January 02, 2006

Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart

by peterb

Every time I've tried fair trade coffee, I've had bad luck. But Green LA Girl has good things to say about it, and I like the way she writes, so I will keep trying it until I find a good one.

Today the Starbucks downstairs from my office was selling Café Estima, their fair trade blend, fresh. So I had to get a cup to try it out.

My initial impression was nice: it has a light body, and seemed to avoid the overburnt taste that many Starbucks blends have. The body is light, almost thin, but that's not such a bad thing. The front notes, in other words, were all good. The middle taste was not very daring, but that's ok. I like a bit of a sour note in my coffee, and this didn't have really any boldness on that front at all. But it was still drinky.

On the back end, however, Café Estima loses big time. It's bitter. I don't mean bitter as in "coffee," which is good, but bitter as in "medicine," which is bad. The overall effect was that I was wondering who had snuck into Starbucks and dosed my coffee with stale quinine. Worse, the taste lingers for a long, long time. The only solution is to drink more, thus overwhelming the finishing taste, until you swallow, or to eat or drink something else afterwards. "I need to eat something else to get the taste of this coffee out of my mouth" isn't my idea of a fabulous taste extravaganza.

I'll keep looking for a good fair trade coffee. Starbucks "Komodo Dragon" roast is quite good. They call that a "pacific ring" coffee, which for all I know, probably means the raw coffee beans are picked by heroin-addicted sex-slave orphans in Myanmar. Therefore, my working theory is still "oppression and exploitation makes the coffee taste better."

Posted by peterb at January 2, 2006 10:07 AM | Bookmark This

Try Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. I used to order from them years and years (more than a decade) ago back when their catalog was just a handful of photocopied pages. Great stuff then.

Recently, a friend -- also someone who lived in PGH for a few years -- gave me some freshly roasted beans from GMCR. Now I remember why I ordered from 'em.


Posted by bbum at January 2, 2006 04:45 PM

Another option you might try for fair trade that's not wildly overpriced (9ish a pound on their site, but 7 for most of the other stuff...) is Lola Savannah out of my home town. I find that their fair trades are comparable with my 2nd tier favorites.


But what I really love is Dominican Montana Verde coffee. I think it has fantastic balance, holds a darker roast without seeming charred and compares really well with it's high altitude Jamaican neighbor at 1/4ish the price. Not for those who love big grunty earthy coffees above all, but for me it's the berries.

Google it for sources - I get it from Central Market (Ha ha! It's Whole Foods, but better - cheaper, tons more selection, generally fresher and, quite importantly, less twee/holier-than-thou! One of the compensations of living in Texas I suppose.)

Posted by Will C at January 2, 2006 05:23 PM

Ok -- I'm sending you Monkey & Son Krakatoa as a late holiday present. I think the Velvet Hammer'll be too mild for you. Thus, Krakatoa. Watch out for it in the mail.

Posted by green LA girl at January 2, 2006 10:01 PM

Far be it from me to deny the sweet, sweet taste of evil, but isn't the most rational explanation for your experience that when you're buying non-'fair' coffee (let's call it Invisible Hand coffee) you're spending more money on coffee and less on social engineering, feel-good branding, and guilt management? Hence, better coffee?

And ultimately do you really want to find a 'fair' trade coffee you can drink regularly anyway? Do you really support the project, or just Green LA Girl's writing? I actively avoid the stuff because I resent others trying to impose their moral judgments on my transactions. What could be 'fairer' than paying the market price for a commodity?

Speaking of, I want to market Papal Indulgence Tea for Catholics -- every bag includes a little note from Papa Ratzinger waiving your time in purgatory for any economic sins or usury committed throughout the supply chain. Naturally, this added value costs extra. Plus, the money thus collected goes to support important social projects like blocking condom use in Africa, thereby repopulating purgatory with sinners. Win-win-win-win.

Posted by daw at January 3, 2006 05:36 AM

Dude. We would make A MINT. Have our people at the Vatican get on the line, STAT!

Hmmm. On a vaguely related note, now I can't get the word "gefiltetea" out of my head.

Posted by peterb at January 3, 2006 09:23 AM

Please help support Tea Leaves by visiting our sponsors.

November October September August July June May April March February January

December November October September August July June May April March February January

December November October September August July June May April March February January