Theta Ridge Coffee, located in the heart of South Bend’s manufacturing labyrinth on its northwest side, is one of the largest green coffee importers in the Midwest. Out of all of Theta’s clientele, interestingly, Infusco is the shortest drive, to and fro.
Today, January 19, 2017 (a dreary Thursday morning), Jess Nance, Aaron Darling, and I headed over from Sawyer for a cupping event.
Hailing from Infusco, Jess, Aaron, and I were the lucky few who reserved our spots to experience a small tour of the coffee bean palace, along with the highly anticipated “cupping” event. Kevin, the owner of Theta Ridge, guided us through and was kind enough to let us snap photos, scribble notes, and ponder aloud the mystique that is the coffee bean.
Highlighted below are some pictures and little snippets of bean information.
In the back of the facility, about 60 different varieties of beans are stashed atop the concrete.
Worldwide, coffee beans are the 2nd largest traded commodity. Oil is number one.
Within these burlap bags, the beans are green, not yet roasted. Green beans are much denser and do not grind like roasted beans (don’t make this mistake!). The artwork from the different countries and farms is pretty cool.
On a map, coffee beans are grown almost entirely between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, high in altitude, in hot and humid environments. In recent years, according to Kevin, southern California is the northernmost point that beans have successfully been grown, although on a smaller scale.
Above, Kevin guides Aaron, Jess, and I through “cupping”, which is the practice of individually noting the aromas and tasting notes of newly roasted beans.
- Make sure the spoon is clean.
- With the spoon, push back the crema across the cup’s circumference to break up and reveal the aromas of the bean.
- Rinse spoon completely, dry off, and repeat the process at each cup.
- Each bean is tested in five different cups to allow your smelling senses to adapt and hold on to the different aromas, completely.
- Rinse the spoon before moving on to the next bean.
Much like beer, aromas and tasting notes of coffees are classified usually by foods or other consumable items such as maple sap or agave. There are over 25,000 possible different tasting notes in all types of coffee beans, yet there is no “right” answer, because everyone possesses a different palate.
For starters, when the word acidity is mentioned when dealing with coffee, just equate it to a beer’s hop profile. The taste almost “kicks” off your tongue.
The lighter the roast, the more imperfections are detectable.
Today, the four beans we focused on were:
- Kenya AA (red wine, raisin, fruit)
- JAVA via Indonesia (syrupy body, pleasant finish)
- Brazil Bob O’ Link (maple, sweet, fruit)
- Brazil Daterra Sweet Blue (dark chocolate bar)
The original “cuppers” of the Daterra bean are considered very special, “amazing” coffee bean enthusiasts. Year after year on this farm (after being mechanically picked), the aromas and tasting notes of the beans are virtually exactly the same, even when grown on different parts of the farm. Unreal stuff.
All in all, coffee (like beer) is pretty complex. If you don’t care for things such as aromas and hop profiles, methods of roasting and brewing, it’s ok, because the liquid you consume is still delicious, and, in the end, that’s all that really matters. Right?
Sawyer is cool.