Flight of Fancy – A Contest for Coffee Geeks

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Populace Coffee Flight of Fancy 2015

For the second year running, Populace Coffee out of Bay City, MI has run a cool contest called Flight of Fancy. This year’s winner will walk home with a Mahlkönig Peak grinder that retails well over $2,000! I guess last year there were only two people who got their selections correct and the winner is the person with the right answers who emails first.

I thought, “Oh, this will be easy for me because I drink SOOOOOO much coffee.” Wrong.

This is a tough competition, but still fun. I have my answers selected and I have no idea if I’m even in the ballpark on them. We will see, hopefully tomorrow when submissions are due or on Thursday at the latest.

The way the competition works is you get sent 75grams of four different coffees. There are also 10 cards included in the box. Each coffee is one of those cards. So, the game is to figure out which coffee came from where.

I can assure you that my “job” of tasting a coffee and describing what’s in the cup is really easy compared to trying to guess origins. There were no “gimmes” like a blueberry-laden Ethiopian natural or a Pacamara that you could identify just by seeing the giant beans. All the coffees are washed and nothing was really given away visually.

The cards listed the following 10 origins and you’ll see from this list that Populace was not going to make this easy:

  • Ethiopia Tegegn Ochola
  • Ethiopia Aricha
  • Colombia Inza Finca Villa Rica
  • Colombia Los Pinos
  • Guatemala Todos Santos
  • Guatemala Hunapu
  • Costa Rica Las Delicias
  • Honduras David Lopez
  • Kenya Nyeri Karogoto
  • Papua New Guinea Keto Tpasi

I saw those cards from Central and South America and I knew it was on like Donkey Kong. No messing around! I started by cupping my four coffees and that did very, very little for me. Three of the coffees were super similar and one stood out, which I guess was worth doing to identify the outlier. I got lucky, maybe, with that outlier because when I brewed it the aroma was super similar to a coffee I’ve had recently and it turns out one of the coffees on the cards is from the same co-op in the same country as the one it reminded me of. So, I may have that one right, but this contest is still full of doubt and second-guesses.

I went into full research mode and took copious notes on all the coffee cards, including paying special attention to whether it was a current and/or past offering from Populace. As it turns out, there are four coffees that Populace has currently included in the cards. But then this is where the doubt starts to kick in. Is it a coincidence that four of the cards are current offerings? Would they really do that? Was this an oversight and they didn’t think we’d go to the Internet or is this CIA-level tradecraft in play? Etcetera.

Of my four selections I have one “nailed” because it tastes SO much like another coffee I recently had and one of the cards matched the same part of the country I thought it was from just from tasting. So, I’m pretty confident on that one.

There was one that I thought could have been from Kenya, but visually the coffee was a mix of different size beans with a lot of peaberries. Knowing that Kenya coffee is sorted by size of beans and peaberries are isolated and sold as such, that was the one time visual inspection of the beans really helped me out because while the profile was Kenya-esque, visually there was no way it came from Kenya. Score! LOL But, this contest is about knowing what a coffee IS, not what it is not! LOL

The other three were REALLY similar in cupping. One stood out on the acidity front and when I dug in DEEP in sensory research as it pertains to different food acids I caught a break. Again, maybe. I was kind of floating in a certain direction and then I read something about a particular acid having a salty component and my description of the acidity in this particular coffee matched that AND had a salty twang to it, too. But, maybe I underextracted it and that’s why it had that saltiness. See how this makes the competitor paranoid and full of self-doubt? Ha!

But, in any case, those two were as solid as my choices were going to get. For my other two choices, one I went totally off-the-cuff for based solely on flowery flavor descriptions from bags and importers and the fourth one is a total guess based on absolutely nothing but “feeling.” Super scientific!

Anyway, that’s why reviews have been spotty over the last week or so. I have a ton of coffee staring at me from the counter to review but I had to get my Flight of Fancy coffees tasted and notes taken and etc and so everything got bumped for this! Thanks for your patience and keep your fingers crossed for me!