Continuing with our theme of some really interesting and thought-provoking coffees from Yemen via my good pals at OQ Coffee Co. in New Jersey, this morning I have their La’aali microlot, which is a mixed lot of peaberries from Ismail and Hajja. The list of links is getting long, below, so check ’em out and let’s drink some coffee!
OQ COFFEE CO. LA’AALI MICROLOT
Our friends at Rayyan Mill created this special peaberry lot from coffees from Hajja and Ismail in Yemen. These grow at 1500-2100masl and they are mixed varieties processed naturally. In natural processing, the coffee cherries are picked and sorted and then laid out to slowly dry. Over time they almost look like raisins. The cherry husks are eventually removed and the bean inside is exposed and exported. This type of processing tends to impart body and fruity sweetness to coffee.
Peaberries are a coffee mutation (I don’t think they give you super powers, but I may be wrong!). A typical Arabica cherry has two seeds (what we call beans) inside. That’s why coffee beans have their characteristic shape. Since they are smooshed up against one another inside the cherry, the sides that touch each other are flat. Peaberries are coffee cherries that only have one seed. So, peaberries tend to be round or American football-shaped. Some people think that peaberries taste better because the one seed is getting all the good stuff from the cherry instead of sharing it with a twin, but I don’t think there’s really a difference except for shape, personally.
When I opened this bag of coffee from OQ Coffee Co. the first fragrance I got was grainy/cereal but there was also an ester note coming right off the beans, too. The two in combination made me think immediately of banana bread! OQ Coffee gives us tasting notes of “grape, medium body, banana acidity, prune” so maybe my nose wasn’t far off! I used my typical 1:16 ratio in the notNeutral Gino pourover with Kalita 185 filters. Using 28g of coffee and 450g of water the extraction was pretty fast, coming in under three minutes. The aromas coming off the cup reminded me mainly of mulling spices. As far as body, the last two Yemen selections I tasted from OQ Coffee were quite thin, but this is a good medium, if not on the slightly light side of medium. This is a pretty complex coffee, as all of these Yemeni coffees have been. Even revisiting this coffee a full two months (yep… my sample was roasted July 17!) after roast, this coffee is super-complex and just continues to develop. It’s so weird!
I get a lot of purple grape, almost like a purple grape soda, type of acidity and sweetness in this coffee. I wasn’t able to taste any of those banana esters I smelled in the bag until the end of the sip as it transitioned into the finish and aftertaste. That is where most of the complexity happens, really, and even into the aftertaste. Up front, the coffee has that grape soda note, but sort of falls off in the middle, then a whole bunch of flavors happen in the second half of the sip! In the long aftertaste I got hints of a perfumy, incense-like note, too, which just contributed more to the otherworldly foreignness of this coffee. Exotic!
I got some banana notes, the purple grape soda carries through to the finish, and then in the aftertaste I was getting a little tartness, maybe a hint of ferment, and some spicy notes. Of the three Yemeni coffees I’ve had to date from OQ Coffee Co. I would say this is the most complex in a way, but also a bit easier to drink because of the fuller body. I’ve really enjoyed all three and I can’t pick a favorite yet because they are all so different from my version of “normal” specialty coffee and, then, also so different from each other! When Catie, the roaster at OQ, told me to let these rest at least a month, I figured she was just inhaling too many roasting fumes, but she was right. I had a cup of this coffee this morning as I typed this out and it hasn’t lost anything. Insane!