Blueberries In My Coffee, but Where's the Raspberries?

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Blueberries In My Coffee, but Where's the Raspberries?

Postby onocoffee on Tue Jul 04, 2006 7:08 am

Okay, correct me if I'm wrong...

My understanding is that an Ethiopian Natural Process Harrar can demonstrate strong blueberry notes.

Back during NASCORE 2003, I went with some friends to visit Stumptown's 3rd and Ash store and had some of their press of the day. It was a Harrar that had such a strong blueberry note that it knocked my socks off. It was one of those "Eureka" moments in my coffee learning.

But I really don't know much about Harrar than that one experience and the occasional whiff of blueberries I smell as I'm grinding the Hines.

I've also heard that the last couple of years' crops did not have as strong a blueberry note.

Can someone point me in the right direction of which coffees display this blueberry characteristic?

Also, is there a coffee that exhibits raspberry notes?

Thanks!
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Postby Matthew Kolehmainen on Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:58 am

I found the Bolivian COE #1 2005 (that is offered on the Clover at Artigiano) had some raspberry and tea-like flavours. I don't know if any other Bolivians would exhibit this.

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Postby Tim Dominick on Tue Jul 04, 2006 9:23 am

The natural Yirgacheffes offer some pretty intense blueberry pie notes. I'd say, having just eaten the first blueberry pie of the season (along with eating enough berries to make a civet jealous,) that it isn't just "blueberry" in harrar or nat. yirg. I'd describe a really nice natural ethiopian as a combo of honey, brown sugar, butter, blueberry and pie crust.

Raspberries, I'd agree with Matthew, in a few Bolivians and I've found it in a few lots of Peruvian coffee from San Antonio and Jaen. Almost like the lots were knocking on the door of ferment, but they were rescued just in time.

Damn, making me hungry for the berry patch...guess I'd better eat them before the birds.
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Postby LiftOff on Tue Jul 04, 2006 3:14 pm

I've got a Natural, Dry processed Sidamo that has intense blackberry notes, especially in the dry aroma. I was getting hints of it when I was grinding small amounts for cupping at the roastery. When I brought a bag home and ground up enough for a couple of press pots for company, the blackberry aroma filled the kitchen. Everyone was standing around looking at each other saying, "do you smell blackberries?".

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Postby Peter G on Tue Jul 04, 2006 6:02 pm

Harrar is an amazing place, it's like a biblical desert. It is the most forbidding place I have ever seen coffee grown. The sun is so strong and the environment so dry, however, that it is the perfect place to execute the dry ("natural") process. The coffee is grown on tiny family plots, picked, dried either on mats or on the ground in the sun, and then the dry fruit (now brittle like a husk) is removed, usually using a giant wooden mortar-and-pestle or a hand-cranked husking machine.

The best dry-processed Harrars have strong blueberry notes, it is true. Interestingly, though, this is not at all consistent lot-to-lot. Since there are few if any large farms in Harrar, and since most small farmers sell to either co-ops or exporters (like Mohammed Ogsadey and his "Horse" operation) you can never taste the product of a single farm or producers, they're always mixes of some kind.

When I say they're not consistent lot to lot, I mean: you might taste 20 lots from a co-op and only 3 might exhibit the blueberry characteristic. It is not perfectly clear where this characteristic comes from; whether it is due to variety, process, soil, or some combination of the three. One interesting thing: the variety grown in Harrar is definitely unique. Also, the coffees grown in east Harrar are said to be more blueberry like than in west Harrar. Every year that I have been tasting coffee, there are at least some Harrars that exhibit this characteristic, so I don't think it has much to do with the "year". It has everything to do with what lot you were able to score. Certain roasters trade Harrar lot numbers like secret codes. There is intense competition to try and find great ones. And it's not easy, let me tell you. This is one of the challenging parts of coffee buying: if you want to buy a really blueberry harrar, you taste stuff as it is becoming available. If you wait too long, you may miss out on one you passed on earlier. If you buy too early, you may miss out on a coffee that becomes available later. If you make a "forward contract" with a reputable supplier, you might not get the blueberries so intensely. It is an art, not a science.

Also, over the course of the year, the blueberry characteristic starts to fade and is sometimes replaced with a horse-manure aroma. This can happen with coffees that have a strong blueberry note in the beginning of the year. For this reason, many roasters are scared of the blueberry, and tend to buy only gently blueberry-y coffees. These coffees, as they age, just tend to get less and less fruity.

