Peace Spokes from Peace Coffee
 
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by Keith Tomlinson, Peace Coffee Head Roaster

How many cups of different coffee need to be sipped before a new blend is created? Fifty? Seventy-five? Maybe one hundred?

Snowshoe Brew and Pollinator simultaneously started as a brainstorm. A way to provide something new to the customer, a chance for creative blend making, and a celebration of seasons and the flavors, energy and habits that come along with them. In fact, they started on the same table, each intuitively split into winter and spring based on the prevailing characteristics in the cup.

A new blend starts with parameters. What is your end goal? What are your available components? We already know our goal and the coffees available spanned the globe, from Ethiopia to Oaxaca, the Dominican Republic to Peru. Each new blend begins at the cupping table, tasting each one of the potential components on its own to see, literally, what it brings to the table.

Take three cups per origin (in order to test for consistency of flavor) times nine possible origins and you get…

27

Once the origins are tasted, then blending ideas start to form. This part is the art. One can only conjecture based on their individual cup profiles what two or more coffees will do when they are allowed to intermingle with each other. Ideas are formed and entirely different products are created. Each one has to be evaluated on its own, blind, with no preconceptions of how it will taste. Again, three cups per blend, times eight ideas equals twenty-four cups for a total of…

51

Now abstract ideas come together to form concrete flavors. Does idea number four feel like winter? What about idea seven? Spring? That day four of the coffees on the table seemed appropriate for winter and four for spring. Ethiopian coffee from Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union seemed to be that essential “spring-y” note. So, Pollinator rested on Ethiopian coffee -- simple right? No, of course not. The four finalists had to be cupped, three cups each of course, and one had to be chosen, and this cup would tell us what our final components were. Three cups times four finalists equals twelve cups.

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We know our components. The winner has Mexico Michiza, Guatemala Chajulense, and Ethiopian Sidama. But what are the right ratios, and how do we roast them to get what we want, or the best that they have to give? Variations. Five this time. Some different percentages of the components, some roasted and then blended, some blended and then roasted, and one, just out of curiosity, with Ethiopian coffee from Yirgacheffe thrown in. Each variation, three cups. Three cups times five variations equals fifteen. Our running total…

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And it turns out that the exact right component, the thing that took it from being good to brilliant (both exceptional and bright) was the Yirgacheffe. Three coffees, Mexico Michiza, Guatemala Chajulense, and Ethiopian Sidama, blended together and roasted just shy of a full city roast; once cooled, a separately light-roasted Yirgacheffe is added. One final cupping is then in order. A formal one, with five cups this time, to provide the official final score. Five cups of one official Pollinator blend.

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And here it is, the fruit of 83 cups of development -- spring in a cup, the Pollinator:

A complex cup blending notes of caramel and ginger sweetness with a brish, black tea-like flavor, hints of chocolate and a crisp, refreshing finish.

Roast Level: Light-Medium
Acidity: Medium-High
Body: Medium
Aroma: Sweet citrus and spice, honey, milk chocolate, bergamot and roasted almond
Flavor Notes: Butter caramel, candied ginger, citrus fruit, Pu-erh black tea, and apricot.

Of course the tasting doesn’t end there. We keep returning to all our coffees to ensure their delciousness, slurping, spitting, tweaking the roast on a regular basis. And any total cup count would need to include the innumerable gallons of coffee that we consume on a daily basis, but those numbers would just be guesses. Eighty-three cups is what brought us to the first official batch.

Enjoy...

Keith

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