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Intelligentsia Librarian Blend (Decaf)

April 18, 2012

My suspicion of decaf coffee is only heightened by the rhetoric used to defend it.

"This decaf is not like other decafs."

"This decaf is nearly indistinguishable from regular coffee."

And so forth.

The language assumes in advance an objection...and with good reason. Most decafs are awful, some are acceptable, fewer still are tasty. I might be exaggerating the extent of that final category...I've yet to encounter a tasty decaf. It is a mythical thing to be wished for, a solar-powered car, or something.

Last spring I tried Intelligentsia's Librarian Blend, their decaf offering. It was in the acceptable category, jumping juuuust high enough to escape the awful. It was overly dark, oils on the surface, mostly just roast flavor. From Intelligentsia! The darling of acidity-lovers everywhere!

But decaffeination is a volatile process. It's not difficult to remove the caffeine from beans. What's difficult is removing the caffeine without inflicting too much damage on all the tasty extractables that make coffee worth our while. Mountain water process, Swiss process, Canadian process...like your friendly neighborhood vegan is quick to tell you, beware processed foods! Decaffeinated coffees are the most processed of coffees and not coincidentally, they tend to be among the least tasty. To cover up the damage done by the decaffeination process, decafs tend to be roasted dark, often too dark.

But I am currently sipping on the Librarian Blend once again, and I have to say--it's tasty! Currant aroma, the taste a little thin and the finish short, but it's not dominated by roast flavor, it's got a little sweetness. Okay, maybe it's more in the acceptable category. It tried to inch itself into the tasty category--nobly! for this is a difficult thing for a decaf coffee to do, mind you--but it did not quite clear the bar. I will give it another try in a season or two. Technology advances. One day we'll have that car, and perhaps a tasty decaf.






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