Ethiopia Konga

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I discovered this wonderful coffee while looking for a replacement for our Ethiopia Wata Dara. It truly was love at first sip. I had originally placed this coffee third in priority because we were committed and focused on replacing the Wata Dara and finding a decaf good enough to put our name on.

With new crops arriving in the next couple of months, we are going to be patient and wait to purchase either the new crop of Wata Dara or its replacement and hope a decaf will arise in our current search. Meanwhile, the Konga kept calling my name. So I decided to pick up a couple of bags. For me a “bag” of coffee weighs from 120 to 150 pounds. Konga is also the highest priced coffee I have paid for to date.

There are many things that make this coffee uniquely special.  One is that the coffee was pre-funded. In short, this means the government was not involved and the families received more than fair price for their crop. Another special quality is that the coffee cherries are selected with special care and are naturally processed and sun-dried on raised beds for outstanding quality and taste. It is rare to find sun dried coffee. The process takes longer, has higher costs, and has a high risk of the crop being ruined if moisture/rain happens during the process. The end result of sun drying is that the bean absorbs fruity sweet flavors from the cherries.

This coffee was the most difficult for me to create a roast profile for.  It simply does not roast like my other coffees. I call it a dark roast because the final temperature is actually closer to my extra dark roast. However, this coffee looks and tastes like a medium roasted coffee.

When you first open the bag your nose will be hit with a fruity aroma. If you take the time to breakdown the different scents you will find hints of apple, pear and berry. Then you will notice vague notes of a nutty chocolate fragrance. With the first sip of this coffee you will notice that it hits your whole tongue with a crisp refreshing apple like “acidity”. A common misconception to people new to specialty grade coffee is the word acid or acidity in descriptions of the coffee. Because many people have gotten acid stomachs and stomach aches from lower grade of coffees they think of the word “acidity” as meaning bitter tasting coffee when they hear or read about it in coffee descriptions. Actually, when referring to acidity in coffee we are talking about citrusy acid which is pleasant and refreshing and is a highly sought after trait in fine coffee.  You will also taste a slight bitter-sweet dark chocolate as you enjoy the highly complex Konga.

This coffee is definitely not for everyone though because it is truly different from all the other coffees we offer. It is however, a highly prized and highly sought after type of coffee in the specialty coffee world.  If you are a wine lover or a “foodie” you will probably love it.  If you simply want to experience widening your palette, we dare you to dive into Konga’s amazing complexity of flavors.

Here are some quotes from other roasters about this coffee

Organically produced but not certified as such, and clean as a whistle.  Fruit bomb! Going right into all Badbeard espresso blends but also a winner as a drip coffee.

Not the typical floral-citrus taste profile expected from a washed Yirgacheffe. Not even close! This is an excellent example of how drying the bean with the full cherry intact can impart the flavor of the fruit, leaving you with a mixed-berrylishous, clean and sweet dessert that just happens to have originally grown on a coffee shrub.

It’s AWESOME! Try it for yourself and let us know what you think.

How to Create a Roast Profile

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I am beginning the process of creating a roast profile for the newly arrived Ethiopia Konga. For me this is the most fun part of my job. For those reading this it might be the most boring blog ever.

The first thing that happens is we receive a ½ pound sample of the coffee along with several other coffees. We then put the coffee through a series of tests. The Konga received a low grade for the quality inspection. Which means it is not the cutest bean you will ever see. Then we do a sample roast. A sample roast is done uniformly so all the beans have a basis to be compared to. This was when we came to the OMG moment and said we gotta buy this one!

Several weeks later the bags were delivered. Now we start the process of creating a roast profile. A roast profile is developed to bring out the best of the inherent flavors in the bean. Then it is written down so that the process can be repeated and create the same flavor profile each time it is roasted.

For the first round I will roast 3 pounds of coffee to 3 different levels (medium, dark and extra dark). All the while we are trying to reach set parameters during the roast and recording time, temperature, gas pressure and air flow.  We let the coffee rest overnight before we taste the different coffees.

After tasting the three roasts we decide which is the best direction for us to go. Once we decide on the degree of roast is best then we will roast another 3 sets of 3 pounds. This time we will vary the time it takes to get first crack from 9, 10 and 11 minutes. The cracking noise is when the center membrane of the bean breaks and one will hear an audible crack. Then to the time when we will finish the roast which is called the drop. Typically we want to drop the beans 3 minutes after the first crack regardless of the temperature we are going to roast the bean. We do this by adjusting the gas pressure and air flow. We let these coffees rest overnight before we taste them.

The next day we will decide which roast tasted the best. Then we will take note of what is overpowering and what is underdeveloped in the coffee. Using different techniques we can accentuate the positive and diminish the negative. We then take another 3 sets of 3 pounds to fine tune the roast profile.

So far the Konga has proved to not want to be like the others. The first crack starts 10 degree lower than the others. Slowing the bean down so that it takes a full 3 minutes till the drop temperature has proven to be difficult because the temperature increases way to fast. I am very sure that the end result will be something spectacular.


The Trials of a Micro Roaster

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Before we started Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee, we wrote our business plan, vision statement and mission statement. These documents have been the foundation to all our decisions concerning the business. Whenever we consider an idea, event, product or anything that involves our resources (time and money) we weigh them against the aforementioned documents.

First and foremost is the selection of coffee. I will not bore you with the lengthy criteria we have, but just know ethical business practices and transparency are just as important as taste.

We announced that we will be running out of one of our better selling coffees in February. Also, we are committed to finding a decaffeinated coffee worthy of our label. When I talk to the different coffee brokers I give them the taste profile I am looking for and they send me samples. At this point the wholesale price is not discussed. The reason I do not ask is because I do not want to be influenced by the price.

In my current search I allowed a new broker to send me some samples. Before I could tell him not to give me prices he quoted them to me. They were at a 50-60% discount to the prices I normally pay. A red flag should have gone up and I should have told him not to bother sending the samples. The capitalist side of me screamed “try it you’ll like it”.  Alas, when we cupped them, Max and I could not spit the coffee out of our mouths fast enough.

We found two great candidates for replacing the Wata Dara from two different brokers. The first one I pursued was close to 40% less than what I paid for the Wata Dara.  As I was doing my due diligence however, I found that this coffee did not come from an estate, coop or farm. I was unable to verify who the grower was and how much they got paid. Yes, I am sad to confess I spent too much time arguing with myself about compromising the foundational documents for more profit. But the statements won the debate as they ALWAYS will and I walked away from this first coffee option. This process took about a week.

I then called up the other broker who had a wonderful replacement for Wata Dara which passed my due diligence test and told him I wanted to buy his coffee.  Sadly, I was told that he just sold all he had a couple of days before I had called.

In our quest to find the replacement for Wata Dara and a decaf, we soon came upon a wonderful exciting new discovery. There is a new coffee from Ethiopia from the Yirgacheffe region which is famous for producing great coffee.  The coop is called Konga. The coffee will arrive in a couple of weeks. I do not want to over-hype it but let’s just say that Max is having trouble helping me to contain my excitement about this coffee.  We hope it will arrive in time to have it for everyone to taste at the Omaha Lawn, Flower & Patio Show at the Century Link Center on February 7th – 10th.