Last Friday I drove myself through the mess that is downtown LA traffic to Cafe Demitasse to have my reserved cup of Hacienda La Esmeralda Geisha from Equator brewed in a siphon. It was an epic fail on my part. I was reminded that not only are my brew skills wanting, but so is my palate’s ability to separate brew notes and even basic flavors. It was an excellent cup of coffee, but at this point I can’t put into words what my palate is tasting without some prodding. As soon as Jack mentioned what he tasted in it I could feel my palate getting slapped in the face and opening its eyes to what had been sloshing around it for the last 10 minutes. Did I find a subtle hint of Jasmin? No, I am certainly not that perceptive, but I wish I did becuase that sounds like a delicious flavor to find in a cup of coffee. I did find an abundance of orange citrus flavors, I’d say satsuma if I thought that sounded even the tinniest bit not ridiculous.
This brought to a head something that has been nagging me for a while now. I make a lot of espresso. I’m very good at rebuilding and restoring the related machinery. I’m pretty good at dialing in and pulling a shot. What has worried me is whether or not my palate is capable of really picking apart the flavors hiding in the cup. I think I have an improving sense for espresso, it being what I drink 90% of the time. I’m somewhat sympathetic towards those who take SO espresso to task for being the simple-palate’s espresso drink (but as a home roaster I disagree with the negative spirit of a lot of that particular line of criticism). I’m hoping with more cupping, tasting, and drinking I will see some improvement in the near future.
UPDATE – I spent a weekend in Denver around the 16th Street Mall and was reminded of how really awful most generally available espresso is. Nothing was good. I have to say that this particular area is rather touristy and not, I would think, indicative of the good coffee that a larger city like Denver probably has to offer. It was just a reminder of how niche really good coffee still is. And what burnt beans taste like.