If you read my last post then you might be curious about how those coffees fared in our daily cupping. The main point of the sample roast cupping was to identify a candidate for our upcoming microlot program. This program would offer a select series of some of the world’s best coffees, best because of the investment by the farmer to produce a high quality plant on their best soil, the effort made to handpick only those cherries that have attained perfect ripeness, because of the quality controls maintained for processing and storing, and because we, as coffee roasters, can trace these attributes, select our favorite green coffee, and perfect the roast profile for it. If everything goes well, consumers end up with a mind-blowing coffee and a clean conscious (as do we!) because producers in microlot programs receive a premium on their coffee that is higher than the premium for fair-trade, most direct-trade programs, organic or rainforest alliance certification.
All that being said, I was most excited about the two wildcards: the robustas. In my last update, I explained that the robusta species of coffee has been pushed aside in the specialty coffee world, in favor of arabica. The conventional wisdom explains that arabicas are simply better. Robustas tend to be harsher and have more flaws. But there are murmurs and whispers, maybe falsely laid hopes, that somewhere out there is this brilliant robusta, like the ugly duckling, whose beauty is missed because everyone is too attached to the familiar discourse.
I, of course, was skeptical and would like to report that my skepticism has been confirmed, for now at least. The robustas were overwhelmingly strong, overbearingly harsh, and almost ashy. My cohort said it best when he chimed in, “this coffee smells like cigars.” Well, that’s two of who-knows-how-many, so I guess we’ll still have to believe in the possibility of a robusta that we savor like a fine wine, but Fazenda will be sticking with 100% arabica for now.