Truffle we didn’t take into account that to everyone else this sounds like a flavored coffee. To us Chocolate Truffle tastes like pure hot chocolate; most folks in this world would describe it more like a smooth and balanced coffee “with a hint of chocolate.”
Admittedly, we’re a little over the top with our descriptions. With that said I think it’s time for an update on what direction the Seattle Coffee Works roastery has taken in recent months, and what new coffees we have recently received.
Our long-term goal is to move towards a direct-trade model. That means we’re aiming to directly import coffee from farms with socially and environmentally sustainable practices, partnering with individual farms and coops rather than sourcing our coffee from importers who often give us very little background about the coffees sold. Most coffee today is traded anonymously through a chain of middlemen; the model of “fair-trade” certification seems to be only a partial fix to ensuring basic ethical standards.
Some larger roasters have started promoting a “direct-trade” model; yet most of the coffees they sell continue to lack certification let alone a verifiable pedigree. Check it out at the roaster of your choice next time you’re in their store: their best-selling espresso blend usually has no sticker on it. From this little hill it looks like they are pursuing a smart marketing strategy, no more and no less.
Currently we’re doing no better than those roasters but certainly no worse either. Our long-term goal is to source 100% of our coffees directly.
Our Colombia Huila “Monserrate” is a first step in that direction. This highly rated coffee comes to us directly through Atlas Coffee Importers, one of the several importers we use to find the most outstanding coffees. We wish we could get our hands on more such direct-import coffees with a known pedigree; we’re certainly willing and able to pay a premium for this kind of coffee. While this is the way of the future, it seems at this point the only way to make direct-trade happen is for us to grow large enough to start importing directly ourselves.
Having the most conscientiously sourced coffee can be no substitute for a winning taste. Coffee – just like chocolate, wine, and ice cream – has to be delicious; otherwise it has no place in our lives. We have learned that our preferences in coffee do not necessarily predict what our customers like.
One good example is decaffeinated coffee. While decaf drinkers are in the minority, we have come to respect them as true coffee connoisseurs. Decaf drinkers like coffee for its taste alone. Initially, we paid little attention; with our latest green-coffee buy we have improved a little. Try for instance the water-processed Costa Rica, which has an aroma of sweet candy and a good deep body. Both our Sumatra and Guatemala decafs also display desirable profiles of those origins. And then there is our Decaf Chocolate Truffle – well you have to try it for yourself to go crazy over its deep chocolate notes as we did.
Another good example is our new Harrar Longberry (Grade 4) which we sourced through Walker Coffee Trading company. It’s back to a close-to-optimal taste profile – notes of blueberry, fruit, and simply a tasty coffee.
For whom if not for our customers?
When we started Seattle Coffee Works we were focused almost entirely on espresso drinks. At first we didn’t even carry “drip coffee;” we simply brewed up coffee blended for espresso once it was too old to use in the espresso machine. When our customers wanted to buy coffee by the pound we sold them espresso blends as well. We theorized that espresso blends are superior to any “drip coffee” out there. We were wrong about that.
Through our Taste-Off 2008 we discovered that our customers much prefer blends with the medium body of the Central and South American origins. About a month ago, our Atlantic Blend was born. While it’s “smooth” we think it also has plenty of personality to please the true coffee connoisseur.
Speaking of coffee connoisseurs. Our new Chocolate Truffle blend is certified organic and shade-grown (Guatemala); did I mention it’s sumptuous?