19 June 2008

The Fruit Rind

The last few days have been exhausting, but wonderful. I had a visit from my sister and her spouse, who is a very kind young woman. She works at Starbucks (in fact just had someone fired by her manager so that she could be promoted to such a position of authority), and was so kind that she used her own markup to buy me a pound of one of their latest coffee releases: Organic Sumatra-Peru(vian). And, given that this blend of Starbucks is about to come "off the shelves", I thought it rather pertinent to taste it for y'all.

I couldn't wait, really, to try it today.

Now, I will admit that the beans were in one of my vacuum-packed containers for about a day before trying it this morning, but I assure you it's a safe area for the vacuum-packing. And, I prepared it the same way as I always do.

I give this preface because although the nose and preparation of the beans is excellent, the actual brew is disappointing. Initially I had the smells of potting soil, macadamias, and palm oil; then a bit later, still before grinding, there existed hibiscus, magnolia, jicama, and what I can only describe as "first rain". After brewing but before tasting, this "first rain" concept was reaffirmed, with riverstones, just a hint of white fish, and finally, just at the tail end, came pine nuts. There was absolutely no tinge to the nose (in other words, nothing that gives the hair an overwhelming, crowding-out tingle or "buzz"), and the entire bean was crisp: something I applaud anywhere I can find it.

However, this may have only served to set the brew up to fail. I won't go quite that far, by saying it has failed, but I will say that the mouth is a huge let-down comparatively. I remember very clearly tasting it, appearing confused, tasting it again, and then simply staring into the cup with the kind of quizzical look on my face that is typical of English expectation, I'm sure. It's acidic and hollow. It feels like the outside of an oyster shell, and fruit rind. This last term I like quite a bit, and have decided that in a nut shell, such is the name for this brew. It's wildly expectant, but misses the mark to the point of almost suggesting the wrong approach entirely. It is like when buying an orange at the store, washing it, and then biting into it flush. One cannot enjoy the promise of the fruit because the rind is in the way, and no one bothered to peel it first.

I have no idea what Starbucks was thinking other than a good market strategy, but they missed the process with this batch, and they either know that smell determines most of the taste (when not tasting for separate senses) and "covered over" the low bean-quality with extra processing, or they want to deter people from organic altogether so that they might continue with a less-expensive means of production. This first option might be confirmed by noting the language of the "Food Pairing" and "Origin Notes" on the product website, which I didn't check until after my own review here was finished. It may make a good everyday brew, and you can still access the product by clickin' on the title. And I understand that sniffs can disappoint the palate, depending on the roasting procedure. But, disheartened, I would not recommend it unless at least mixing in a bit of milk and sugar.

All the best,

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