Some have asked what the plants are in the shop. They’re coffee plants! At least some of them. But don’t get to eager for superfresh Cantonian coffee. A coffee tree doesn’t start bearing fruit until its third year and generally doesn’t produce a good crop until the fifth. Being in Ohio I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting any variety to grow well, so we may have to wait a bit more than five years. But after they are producing, we should get about a pound of coffee from each tree per year, and since about a pound will brew around 50cups, and right now we have 4 plants doing well, we’ll get about 200cups of Cantonian coffee per year! Well….... I’m excited.
Last time I talked about the coffee plants in the shop, so I’ll write a little more today on coffee growing. The plants generally prefer shade, or little direct sunlight, so in many areas the plants are grow under a canopy of native plants, or imported shade trees. In other parts of the world, including Hawaii, the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, and the Mandheling region of Sumatra, the weather is so wet and air so humid that the plants are not grown under shade at all. In other parts of the world including Yemen and Brazil the coffee is grown in direct sun. GENERALLY, the higher the bean is grown the better. Beans grown at altitudes between 3000 to 6000 feet usually mature slower and thus produce a smaller, denser, bean with less moisture and more flavor. There are exceptions to this rule however, as some of the most celebrated coffees are softer bean.
The successful growth of the coffee plant and the final taste of the coffee brew are also controlled buy the species and variety of the coffee plant. There are several species of coffee, the most common being robusta (hardy plant but is at best neutral in the cup and often tastes like cardboard) and Arabica. There are also many varieties of Arabica including the most common bourbon and typical varieties, not to mention all of the hybrids of these varieties. The varieties and hybrids control the speed and type of growth as well as the taste of the brew.
Rioy, what an odd word. Rioy is a coffee tasting term. Perhaps you've noticed the word on the coffee taster's flavor wheel we have posted in the restroom, but probably not. So to get everyone on the same page, rioy is a taste fault possible in coffee caused by the acids in the bean changing chemically and can be divided into three more specific taste faults - iodine, carbolic, and acrid. Rioy taste kind of like the air in a hospital operating room. To say that the taste is "medicinal" can be misleading because to someone who generally doesn't care what rioy means, when hearing that something taste "medicinal" they could think of all sorts of medicine tastes like cough syrup, which isn't what rioy is! Rioy is like a mixture of iodine, alcohol, and acid. Cousins of rioy are fermenty and rubbery. Fermenty is a lesser degree of the taste fault, and while Arabica beans can get rioy if the coffee cherry is left on the tree to long, Robusto beans can get rubbery. The term is usally associated with Arabica shipped through Rio de Janeiro, hence the name.
We receive this question somewhat frequently since we serve Jamaican Blue. The price of JBM is high because of supply and demand. The supply of JMB is low because space on those Blue Mountains is limited, and demand is high because JBM coffee is is unique and tasty. First lets look at the supply side of it. Jamaican Blue Mountain is unfortunately one of the rarest coffees in the world. The coffee must be grown on the eastern part of the island of Jamaica on the Blue Mountains in the parishes of Portland, St. Andrew, and St. Thomas between 2,000 to 5,000 ft. , and come from one of the five certified estates. The climate and environment in that area is a big part of what makes JBM so delicious, and the area with this climate, and space to grow coffee on it, is little. Of the five certified estates, Wallenford and Mavis Bank are the most prominent, then there is Old tavern, Silver Hill and Moy Hall which is a co-op created from the older farms. Also, keeping in mind that Jamaica is a very minor coffee producing nation, only 15% of Jamaican coffee is authentic JBM. Of the JBM that is produced, the majority is exported to Japan.
Now to the demand part of the equation. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee can taste very good. It is extremely well -balanced in flavor, with an excellent body and a nice medium acidity (rare in coffees with such a nice body). JBM is smooth, clean, balanced, sweet, and mild. Our JBM from the Wallenford estate also has pleasant nutty-cocoa-herby notes. The coffee is delicious, thus demand is high. Even though coffee is a commodity (second only to oil), in the case on JBM I feel that the price is slightly over-inflated because of factors other than its quality and its supply. The JBM name has an ultra-premium feel (it is the only coffee shipped in barrels, not bags) such ultra-premium products often have a somewhat inflated price. The question I usually get after why JBM is so expensive is "Is it worth it?". To which I normally reply that yes, it is worth it if you enjoy and are in the mood for a full-bodied, medium-light roasted, smooth, clean, balanced, sweet, mild cup of coffee with a medium acidity. We offer JBM Per cup or pound and if you see JBM much less expensive then that, it is most likely not 100% certified JBM, be sure to read the label.
As some of you may know, most of the plants in our shop are coffee plants. Well, next time you happen in, take a look at the coffee tree on your immediate left and you will see a ripening coffee cherry! Inside that little coffee cherry are two green coffee beans. Once the cherry is bright red (optimum ripeness) I will pick it off the tree, remove the pulp and parchment (inner covering), and store the green beans until I have enough to roast, brew, and sample a cup. Most of the plants are from Kona, Hawaii, but I don't really expect the cup to be great. Because while Canton may be a great place, the altitude does not lend itself well to quality coffee production.