In the previous 2 seasons (2012 and 2013) we had a coffee that was good enough to repeat. In fact it was such a good selling coffee, I was looking forward to adding it to our offerings again this year. For those of you who could not guess, I am talking about no other than the Ethiopian Wata Dara. This amazing coffee really helped us launch and establish Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee as a purveyor of fine fresh roasted coffee and had a signature chocolaty finish that people came to love.
Two weeks ago I finally got the email from my coffee broker that the coffee had arrived in port and cleared customs. He quickly sent me a sample of this season’s crop. Once the sample came in I eagerly got ready to go through our process of cupping coffee. The first step is to visually inspect the beans and give them a quality score. I noticed the big variances in the size of the beans which was not the case in previous years. A roaster wants the beans to be the same size, otherwise, the smaller beans will be over roasted and the bigger beans will end up under roasted.
Upon further inspection, I started to notice more bug bites than usual. I justified this to myself because this coffee is grown organically but again, this was not the case in previous years. Then more issues arose with a lot of broken beans appearing. It got to the point to where normally, I would have already failed the bean on the inspection alone and not bothered to even roast them. But this was Wata Dara! Surely I can make an exception for this great coffee so I went ahead a did a sample roast.
The next day I eagerly sat down to cup the coffee. The first thing one does after weighing and grinding the beans is smell it. The aromas and fragrances just were not there. I tried to ignore this too since my sinuses were giving me some troubles and I thought I must be plugged up from spring allergies. After all, this is the amazing Wata Dara! Then I tasted the coffee and sadly, it fell well short of my expectations. Where was that rich deep dark chocolate? Well, I reasoned, I did just do a sample roast which is much lighter than I will roast the coffee for selling.
Because I was so puzzled at the results, I went ahead and called the broker to see what he had to say. The price of the coffee had shot up through the roof. After I caught my breath, I inquired as to why this coffee was so much higher this year. The answer is that this is a contract coffee which means the brokerage has guaranteed the coop that they will generate a minimum amount of income each year. This year’s crop came short several hundred bags of coffee because of a very bad growing season. Bad growing season, high prices, variable size beans, no rich aroma and no wonderful taste…..This finally explained what I was experiencing throughout the inspection, roasting and cupping process. Alas, no Ethiopian Wata Dara this year. We do have our eyes on another chocolaty coffee though….stay tuned.