Foraker Labs has been drinking the same coffee for the past twelve years. It is great coffee and makes us happy every morning. The only problem is that we get it from Alaska. As a company focused on green action and carbon footprint reduction, this was a glaring faux pas that I knew could easily be rectified. The coffee situation was not so embarrassing once I fleshed out the story of how the Alaskan coffee came to be a part of the Foraker culture.
As you may know, the name Foraker was chosen for its strength and in honor of the third tallest mountain in the great state to the North. Our second in command, Mr. Olson the younger, lived in Alaska for four years ever gazing at the majesty and power the mountain exudes. And it was there he came across the Kaladi Brothers and their enticing roasts.
When Derek joined forces with Foraker Labs, he brought with him his beloved coffee and it has remained the staple ever since. Until now. I knew the prospect of bringing in a new supplier would be a challenge. That is why I created a challenge for the coffee itself. I wanted it to be bean against bean in a bout to determine the greatest local roast in all the Boulder area. I asked far and wide who roasted the best coffee. I wanted fair trade, organic, small batch, and delicious. I consulted coworkers and Boulder natives alike. The mighty world wide web afforded maximum accessibility to the roasters themselves. I went to coffee houses and markets compiling a gaggle of contenders to duke it out in an all out assault on our senses. In the end, it was a battle of seven different blends, one of which was our beloved Kaladi Brothers Bolivian as control.
In order to host a blind tasting, I had to consult my extensive experience as a Californian. Having worked in the California wine industry, I am no stranger to blind tasting. However, I had never before conducted a cupping. There are very distinct challenges to hosting a coffee cupping versus a wine tasting. The first is the matter of brewing and heat resilience. Wine is easy to decant and let breathe, not so with coffee. To surmount this challenge, I purchased Melitta Ready Set Joe filter cones in order to brew seven coffees at the same time. I ground and prepared the seven coffees around the kitchen coffee bar and numbered each at random. I had a master list that allowed me to know the contestants’ identity, but I set them up without keeping track, so that I too, could participate as an unbiased judge. All contestants were supplied with a filtered water pour over from our kettle. The time in between one pour to the next is negligible. Judges were then able to waft the aroma of the fully brewed coffee as well as the fresh grounds in order to ascertain their first impression of the coffee’s bouquet.
It is here that the Foraker Labs cupping diverges from the norm: rather than have individual cups for every judge, we shared the seven and held a spooning. Every reviewer armed him or herself with a spoon and dipped into the desired vessel to taste each of the seven samples. There was a mix of those who elected to grab a clean spoon with every taste, and then there were those who double dipped after assuring the group that they had no communicable diseases. Everyone made the initial pass through the seven, jotting down reactions and responses. Several judges made a second pass over the contestants to make sure their gut remained consistent. In retrospect, I should have created a tasting wheel, similar to those you can find for wine tasting. On it are descriptive words and adjectives that would have proven useful to our novice coffee lexicons.
The scorecards were a custom creation that I put together in order to genuinely rate each coffee. The irreverent rating system was scaled 1–10, a one being: “this is liquid feces,” to a ten: “I want to suckle from the teat of this bean.” As you can see, the range was rather broad and allowed for a lot of personal preference. Most of the comments made by the judges were brief and perfunctory. Yet, there were a few who understood the gravity of the task at hand. Several examples of the more refined palates included the descriptions—“grass clippings,” “metallic,” “tangy,” and my personal favorite, “meh.” The general consensus stayed locally on the same coffees. As a group, we loved and hated the same coffees. This made my job as master mathematician and tabulator of scores rather simple.
Before I reveal the champion, it is interesting to note the origin of the winning coffee’s beans. As previously mentioned, our overwhelming office favorite, prior to the cupping, was the Kaladi Brothers Bolivian. So now too, the winning coffee from the tasting was also a Bolivian. I had to ask myself, what makes Bolivian coffee so terrific?
It has to with location and the coolness factor. Bolivia and Boulder are both land-locked. We are both at high elevation and in fact, both Bolivia and Colorado possess two of the highest elevated cities in the world. Bolivia has the Andes and we have the Rockies. Our flags are both comprised of solid primary colors, two of which we share—red and yellow. The Bolivians have Lake Titicaca (“titty-ka-ka”) and we have Poudre Canyon (“pooder”). Both sound kinda dirty, but that’s why we have to come up with reasons to reference them in every conversation. The coolest thing about Bolivia is that they have toucans and llamas. In Boulder, we have pikas and buffalos. It’s as if we Forakerians are destined to love Bolivian coffee.
I want to thank all of the contenders who participated in the coffee battle, but I shall keep your identity safeguarded to protect the innocent. For in the end, there can be only one. And the award for best coffee goes to Conscious Coffees of Boulder. They roast a mere two miles from the Foraker Labs Office. Coffee delivery will be done via bicycle, to the delight of the planet and future generations. Foraker Labs is taking a small step further in its commitment to living green. While it is hard to veer away from the Foraker Labs tradition of our Alaskan roast, it is a tradition that will not go unforgotten. Alaska will always be in our hearts and in our name. Thank you.
And to Conscious Coffees, may you wield your power with grace and aplomb.