We're just at the start of Dry Process Harrar season, so you can start looking for these coffees from your favorite roasters over the next few months. The strongest blueberry flavors will show now through fall.

I've found a few nice blueberry lots this year, although we have to wait for them to actually arrive in the port to have any real idea of what they are like. As a coffee roaster, I always want to have the most intense blueberry Harrar I can find, because I believe that "Eureka" moment is so valuable.

As for other coffees from other places, none really have that distinct blueberry. I usually describe Dry Process Sidamos (including DP Yirgacheffes) as strawberry-like, although I have been known to describe some as raspberry like. Frequently, Yemens have some similar characteristics. I agree with Tim that the fruit is often accompanied by a note of pastry. Last but not least, I think that great Kenyas sometimes have a dark fruit approximating raspberry.

Hope I have been of some help, this is one of my favorite subjects. Great question, Jay.

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Postby LiftOff on Tue Jul 04, 2006 6:56 pm

Peter G wrote:Also, over the course of the year, the blueberry characteristic starts to fade and is sometimes replaced with a horse-manure aroma. This can happen with coffees that have a strong blueberry note in the beginning of the year. For this reason, many roasters are scared of the blueberry, and tend to buy only gently blueberry-y coffees. These coffees, as they age, just tend to get less and less fruity.



Great reply Peter!

Does anyone have an opinion as to why a Harrar coffee in the beginning of the season can exhibit both the blueberry and the fermenty horse-manure aroma that Peter refers to?

Last year I chose a Harrar that had a lot of bluberry and none of the ferment, or so I thought. After I received it, I'd get the "wow fruity, but wait, is that also a fermenty manure?" all at the same time. I chalked it up to not noticing it in my puny 226 gram sample. But maybe I'm missing something else?

In the other samples I cupped at the same time, I got blueberry/fruity in varying levels, bad ferment and a bunch of other various characteristics but never the blueberry/manure thing at the same time.

Ever since I've been a little Harrar "shy" and that's why I was so happy to find the blackberry DP Sidamo.

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Postby gabelucas on Tue Jul 04, 2006 7:30 pm

Thanks so much for that information Peter!
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Postby onocoffee on Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:58 am

Thanks guys, especially you Peter, for the insightful responses. I'm drinking a really nice Harrar at the moment and enjoying with a sinfully delicious pastry called Sans Rival - baked merengue layered with sugared butter and chopped cashew nuts. I'm dying for another slice, but I'll just have another cup instead.

I've been thinking about a new signature drink and want to explore coffees with fruit tones. I'm thinking about zabaglione and coffee in some form or another.

Thanks again.
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Postby Mike Gregory on Wed Jul 05, 2006 7:12 am

Peter G wrote:Last but not least, I think that great Kenyas sometimes have a dark fruit approximating raspberry.
Peter G


Definitely. Very recently Stumptown was offering a Kenya (if I remember correctly) that was quite raspberry-ish. They may still have it.
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Postby Deferio on Sun Jul 09, 2006 6:54 pm

Speaking of Ethiopia,
at Cariage House we just cupped some of gimme!s ethiopia (Harrar Horse)
I had been hearing second hand info that John Gant (master roaster) was calling it the best in ten years.
So I definetly had to try it.
It was incredible!
I remember tasting one of the Panama COE coffees with some students at Bellissimo's ABC school last year right after Stumptown was named roaster of the year. I believe it was Esmerelda.
Oranges...all oranges. It was very strange and delightful at the same time.
Well this one was all Blueberry. It was'nt just nuance but it was like being teleported into a farmhouse kitchen where a blueberry pie had just been set out!
My form was pretty blank cause I could not pick out much else until it developed into some nice dark chocolate notes.
I usually buy music only if when I sample it, it gives me chills or really moves me. This coffee was like that. And just the memory of how "right" the coffee was makes me smile.
We ended the session by making some french presses and passing around some local blueberries. Lot's of fun.

Not much about raspberries there but I thought I'd share anyway.

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Postby ypoedza on Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:09 am

i have to say that harrar is the best single orgin shot ive had. the blueberry flavors come out exceptionally and the mouth feel is just awesome. plus its fun to watch peoples eyes light up when they experience it for the first time. of all the coffees ive had i think harrar is the most effective at getting a dialogue going between the barista and the customer. ive had more conversations about orgin, flavor profiles, and processing methods after pulling someone a shot of harrar than any thing else we make at the press. bacically what im saying here is yes!!! harrar is really really awesome!!! and im real excited about it!!!
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Postby James Hoffmann on Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:22 am

Wasn't Anne (from Sweden's) sig drink at WBC based around Harrar and its blueberry notes as she served it with a blueberry syrup?

