There were three reasons why I had high hopes for this coffee.
- First, this coffee placed 10th in the 2008 El Salvador Cup of Excellence competition with a score of 88. Nothing mind-bogglingly amazing, but no slouch of a coffee either.
- Second, this coffee hails from the same folks that produced the 2008 USBC Championship Espresso. Intelligentsia even bought up some of this particular batch. It looks like Ritual is trying to ride Intelligenstia’s coattails. Fine, so long as they ride them well.
- Third, the green beans for this coffee were vacuum packed in El Salvador rather than shipped (and stored) in burlap/jute sacks. Vacuum packing green beans (and freezing them) has been a topic of discussion for a while now. The burlap can impart bad flavors and unecessarily expose the green coffee to moisture, odors and oxygen. Subsequently, vacuum sealing (especially at origin) has recently exploded in popularity amongst commercial roasters (1,2,3,4).
It took me a while to find the right way to brew this one. I had it on the Clover at Ritual. It was good, but I didn’t think it was worth $5/cup. I was convinced that the syphon was the way to go, but the coffee had an oddly sweet and cloying quality that never quite seemed right. I had decent luck with it as an espresso. It was a little off balance – not quite sweet enough – but its better qualities really came through. In the end, what worked best was a simple French Press. I didn’t even need to tweak my usual brewing profile. Just 4 minutes steep time with my usual French Press grind.
What I finally got around to tasting was a very clean, medium bodied coffee, very much in the pine/herb/dry/lime vein of flavors and aromas. It was certainly very bold with the sharp lime slicing through and making me salivate on the sides of my tongue. It was also complex. I got some other odd notes like crisp fall leaves, mint and some generally vegetal aromas.
While I found this coffee complex and intriguing, I’m not sure that I found it all that enjoyable: after all, this is food. I also question its value. I’m not against paying high prices for good coffee. I just don’t think this coffee lives up to its $29/pound price tag. For a little less, it might have a place in my cupboard, but it’s currently priced a bit higher than my hopes.