Tasting Box: 01/05
Dear Cup Taster’s Members,
Greetings! I hope this finds all of you very well as we move into the Spring season in earnest. Rather than shooting a video at the office to accompany this tasting box, as we have done in previous months, I decided to mix things up and set up this latest cup tasting in my home kitchen and not on camera this time. Given that most if not all of you have been enjoying these monthly tastings at home, I wanted to simulate the setting more closely this time using my kitchen scale, Baratza Encore, and a bit of Deerpark in the kettle. This letter to each of you includes some general notes and observations that I wanted to share following my cup tasting at home.
In selecting this particular pair of coffees for all of you to taste I was especially interested to create an opportunity to explore brightness as a sensory quality. By “brightness”, I’m primarily referring to the sensation we experience when our palates perceive acidity in coffee. I have a similarly pleasant and invigorating feeling when enjoying other beverages and foods that are notable for their brightness: fresh squeezed lemonade, a crisp glass of Sauvignon blanc, a squeeze of lime over grilled vegetables, a juicy, perfectly ripe blackberry, a tangy slice of rhubarb pie. I’ve personally always had a taste for acidity, and look for brightness in much of what I choose to consume, but, as with any other sensory quality, acidity that is too far out of balance can certainly move into unpleasant territory. In some cases, too much brightness without enough sweetness to balance it out is simply sour rather than enjoyably acidic. All of us obviously bring different palates, and different taste preferences, to this cup tasting, and the two dynamic coffees that I’ve chosen for this month’s box - that each bring a fair amount of brightness to the party - may prove to be a little divisive. I honestly chose them for exactly this reason!
As you taste the Los Yoyos 2021 and the 2021 Cup of Excellence winning pacamara from Miguel Tabora Mears, here are a few questions for consideration with a special focus on brightness/acidity:
- Do you have prior associations when it comes to flavor and brightness? What taste experiences come to mind that you would describe as bright? Is acidity a positive, negative, or neutral descriptor for you when it comes to coffee?
- What differences stand out to you when assessing the dry fragrance of this month’s coffees? Does brightness come into it at this stage?
- Once you start the tasting portion of the cupping, would you describe the Los Yoyos or the Miguel Mears as the brighter/more acidic cup? Does the acidity of either coffee remind you of the acidity of anything else you have tasted in the past?
- Would you describe the acidity of each of these coffees as balanced by other sensory qualities in the cup, or do you find either, or both, of them to be unbalanced? If you find them unbalanced, would you describe this lack of balance as pleasant or unpleasant?
Here are my notes from this month’s cup tasting:
I would describe the general aromatic quality of the Los Yoyos as mildly sweet rather than particularly bright. I found the dry fragrance to be reminiscent of sweet pastry, mild citrus peel, and black tea. For me, the Miguel Mears offered an immediate contrast and was noticeably more complex aromatically. I would describe the dry fragrance as “brighter” than the Yoyos and I picked up some enticing notes of key lime, pineapple, and caramel.
Passenger has roasted coffees from Los Yoyos for a number of years and this coffee has always had a lemon-lime quality that I find present again in the acidity of this cup. For me, this cup of Los Yoyos has a medium+ acidity, and while certainly present, its brightness is nicely balanced by some of the other qualities that this coffee offers. Similar to my experience aromatically, the Miguel Mears is definitely and immediately brighter in the cup than the Yoyos: I find its acidity to be more front and center, less integrated, less balanced. But for me, this is far from an unpleasant thing because this coffee is also sweeter and offers more flavor complexity. So while admittedly a bit wild and tangy, the brightness of this cup manifests in a really enjoyable way for me because it plays an important part in highlighting the delightful sweetness and interesting flavors that this unique coffee offers.
Both of these coffees have a lovely depth of sweetness. For me, the main difference is complexity of sweetness: Los Yoyos offers a simpler, but deeply pleasing, sweetness that reminds me of cherry and brown sugar, while Miguel Mears’ coffee is characterized by layers of fruity sweetness that remind me of tropical fruits, berries, and maybe even a hint of ripe cherry tomato!
As mentioned earlier, I find the Miguel Mears to offer greater flavor complexity, and I also think its flavor clarity is a bit more impressive as well. With that said, the balance of citrus, cherry, black tea, and brown sugar flavors that Los Yoyos offers, while perhaps a little less exotic than the C.O.E. winner, is truly enjoyable. As these coffees cooled I found so many fun tropical fruit flavors in the cup from Miguel Mears. I don’t eat fresh tropical fruit often enough to be fully confident of the specific tropical flavors I was picking up, but my sensory memory bank suggested mango, pineapple, and lychee!
I really enjoy the finish of the Los Yoyos which, while not particularly long/lingering, is warming in a lovely ‘baking spicy’ way. The aftertaste of the Miguel Mears is slightly longer and, as with other aspects of our tasting experience with this coffee, brightness is more noticeable here: I found an enjoyable tropical acidity right to the end of the finish.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my 'kitchen tasting' of these beautiful Honduran coffees and I hope you do as well. While I certainly have a personal preference for the Miguel Mears, that is in no way to overlook how enjoyable the Los Yoyos is to drink. If anything I was perhaps a little unfair to the Los Yoyos by choosing to present it alongside one of the finest coffees that was produced in all of Honduras last year!
I would be very interested to hear about your experience tasting these coffees. Did you prefer one over the other? Do you agree with the Cup of Excellence judges that the Miguel Mears coffee is super unique and special or do you prefer the Los Yoyos? As always, don’t hesitate to shoot us a message at email@example.com if you have notes to share from your tastings. I’m already working on the selection process for our final pairing of coffees for Cup Taster’s Season 01, which will ship to you in June.
For now, Best Wishes from Lancaster, and Happy Tasting!