(I can't be sure as I only caught a bit over my shoulder whilst I was prepping.)
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Postby Michael Weisman on Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:24 am

I would have to agree that harrar is on of the easiest origins to talk to non-coffee people about. My girlfriend never believes me when I tell her about the wide range of flavours in my morning press pots, but she can taste the blueberries in a good pot of harrar.

I had a customer a few weeks back who was asking about buying a pound coffee that doesn't taste "burnt". I pulled a bag of harrar off the shelf and squeezed it so she could smell the air coming out of the valve. She was very impressed at the blueberry scents. She was so impressed, she bought two pounds!
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Postby jmc on Tue Jul 11, 2006 10:54 am

Harrar is definitely one of those coffees that hits people over the head with "romantic" flavor notes....people who are relatively new to specialty don't usually pick out fruit or berry notes in washed Centrals, but can't miss their abundance in a good Harrar; or for that matter the herbal viscosity of a Sumatra. I consider these two coffees a great starting point for an investigation into the range of flavors that coffees can offer. I was under the impression that pinched, high toned raspberry notes are often a defect, and that the blueberry you get from some Harrar is also the result of just the right amount of ferment.
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Postby Mike Gregory on Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:26 pm

Stumptown's Kenya AA Gethumbwini

"Kenya AA Gethumbwini
the kenya aa gethumbwini is a little different than the kenyas we usually buy, but upon cupping it we fell in love with it. it has a choclatey character with a pronounced sweetness a nice creamy mouthfeel, and a complex fresh raspberry finish."

http://www.buyolympia.com/stumptowncoff ... ory=Africa


There's your raspberry Jay
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Postby Mike Gregory on Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:30 pm

JMC wrote: and that the blueberry you get from some Harrar is also the result of just the right amount of ferment.


And it's definitely a fine line besides 'blueberry' and 'poo' in my experience, depending on the fermentation
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Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Mon Jul 17, 2006 2:35 pm

trabant wrote:And it's definitely a fine line besides 'blueberry' and 'poo' in my experience, depending on the fermentation


First off, is the rasberry described a flavor of citrus like blackberries in coffee or a result of fermentation(read as not citrus)?

Twice, I attended a origins/bean defects cupping. Once where Jay and Nick attended (fancy slide show and all). It was related that uncontrolled ferment is like throwing spent grinds in a bucket of tepid water for a week and then going back to smell it(read as rotten garbage). It's completely uncontrolled and you get all kinds of things going on that are not always desirable or repeatable. Maybe I'm off in left on this... but I kinda agree. The funk under the blueberries is usually nasty.
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blueberry Harrar

Postby geoff watts on Mon Jul 17, 2006 3:53 pm

The very notion of blueberry or raspberry taste in coffee is slightly controversial. The idea that coffees from Yemen and Ethiopia can get away with (or even achieve great premiums for!)flavors which would be legitimate cause for outright rejection were the coffee to be labeled "Costa Rica" is ripe for debate.
There is little doubt in my mind that much of the famous blueberry flavor is directly related to the fermentation process. It could be that genetic traits in the longberry varietal predispose it to developing those sorts of tastes,or that the microbiology in the Harrar area is responsible for influencing the way the fermentation goes. But I do at the moment believe that this blueberry taste would not emerge if the coffee were fully washed (which, if I remember correctly, is actually prohibited in Harar--anyone got info on this?).
A coffee purist could argue that this taste is not intrinsic to the seed.
One interesting argument against the 'natural' process is that it is extremely difficult to control and almost invariably leads to inconsistency even within lots. Ever tried putting out a table of fifty individually ground cups with Harrar? I would wager you find some pretty disconcerting variability. Even the nicest lots will likely show you a big giant wart on the fanny once you look a little closer.
The other argument is the one dealing with longevity--and I think the case can easily be made that natural Harrars will on average begin to deteriorate earlier than their washed counterparts from Sidamo. So perhaps as an industry we should begin to think about Harrar as a very unique, very seasonal specimen that should only be consumed during that short period of calm before the manure, or something like that.
All that said I enjoy a nice blueberry lot of Harrar from time to time, and when purchasing Harrars that is exactly what I look for. It really is quite unique, and fantastic as a demonstration coffee...but we should indeed examine why the double standard exists in which a poorly sorted Central American coffee with fermenty tastes and inconsistent cups is completely unacceptable, but if you slap "Yemen" on the bag buyers will start throwing dollars at it!

