Good morning! Today I have my third coffee from my Arkansas homies at Airship Coffee! Arkansas is coming up bright on the specialty coffee map these days and it’s for good reason! Airship’s other two coffees were big hits, so let’s check out the deliciously named “The Super Red” and see what it has in store for us! Links to this coffee, Airship’s website and past reviews are below!
AIRSHIP COFFEE EL SALVADOR THE SUPER RED
Let’s talk about tasting notes first. Airship gives us “bubblegum, caramel, vanilla” for this selection, which is sure to be a wild ride! This coffee comes from Finca Calera in the Metapan region of El Salvador, growing at 1700masl. It is comprised of Bourbon and Caturra varietals and it is a honey process coffee (and, based on the name, I’m assuming that’d be a “red honey” process, but that’s purely speculation). This is a coffee that came out of Airship’s Three on a Tree project, according to their website, and I am in contact with the folks there to find out more about that. Again, since I’m already making some assumptions, I presume that is one coffee processed three ways, but I’ll let you know when I find out more from Airship!
As far as “honey” coffees go, no honey has been added! When it comes to coffee processing, the two main types are natural and washed. Natural coffees are picked, sorted and dried with the cherry left on whole. Imagine a bed full of what end up looking like raisins. Washed coffees are picked, depulped (skins removed) and then moved through water tanks to wash off the sticky, sugary mucilage and fermented for some amount of time to remove as much of that stuff, often called “honey,” from the seeds (what we call coffee beans). Then they’re spread out and dried. Honey coffees land in between these two processing methods. They are picked and depulped to remove the skins, and the depulping equipment is also calibrated to remove some amount of the mucilage at the same time. Instead of going into fermentation tanks to get the rest of the sticky mucilage off the beans, they are laid out on beds to dry and they are rotated at certain intervals. This has become a really popular processing method, especially in Central America, and when a little mucilage is left on these are usually called “yellow honey” coffees. When more mucilage is left on they’re “red honey” and there are even “black honey” coffees. This processing tends to give a pretty clean cup with more body and sweetness, maybe more fruitiness, than if the same coffee got a straight washed process.
I used my usual 1:16 ratio (28g of coffee, 450g water) in the notNeutral Gino pourover to prepare my cups. This turned out to be an interesting and also somewhat challenging coffee for my palate. It’s sweet and it has big body and a nice presence on the palate. There is a sweet lemon-squeezed-over-berries type of brightness/acidity to the cup that evolves into the caramely, almost-but-not-quite strawberry type of sweetness. I noted a tiny hint of ferment in the aftertaste of this coffee, too. And then there’s that bubblegum note.
I’ve had a handful of coffees where I get this pink bubblegum flavor.
On this one, it was quite strong, but it was coming through as a musty earthiness on both the aroma and the flavor, to my palate. At first I thought maybe my bag had a couple of gnarly beans in it that were tainting my cups, but as I kept drinking it was this earthy component that, as it mellowed out, was VERY noticeably bubblegum flavor! So, I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with this coffee, in terms of taint. I think the way my brain and palate perceives this particular chemical compound in this coffee is just “weird.” LOL I may be wrong, maybe my bag is a little funked up, but I really do think this is just a new and complex flavor for me and it’s coming across as a mustiness at first to my sensors. The coffee is a lovely cup for me except for that, and once the flavor evolves into that bubblegum I love it. This is why I think it’s me, not the coffee, getting this musty component because if it was a straight up tainted coffee then I don’t think the flavor would develop on my palate the way it does… it would just taste like old sweat socks from beginning to end.
UPDATE 12/9/16: IDENTIFIED SOURCE OF MUSTY FLAVORS IN COFFEES I WAS REVIEWING AND IT WAS ALGAE THAT WAS IN THE MUNICIPAL WATER SUPPLY DUE TO OUR UNUSUALLY HOT AND LONG SUMMER THIS YEAR. NO FAULT OF THE COFFEE ITSELF! MY APOLOGIES TO READERS AND ROASTERS!!!
Interesting, no? Also, what I was perceiving as mustiness mellowed out as the coffee cooled down, so again, if it was taint from a moldy bean or something I don’t think that would happen. I think this is simply a variation of, “You taste blueberry in there? I don’t!” and I’m simply a little cross-wired on how I’m perceiving this flavor note. Seriously, getting around that, this is a big, really flavorful, really “present” coffee that is a nice drinker. And, even with that musty component, for me, I had no problem putting away my cups of it. I’ll have to try to score another sample from Airship and see if I can get some more insight into this conundrum!