> #24Days: Fancy A Coffee?….

#24Days: Fancy A Coffee?….

Posted on Friday, August 21, 2009 | No Comments

After my wireless difficulties yesterday, today is the day when I can now blog about one of my favourite subjects and something which I have been excited about ever since Wednesday afternoon; coffee.


I am an absolute lover of Starbuck’s coffees and will take just about any opportunity to call in and enjoy a coffee (always pure, black coffee – no milk, no sugar).  And on occasion, I buy myself a bag of coffee beans (which are really coffee seeds, not beans), to brew and enjoy at home.  For me, there is nothing as good as a freshly made coffee, from fresh beans.


At the moment, for example, I’ve been enjoying one of my absolute favourites from Guatemala a coffee known as “Casi Cielo”, which is a medium roast and has fruity undertones and a delicate flavour.  It really is a tasty coffee.  If it’s not Casi Cielo right now, I also have a half used bag of Sumatra, a strong, bold coffee to alternate between.


But on Wednesday, during my trip to York I stumbled upon a bag of coffee in Starbucks that I just had to buy; “Sulawesi Toraja”, and the reason I had to buy this coffee was that it was branded as a “Starbucks Black Apron Exclusives”.


Now, I wasn’t even aware that “Black Apron Exclusives” were available in the UK but I have read about them on the website before.  These “Black Apron” coffees are limited editions beans that have been sourced from a remote location and are only grown in small crops.  Inside of the box, the inscription reads as follows:


“Coffees that are the best of the exceptional

In our search for the world's finest coffees, we sometimes come across amazing finds in very limited supply.  Offered under the Black Apron Exclusives label, these are intriguing coffees meant for those who want to experience truly distinctive and exotic flavours, unavailable anywhere else.

Each Black Apron Exclusives offering tells a unique story about its origin, its flavour characteristics and the extraordinary efforts required to bring it to you.  They're extremely rare and special coffees, carefully cultivated by dedicated farmers whose pride in sharing them will be matched by your delight in discovering them.”


As a coffee drinker, I just had to buy; the price for a bag/box is slightly more than Starbuck’s traditional coffee beans at £8.95, but for exceptional taste, exceptional prices I guess.


Yesterday, I opened up the box and took out the bag of beans, taking a smell for the vent – delightful – behind the beans, was a card that describes the coffee.  It read as follows:


“Sulawesi’s coffee has been a Starbucks favourite since we opened our first store more than 35 years ago, at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  Back then, you would have encountered a coffee with big, spicy notes and a smooth, elegant mouthfeel.

Today’s Sulawesi coffee possesses complex flavours, wonderful earthy notes and a full body.  While we love this cup, we wanted to experience the coffee’s classic taste once again.  So we returned to the orchid-shaped Indonesian island and began searching.

Nearly all of Sulawesi’s coffee is grown by small landholders whose limited harvests are blended with coffee from surrounded villages.  To find this treasured flavour, we needed to sample coffee from one village at a time.

In the market towns of Sapan and Minaga in northern Toraja, Sulawesi’s most acclaimed coffee-growing region, we discovered flavours we hadn’t tasted in years.  These coffees are picked, sorted and milled by hand to maintain quality and are delivered fresh to market the day after harvest.  The beans don’t just evoke the classic Sulawesi flavour; they define it.

By working with exporters to purchase freshly harvested coffee from small villages, we’re helping to ensure that this distinctive Sulawesi flavour will be available for generations to come.”


Carefully brewing a freshly ground cup of this exclusive coffee yesterday, I enjoyed every part of it, from carefully opening the bag and taking that first real smell of the beans – the smell was strong and vibrant and the bean was darker than some of the regular Starbucks beans I normally use.  Whirring them up in the grinder and taking another smell, the scene this time much stronger and somehow richer; I was looking forward to drinking this cup.


I’ve never brewed a coffee so carefully ever before, but somehow I knew that I had to take my time over this one, to get it right and not compromise the flavour.  After finally brewing a full cup, it was time for the taste test. 


My God it was good; exactly like advertised.  The big, spicy notes and the smooth, elegant feel – but not only that I could taste almost a smokey, charcoaly taste that underpinned the coffee in a good way.  The taste was delicious and well worth the extra money for this bag of coffee after only one mouthful.


As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve just enjoyed my second cup of Sulawesi Toraja and the experience has been just as delightful as the first. 


On the back of the small booklet that comes with the coffee is a description from a guy called Dub Hay, who is the “Chief Coffee Buyer” (and yes, I so want that job), that I’m also going to share with you;


“We had driven into the jungle for hours, crossing riverbeds and rice fields, hitting nearly every bump along the way.  The driver of the rusted Land Rover turned to me as we passed a thick bamboo forest and grinned.  ‘This is as far as I took the National Geographic people.’

I smiled back, wondering how much farther we would go.  Hours later, we stopped at a small market town in northern Toraja.  Children ran towards us, interested, no doubt, by the novelty of a vehicle and its passenger from the West.

It was market day and villagers displayed their goods.  Their voices sang like birds as I passed by their dried fish, spices and peppers.  I came upon a farmer with green coffee carried in fresh from his village.  This was what I had hoped to find-the flavour of a distinct village’s coffee.  Discoveries such as this inspired our latest offering, Sulawesi Toraja from Sulawesi, Indonesia”


Only when you read these descriptions do you really start to think about the incredible journey most of the coffee we drink comes from, especially these hand picked exclusives.  The beans are grown in small villages that depend on the success of these coffee crops and the unique tastes and flavours of their individual variety.


I could write so much more about coffee and perhaps one day I might, but for now….anyone fancy a cup?  Cos I’m off to brew one now – you can bet I’ll enjoy every last drop!

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