For the week of April 1st, I chose to revisit an old favorite that had met with good reviews, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Previous iterations of Yirgacheffe BBotE had been described as pleasantly earthy with peanut overtones, but this time came out different. In fact, there was a strong gender based difference in opinion on the flavor when presented to my Usual Subjects.
This particular batch was received within 12 hours of leaving the roaster before being put up into solution. While extracting, it proved one of the more oily creations I’ve had, challenging the Colombian Finca Yara . The surface tension of this BBotE was such that, when shaken, drops would bead on the surface before sinking and merging into the blackness.
When given to men, as a straight cold shot, there was uniform agreement that it was “fatty, greasy…but I like it” on the immediate taste. None of us agreed on the aftertaste. One declared it to be “rich, rich, melty fudge” and other said it was “smoked ribs”. To me, it was like heavily buttered movie theater popcorn. My hypothesis is that there was a good hard stomp on the fatty taste bud and then the rest of the tongue was extremely confused trying to figure out what just happened. This is largely dependent upon the “flavor library” you have trained your tongue and brain with over your life. So many smells and flavors are completely tied up in memories that describing whatever you just drank turns into a small biographical journey to bore your fellow drinkers with, who really wish you’d just shut up and enjoy it already.
The women, save one, uniformly declared the Ethiopian to taste like “burnt caramel”. The exception has a long established her aversion to dark roasts of any shape or form and finds them to be “burnt dirt”, though she did declare that she could see where others might have found caramel. Go figure.
The traditional alcohol test of adding one part straight vodka to three parts BBotE yielded a pleasant cocktail, but very little change in BBotE flavor. The fatty mouth feel was muted, but otherwise unchanged.
To be honest, I am not nearly well read enough in neuroscience to say anything definitive but I find this all tremendously interesting.
A week passed…
For the April 8th experiment, I tried another freshly roasted batch but this time a nice Guatemalan medium roast. The flavor yield was good but the mouth feel was something new and different from the previous week’s Ethiopian. During extraction, it seemed to be far less oily or frothy than the Ethiopian but on initial taste had a strong fatty hit on the tongue. This was immediately followed by an almost martini-like sensation of dryness on the top of the tongue. Aftertaste and mid-palate flavors were uniformly declared to be “nutty…like hazelnut or Brazil nut”. One person found a hint of chocolate that made her ask if I’d added Nutella to her sample.
The traditional alcohol test of adding one part straight vodka to three parts BBotE caused the Kenya-like explosion of sweetness. Indivdually, neither BBotE nor straight vodka are sweet; combined in those proportions, it became dangerously drinkable as a liqueur with no additional sugar.
And now for some well earned beer.