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Re: blueberry Harrar

Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Mon Jul 17, 2006 4:01 pm

Excellent info Geoff... and I love that quote, the calm before the manure... :lol:
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Re: blueberry Harrar

Postby Rich Westerfield on Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:11 pm

Yeah, but I like this quote better.

geoff watts wrote:Even the nicest lots will likely show you a big giant wart on the fanny.


This thread was a great education. Thanks guys.

Unfortunately, tomorrow morning, when I'm drinking my 1st cup of Intelly Yirg, I'm going to be thinking about ass warts...
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Postby K.C. O'Keefe on Tue Jul 18, 2006 6:54 am

Cheers to Geoff from South America! multitudes of latino farmers are cheering! Equal oportunity!

So maybe what needs to happen for Harrar is to figure out how to "re-produce" the Blue Berry? That really is the key isn't it, repeatability. If it cannot be repeated it is not good to reward producers . . . but obviously (at least by chance) the Blue Berry is being repeated.
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Postby Tim Dominick on Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:46 am

I've been a big fan of anthocyanins for years. Purple and violet are really a great things to find in nature, but anthocyanins also come into play when we talk about red, ripe cherries.

Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, currants, and of course, eggplants are chock full of them, also they are found to a fairly high degree in the the exocarp of coffee cherries. (Interestingly the vivid coloration provided by anthocyanins on the outer layer of plants is considered to be an attractant for dispersing animals)

Since there are common anthocyanins to coffee and blueberry it would stand to reason that the chance for blueberry-like flavors would be more likely in dry-processed coffees where the anthocyanin-rich exocarp is allowed to contribute flavors during the fermentation and drying process.

Blueberries contain the following anthocyanins: malvidin 3-galactoside, delphinidin 3-galactoside, delphinidin 3-arabinoside, petunidin 3-galactoside, petunidin 3-arabinoside, malvidin 3-arabino-side, cyanidin 3-glucoside, cyanidin 3-galactoside, cyanidin 3-arabinoside, delphinidin 3-glucoside, malvidin 3-glucoside, peonidin 3-glucoside, peonidin 3-galactoside, peonidin 3-arabinoside, and peonidin 3-glucoside

I couldn't find any specific information about which anthocyanins are found in coffee cherries, but I'd hedge a bet that they have some in common with blueberries.
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Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Tue Jul 18, 2006 1:18 pm

Tim Dominick wrote:I couldn't find any specific information about which anthocyanins are found in coffee cherries, but I'd hedge a bet that they have some in common with blueberries.


A quick check of my coffee flavor chemistry book denoted that there are definately some correlations but I would leave it for someone more chemistry grounded to comment.

I think the debate I have is - Does the blueberrry from Harrar reperesent a flavor imitating blueberry or is a true blueberry flavor? My palate always feels somewhat fooled by the blueberries in harrar as being more 'booberry' than real fruit. I mean real blueberries are tart and citrus and have a much different flavor than harrar. When you say blackberry in a Kenyan, I get that, but there is no citrus-like character in Harrar.
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Postby Mike Ebert on Mon Aug 07, 2006 12:15 pm

Geoff brings up a very interesting point regarding central and south americans - one where the slightest defect (depending on your point of view) basically makes the coffee almost worthless.

About the only exception to that on a slightly grand scale would be Guats from the coban region. Typically you can experience strong fruit in the cup, almost always right on the edge (or over) of ferment. I have loved these coffees for years - but only purchase small quantities and move them very quick - for they can turn quickly. The difference from Ethiopian's on any level - whether blueberry from a Harar, or raspberry or strawberry from a Yirg, is they tend to be distinctive enough to actually relate it to a fruit - instead of just generic term "fruity". I think the fact that Cobans are a washed coffee, and because of the wet micro-climate of that region, and the terminology involved (not so much the washed, but the term "natural" as applied to Ethiopians) buyers tend to associate these coffees as fermented, and the Ethiopians as some what, well...natural. In the end though, are they really that different?

It brings up another interesting debate - Ethiopia is not the only country of origin in which the processing of the coffee really imparts a somewhat "local" flavor. Think Sumatras, javas, Yemens,etc... The point is what if a central american country put a little some emphasis on imparting local flavors if you will, instead of just trying to produce clean, clean, clean coffee?

Just a thought.....
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