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Calling Home Roasters

March 29, 2012


FreeWine / Stock Photos

If the photo looks familiar to you, you've probably fired up your popcorn air popper to roast some heavenly beans at home. I ran into a little something online this morning that may be of interest to folks who roast their own at home and aren't afraid to experiment a little.

I was kicking around looking for a description of the typical flavor profile of a particular coffee when I ran into this:



Not everything I do turns out like I hope it will. The purchase of this coffee is one of them. Normally we have some intensive cupping sessions (our Spring and Fall Cupping Retreats are where we do the bulk of this) and make our selection decisions then. Occasionally we'll buy coffee based on the recommendation of select importers whose opinions we have come to respect and trust. Rarely, although it does happen, I'll get a wild hair and buy some coffee for no other reason than because I want to. As in this case. We've never had a coffee from the DRC to offer before. It's grown very near the areas that produce the outstanding coffees of Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The climate, soil, elevation and terrain are all favorable. But the coffee has been a disappointment.

Now, I don't know about you, but I really appreciate that kind of honesty from a merchant. It makes me feel like I can really trust them when they tell me that a particular offering is spectacular. It gets even better, though. The merchant -- who exclusively sells green beans for home roasting and home coffee roasting equipment -- goes on to share his impressions of the coffee and recommendations for roasting it: you probably won't like it as a single origin, he says, especially if you drink your coffee black. It's not bad with cream and sugar, and even better with syrups. And if you blend, it makes a nice filler for sweet, full-bodied coffees as long as you keep it to less than 50% of the blend.

Here's the thing. The site is offering this coffee at below cost -- $2.65/lb -- not, the owner explains, to get rid of it but because he thinks it will make an interesting benchmark for the region -- Democratic Republic of the Congo, for those keeping score at home. He believes that the region has the potential to produce high quality coffee, but isn't there yet for a variety of reasons, many of them political. And he's intending to try again in a few years to see how it's developed. He also says he'd love impressions of the coffee from those who buy it. He goes on to note:



For a lot of reasons the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) does not have a reputation for producing stellar specialty grade Arabica coffee. The entire history of this country is pretty bleak. With "Presidents" like Mobutu and Kabila (Laurent and Joseph) the corruption and political instability made it impossible for high quality coffee to be produced. Incursions by rebel groups from Rwanda and Uganda don't help. The coffee farmers have seemingly ended up with no incentive, no money, and no hope. Despite the troubles, the DRC does have the potential to produce high qualiity specialty grade coffee. When you consider that Lake Kivu is near the borders of Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda--all of which produce very fine coffee--you know the terrain and climate are present. Still you need an infrastructure that supports the coffee industry and an knowledgeable and able farmer.

I'm a coffee politics wonk. This kind of stuff is irresistible to me. When I get paid this afternoon, I'll be ordering a couple of pounds to play with, and I'll be sure to post about the results when I roast them up. If you roast your own and are interested in giving this coffee a try, leave me a comment or drop me a PM here and I'll share the link to the site where you can order it. At that price, I figure it's more than worth it to give it a try and check back in a few years to see what's happened.






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