Monday, January 23, 2006

Sidama and Sumatra and Snow

Where does one vacation when life is a daily paradise? Well, how about some snow for a change?

After the burnout-inducing madness of coffee season, it was time for a break. Last week I took off for Colorado to visit friends I had made while living on Guam. Lucky me, my trip coincided with the best snow in 44 years. Sunny days and snowy nights! Fresh powder! Midweek and empty slopes! Oh my! Plus, good friends, kids underfoot, two-stepping and country music. The culture shock was just what I needed to forget the last several months of farm overload.

I'm not a big fan of living in the cold, thanks to years of being spoiled by SoCal and tropical heat (Guam, Bali, Hawaii). But I'm happy to visit it now and again. And what tastes better on those cold mornings than a cuppa hot joe?

I stopped in at Calders Coffee in Littleton to talk and taste coffee with Stephen, the owner. He pulled out 3 Ethiopians from the Sidama region and I pulled out my Kona. We threw a Belekara, a Chichu, a Harar and Lions Gate Kona into press pots and went wild over the flavors. The Sidamas were all fruity, with varying levels of the famous blueberry notes. My favorite was the Chichu, which had a lovely chocolate note to the bean as well as the blueberry. My Kona was easy to pick out of the lineup, with a clean bright nutty flavor against the floral notes of the Ethiopians. If I can make a clumsy wine comparison, it was like tasting a dry pinot in with a group of heavy port wines.

What fun to play with coffee this way. One of the disadvantages of living in Kona is that I rarely have access to these other flavors. Oh sure, our local Starbucks may carry a run-of-the-mill Guatemalan, or a decent Kenya. But to taste a truly excellent exotic such as the Chichu, and have it be roasted the day before the cupping? Not possible here, without dropping a bundle on shipping costs.

Am I complaining? No, not really. After all, I drink truly excellent coffee from my backyard, so life is hardly rough.

My daily life is entrenched in farm details and roasting, so it was nice to talk to Stephen about the other half of the coffee world....retail storefronts, baristas and the cuppa consumer. If you are ever in Littleton, look him up. He's got a passion for coffee and his customers reap the benefits (should I mention that the manager of the adjacent Starbucks was sampling the wares when I was there?)

I left Calders with the Belekara and Chichu Ethiopians, as well as a Sumatran. Back home, my father decided that the Sumatran was his favorite, while I am still a fan of the Chichu. The entire family concluded that Kona was still our overwhelming choice. Biased? No....!

Sadly, my trip to the snow was all too short. I could have skied another week and been happy. And there were so many other coffees that went untasted. But it's pruning season and I need to get back to work. Memories of fresh powder, cold toes and hot Ethiopians will have ot sustain me for another year.