Throughout my time working in coffee and judging barista competitions I’ve noticed that my palette is very fond of approachable coffees.
Coffee with depth and complexity and a distinct yet subtle flavor characteristics.
Coffee you can drink and not think about while after finishing makes you think “wow, that was awesome. What was that”
My experience with this phenomenon almost always falls in the lap of coffee from El Salvador. In lesser cases Guatemala and Bolivia.
That being said, I am absolutely settled on using a Central/South American coffee for competition.
These coffees may be seen as “safe” in a competition setting, to me that absolutely doesn’t make them bad. It means the routine has to make up for and best communicate that specific coffee or the barista’s relationship with it.
After Kyle Glanville won the USBC with the Finca Matalapa, obviously from intelligentsia, And I started working at dogwood, I played around with El Salvadorian coffee as espresso. Kyle’s routine is one that I hold close. He won the USBC in Minneapolis, the first year I attended SCAA expo or any expo for that matter, and the first time I saw a barista competition. I regularly refer back to it.
Last year while thinking of competing we (Dogwood Coffee) had a coffee from El Salvador by the name of Finca La Ilúsion. If I were to compete, I was set on using this coffee. El Salvadorian coffee as espresso sings to my palette. Lovely citrus, paired with subtle complexity, and decent balance. Likely on the acidic side, but not too far and typically balanced with some other nuanced spice (cardamom, grains of paradise, cinnamon). I love it.
This season we weren’t able to get Finca La Ilúsion. It happens.
We did get some samples of some other El Salvador’s though. Stephanie Ratanas, our roaster/buyer, roasted two or three of them up as samples and brought them to the coffee bar where she and I tasted them as espresso. I honestly didn’t want to have any presumptions about the coffees other than that they were from El Salvador so I didn’t know the farm names or any other details.
What we settled on and what we bought was the Finca Alaska. Unbeknown to me, Another one of Juan José Ernesto Mendez’s coffee farms.
Over the next few weeks, and over the past few months, we’ve been adjusting/tweaking the roast profile so that I can a) get it dialed in b) get as familiar with all of the ways this coffee will extract and c) get comfortable with how it ages. (it’s vacuum packed, so hopefully it’ll last two more months, but who knows)
As of right now, I’m 80% sure this is going to be my competition coffee.
But who knows how the next few moths play out.