One of the two clear winners in the cupping, this coffee's delicate, sweet top notes and complex aromatics attracted a bouquet of admiring adjectives, including caramelly (the favorite), floral and fruity. "Good blackberry flavor and aroma with complex floral overtones." "Best coffee of the bunch. Very close to outstanding." One admirer felt let down after the aroma, however. First: "Wow! Tangy, floral grace notes." Then: "Not quite as exciting in cup as in nose."
By Kenneth Davids
September 1st, 1997
Although the overall rating earned by this coffee was the same as the rating for the preceding Larin pacamara, the comments were less effusive. No exclamation points, and the poker-faced praise-word "nice" came up twice: "nice berry (raspberry) tang"; "sweet nice but fuzzy." In the comments the body of this coffee was admired more consistently than any other in the cupping: "full"; "buttery." The absence of off-notes, the sweetly fruity acidity, and the fullish body together seem to have lifted this coffee to the top of the cupping.
Sweet-nuanced words like nutty, fruity and caramelly dominated reports on this coffee. "Interesting combination of aspects," said one. I found the acidity a bit hard behind the fruit tones, but almost no one else complained. One cupper alone found a defect: one slightly dirty cup out of (presumably) three.
Blind assessment:I found considerable intrigue in this coffee: subtle grace notes and substantial dimension in the upper registers. Only one cupper fully agreed with me, however: "Very interesting coffee." Another admired the cup but took it for granted: "Acceptable standard for Central American cup, nothing to write home about." I would have given this sample my highest score if I hadn't detected something off in one cup. I had company here too: Another panelist encountered one off-cup of three which he characterized as "sour," while another noted something "grassy, twisty" in the aroma. For me the problem was a suspicious lushness in the acidity.
Blind assessment:Scores were solid with almost no complaints, but again, not much was offered in the way of enthusiasm or praise. "Great blender," said one, which led me to think about the difference between a great blender and a good blender. A great blender, it would seem, is a coffee that decisively strengthens or empowers other coffees without imposing itself, like a dinner guest who doesn't have much to say but makes everyone else at the table wittier and more graceful. Perhaps a "good" blender, on the other hand, just sits around amiably without causing problems. Be that as it may, I'm not sure everyone would agree with the "great" adjective either. Two panelists found something a little hard or suspect in the acidity. Only one mentioned a defect, Don Schoenholt, who in a charming and inspired outburst of cupper self-parody wrote: "Slightly soapy aftertaste note sure if it was Dove or Ivory unscented in one of three cups."
Few complaints here, but not much enthusiasm either. At least no one called this coffee ordinary or boring. "Excellent coffee," said one, "although repeated cuppings left me with a feeling of 'something lacking.'" "Doesn't go anywhere," I observed. However, one of the cuppers felt this coffee came "back with a second level of depth; a good, full cup." Perhaps the rest of us weren't patient enough.
A familiar story: Some like this coffee's soft expansiveness, others found the profile boring. In the affirmative: "wide-bodied and mellow"; in the negative: "dull, lifeless." Four cuppers picked up chocolate notes. The subtle acidity also attracted both support ("bright and fruity"; "brisk") and criticism ("some unpleasant astringency"). My particular sample displayed a marked difference among three cups, with one exhibiting a flat hardness that betrayed the overall sweetness and depth of the other two.
Almost everyone remarked on the paradox of an acidity that read as complex and fruit-toned, yet oddly hard. "Very good taste but not refined, bright and brassy"; "winy but flat"; "sharp yet sweet"; and most succinct: "fruity sour." Several remarked on the perfumes in the aroma and top notes, variously characterizing them as fruity, floral, and winy.
Two contributors admired this coffee for its soft sweetness. Everyone else found it commonplace: "A bit flat, though pleasant and inoffensive"; "Okay, nondescript." The most outspoken condemnation: "Flat, dusty, institutional." Curiously, although most cuppers found the taste flat, several cited piquant nuances: herbal, spicy, etc. Perhaps the piquancy suggests the potential of this coffee and the flatness is a weakness caused by rushed fermentation or errors in handling or storage. Support for the latter hypothesis comes from one very specific assessment: "Slightly musty in the cup."
Most of the wallflower coffees near the bottom of the rankings managed to seduce at least one or two of the Cupping Board with their soft sweetness. I fell for this one. I found it light but pleasingly subtle and complex in the upper registers. I wasn't completely alone: "nice, mild coffee"; "smooth"; "nutty, caramelly." But a majority found little interest to offset the light body: "common"; "not very exciting"; "crispy but boring." Furthermore, three found the acidity a little edgy ("a touch sour"; "harsh"; "raw"). Another reported a yeastiness in one of three cups. I understand the characterization of this coffee as common but not the complaints about the acidity. Perhaps this is another case of variation among individual samples.
A decent coffee ruined by a probably avoidable defect. Parts of the bag from which our samples came apparently picked up moisture during storage. Some individual samples (perhaps from the top part of the bag) cupped cleanly and sweetly, but most displayed either a rope-like taste called baggy (cited by five cuppers) or the moldy-basement taste called musty (two cuppers), both defects typically caused by post-processing moisture. Inspection of this coffee revealed more visual defects than displayed by any of the Itzalco coffees in the cupping, which may indicate something additional went wrong before the coffee went into the bag.