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January 27, 2012

A Visit with Coffee Roasters Alliance to Sample their Guy Harvey Coffee Blends

I’m not a coffee lover. I am a wine snob and yesterday may have changed everything. I was invited to tour a coffee roasting plant here in Central Florida. Who knew we roasted beans in Central Florida the land of the mouse?

When Joey Chase, Co-Owner of Coffee Roasters Alliance, invited me for a tour and to sample some of his specialty coffees I was a bit hesitant. I even told him I wasn’t big on coffee. That’s when he started to tell me it’s a lot like wine. Wait, what? Coffee? Like wine? I decided to head straight for Longwood to see how it stacked up.

When I arrived, I was unsure if I was in the right location but the minute I opened my door I could smell the beans. The aroma was enticing and I started to get excited about learning something completely new and maybe even walking away with a new appreciation towards coffee.

Joey started my afternoon with a look at one of his roasters and lessons in coffee. Coffee is prepared from roasted coffee seeds (aka coffee beans) of the coffee plant. But the beans are wrapped in a cherry-like fruit. Coffee Roasters Alliance (CRA) actually works with small farms in Latin America and are educating the farmers on how to make their farms sustainable for entire families, a legacy to pass along. In some developing countries, specialty coffee is the only tool they have to create a future for their family and the farm.

Did you know that coffee is best enjoyed within two weeks of roasting? I know if any of you are like my friends and I, we keep it in the freezer and it lasts us anywhere from 6-12 months; and, I’m not even going to venture a look at the back of the freezer. Joey informed me that coffee has over 850 components to its flavor and after 2 weeks it loses as much as 60 percent of its flavor and aroma. Looks like small, fresh two week bags for me from now on.

Now comes the art of cupping. We went into the back room where he had freshly ground three different coffee roasts to try. Two were new coffees that Joey had yet to sample. The first step: analyzing the aroma. A layer of crust forms after pouring hot water over the fresh ground coffees. Because some of the aromatics disappear quickly you must place your nose as close to possible where the crust has broken and with your spoon you push it down into the coffee to smell the different aromas. I did this with all three and was astonished by the differences. Then after doing this a couple times, Joey demonstrated how to “sip” the coffee to get the most taste (acidity, body, finish and flavor). When I sipped the first coffee, I was told to put the spoon to my bottom lip and let it sit there and sip it quickly through my teeth and then have it roll around on my tongue prior to swallowing. Okay, now that takes practice but it was quite fun trying. The first cup was dark and rich with quite a punch of creamy caramel flavoring. Okay, I have to admit I didn’t get the caramel the first time through but after Joey pointed it out, I got it. The second cup was a bit lighter and I was extremely impressed with myself because the lingering taste on my tongue was lemon. Lemon and coffee? Joey was shocked that I nailed it, too. The third cup came from the same farm in Venezuela as the second cup, but reminded me more of tea in taste and texture. It was quite interesting that beans from such a small farm could be so different, but that they we’re.

Now the next scene I was clearly going to enjoy. The espresso machine. Cost: $12,000. And its the first machine on the East Coast like it. We tried two different kinds of espresso with the beans ground to different finite grinds, and what I found intriguing was the difference. The perfect espresso should come out dark reddish-brown and in approximately 28-seconds. Then he made me a latte with that perfect cup and I was in heaven, even though I bounced off walls for the rest of the afternoon from my caffeine infusion.

Coffee Roasters Alliance has a number of different kind of roasts and flavors but what we’re excited about are the four specialty Guy Harvey blends. The Medium Roast-Organic Santo Domino, Medium Dark Roast-Deep Blue Blend, French Roast-Organic Wild Earth Blend and the Medium Light Roast-Organic Caribbean Blend. I have the Organic Caribbean Blend in the coffee pot now, although I can taste the Caribbean influence in its blend, I must admit I’m not a complete coffee convert yet, but I’ll hand it to Joey — I had the best espresso and latte ever at his roasting plant. Now if I only lived closer, so that I could swing by every morning before I wake up and head to the computer.

You can find the Guy Harvey blends online at: http://coffeeroastersalliance.com or in your nearby Whole Foods here in Central Florida. Keep an eye out in the coffee isles because there’s going to be more stores carrying these fantastic blends soon. If anyone can elevate coffee to the level of wine for my snobbish tastes, it’s Joey Chase and Coffee Roasters Alliance .


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