As mentioned in a recent post, Xandari was joined last week by one of Doka Estate’s coffee experts, Natalia Vargas, who gave a presentation on the estate’s process of growing, harvesting, and preparing coffee. The presentation also involved a coffee-tasting session so that we could see… er… taste the fruits of Doka’s hard work. This latter part of the presentation is what I’ll be mostly focusing on in this post. I don’t want to give too much away, in case I spoil the fun of visiting the Doka Estate for yourself when you’re next staying at Xandari, but seeing as it was a very informative and enjoyable a presentation (at least for a coffee lover), and that Xandari should soon be in a position to capitalize on the knowledge in its own coffee endeavors (most recent post here), I thought I’d spill just a few of the beans here, no pun intended.
Natalia first walked us through the actual growing, selection, and harvesting process. All the beans at Doka originate from plants already there and stay there their throughout the entire process of growing and harvesting, up to the time when they have been dried and are ready to be shipped off to roasters (if still green) or stores (if Doka does the roasting) around the world. Most of Doka’s beans will end up in American coffee retailers, but some can be got right in Xandari’s gift shop if you’re interested. Seth will be covering the nitty-gritty of the processing aspects in a future post–that is, how the beans are grown, selected, and made ready for consumption–so I’ll leave us with just those hints and the following picture of green coffee (granos de oro) and forge ahead:
We had four Doka coffees to try in the tasting session: House, Peaberry, French, and Italian espresso. With the exception of Peaberry, the different types of coffee do not represent different beans but rather different levels of roasting. House “blend,” more precisely “roast,” is the lightest of the roasts; then come Peaberry and French, both roasted to a medium-dark level but differing slightly in the bean style (read how here); finally, Italian espresso, the darkest of all the roasts. The difference in roast level can be clearly seen in the picture below, or the picture linked here:
The House blend style coffee is that which is typically served in a large carafe or thermos in the morning at Xandari’s restaurant, and Xandari’s espresso machine makes use of the Italian roast.
After discussing the various levels and qualities of roast, we made trial of the “fragrance” and “aroma” of each. Seth and I learned that “fragrance” refers to the smell of the dry coffee beans, while “aroma” refers to the moist smell wafting onto your nose from the coffee once it’s dissolved in the water. As can be seen in the second picture from the top or the picture immediately below, there were two small cups for each roast of coffee. We used one to smell the fragrance of dry beans and one to savor the aroma. After we had smelled the beans, Natalia poured hot water over micro-ground coffee, resulting in the frothy mix you see here:
Coffee drinkers will recognize the “cream” on the top of these cups of coffee. The cream is a part of a cup of coffee, but is also identified as one of the most bitter parts. Natalia explained to us that the proper method is to stir the cream into the cup, preserving the intense coffee flavors but cutting the great bitterness of the cream by itself. The aroma of the coffee is certainly a different experience from the fragrance of the beans: although the fragrance is punchy and crisp, the aroma is softer, moist, yet still pungent. It overpowers your nose, and Seth and I fancied that we could pick out flavors like chocolate, caramel, and lemon from the intense olfactory experience.
We tried and retried each coffee variety, looking for better ways to describe the blends of sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and smoothness that each roast possessed. Peaberry, for example, was slightly sweet and slightly more acidic than other flavors; the Italian, as can be imagined, was full-bodied, earthy, and clean.
We wrapped up the coffee tasting experience–truly an edifying experience for all involved (mostly Xandari restaurant’s wonderful waiters) but especially for me and Seth who are used to quaffing coffee without much thought for the care behind its production–with a discussion of the different ways coffee can be brewed. Percolation, espresso, French-press, filter (paper and metal), you name it. Each has its own way of catching the coffee’s flavor, and Xandari offers many of them. Make sure to have a cup of the Doka next time you stop in!