Populace Coffee Flight of Fancy – The Results are In

posted in: education, musings | 0

Populace Coffee Flight of Fancy 2015

Well, dear readers, the Populace Coffee Flight of Fancy 2015 contest is over and I didn’t bring honor to my family and come home with a $2,500 Mahlkönig Peak grinder, but nonetheless I am very happy with my performance. I posted a bit about my process yesterday but now that the results are in, let’s see how I did and why I made the choices I did.

So, first thing first, Flight of Fancy is a cool contest Populace Coffee from Bay City, MI has done two years running. I didn’t even know about it last year, so this was my first time doing it. In FOF, we were sent four different 75 gram bags of coffee labeled like suits in a deck of cards: Heart, Diamond, Club and Spade. In the package were also ten cards labeled with different specific coffees from specific origins. Each coffee was one of those 10 cards and the game was to figure it out. I was totally wrong, but close in a way that tells me I have a decent palate.

The ten card choices were:

  • 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

As you can see, in some cases not only did you have to pick the region of the coffee, but then also the specific coffee. It’s one thing to guess that a coffee is from Colombia, but is it the Inza or the Los Pinos. Not an easy task, by a longshot and, really, if you haven’t drunk that actual coffee roasted to that actual profile you are ultimately guessing on the exact coffee, anyway, which was my downfall this year. Next year I’ll be buying a big box of Populace samples the week before the FOF coffees ship so I can give myself the upper hand!

And, of course, the research side of it brings a whole different level of paranoia and second-guessing to the game. It just so happened that four of the cards were current Populace offerings, so the mind immediately starts thinking if those are the coffees, if those cards are all there to throw you off the trail, or what. LOL It’s a mindbender!

Let’s look at my choices and what the correct ones were and then I’ll explain why I picked what I picked:

  • I chose the Ethiopia Tegegn Ocholo for Heart and I was correct.Yippee!
  • I chose Diamond to be the Costa Rica Las Delicias and it was the Honduran from David Lopez. This was my only pure guess in the group and I had a 10% chance of guessing right, which I failed to do. LOL
  • I chose the Colombia Inza Finca Villa Rica for Club, and Club WAS Colombian, only it was the Los Pinos, instead.
  • Likewise, I picked Spade to be the Guatemala Hunapu and, in fact, it was the Guatemala Todos Santos.

So, I only got one right, but I got two origins correct, too, which I feel is a good deal. If I’d been dead wrong on all of them I wouldn’t trust my palate very much anymore. LOL

Let’s break the whole process down. I first cupped the four coffees to SCAA standards, broke the crusts, slurped and did the whole coffee cupping thing. I got very little out of that, much to my surprise.

My cupping notes, copied straight from my notebook, read:

Diamond – has a “green” fragrance. No crust formed. A little chocolate and nuts. Mild as heck. Colombia?

Heart – good amount of peaberries. Pretty mellow. Smells brighter than Diamond. No crust formed. Really nice aroma. Sweet. Peach? Definitely peach in this one. Lime? Plum. Ethiopia or Kenya.

Club – Chocolatey. Not much fragrance. Earthy.

Spade –  pretty ugly. Beat up looking. Tea like. A bit _____. [Couldn’t even read my own writing on that last word LOL

So, those were my exact tasting notes. What the cupping DID do for me was identify Heart as an outlier. Based on my cupping, as you can see I was pretty solid on it being African and the peaberries are an important clue. We all know how much Kenya loves producing peaberries, but what you won’t see in a Kenyan coffee is a mix of peaberries and other size beans because Kenyan coffee is all sorted on size, so peaberries would only be found with other peaberries. I was pretty sold on Ethiopia for this one, but which one?

Spade had me leaning toward Papua New Guinea a little bit because the roast looked beat up and I was wondering if it was a wet-hulled coffee. Club didn’t give up anything on the cupping.

So, next I brewed each coffee over the next few days in my Gino pourover with a 1:15 ratio and just drank them normally. This gave me a lot more information. My notes from those sessions are below:

  • Spade: sweet. Sugary sweetness. Bit of orange and baking spices. Has chocolate in it. Seems to have that “Guatemala kick”/astringency. Maybe I’m overanalyzing it. What I think Spade is not: Kenya, Aricha, Tegegn Ocholo. As it opens it is getting more acidic and grapefruity, so now it feels like it could be Kenya. Leaning toward Inza.
  • Club: Lot of sweet and fruit on the aroma of this one. Fresh brewed – peach for sure. We’ll see as it cools. Lemon-lime acidity? Bright, juicy, lots of acidity but definitely not Kenyan. Acidity, lemon definitely a key player. Doesn’t seem African to me, though. I guess this could be a Yirg/Ethiopian. Could these coffees be any more difficult?
  • Heart: has a similar smell of flowers as the Trunk Hama. Tegegn Ocholo is a current offering of theirs and comes from the same union as Hama. Also visually they looked alike with a lot of peaberries and mixed sizes. Very light body. A bit of lime acidity when hot. Needs to open up some.
  • Diamond: Orange and citrus. Opens a lot as it cools. Bit of grapefruit. Spices.

So, pretty brilliant, huh? LOL

As you can probably tell, I was running out of time on Diamond, which ended up being my only outright guess. I went with Costa Rica, as did some of my friends who were doing this, and it was the Honduran. I believe I’ve only had one coffee from Honduras, so it makes sense why I’d be clueless about that region!

Heart was the only coffee I was really sure about. There were several big clues for me on this one. In the cupping, it stood out as being “different” from the others. There were only two African regions represented, Ethiopia and Kenya, and Kenya sorts coffee by size whereas this one had a mix of sizes of beans as well as lots of peaberries, something you simply wouldn’t see in a Kenyan coffee. It also didn’t really have a Kenyan flavor profile to me at all. It did have a lot of florals in the brewing aroma and because I’d just reviewed Trunk Coffee’s Yirgacheffe Hama recently, it immediately reminded me of that coffee. A bit of research on the two Ethiopian selections showed that the Tegegn Ocholo was both a current offering from Populace as well as a coffee from the same part of Ethiopia, even being part of the same Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. Populace had offered the Aricha in the near past so that could’ve been just as likely but the similar florals and being in the same group of growers made the Tegegn Ocholo the obvious choice for me.

Club was “close.” I got Colombia right, at least, but I picked the Inza Finca Villa Rica instead of the Los Pinos. I think I psyched myself out a little because the Los Pinos is a current offering and so I may have over thought it. Populace described the Los Pinos as complex, roller coaster ride, lemon sorbet but sweet, etc. That certainly fit what I was tasting. I went with the Inza, though, primarily because I found a very thorough description of the coffee on Coffeeshrub’s website and it is currently available from them, so I thought it certainly could be a contender. They mentioned “tartaric acidity” a couple times in their breakdown of this coffee and when I investigated that further I found this descriptor of tartaric acid as having a lot of lemon as well as a salinity or saltiness to it. My tasting notes didn’t show it, but I did get a slight saltiness out of Club and so I drilled into that clue. But, like I said, I am happy that I got Colombia right. Without having had either of those particular coffees roasted that way, getting the correct coffee from the region is a tough thing to do based solely on descriptions and trying to match them up.

Likewise, I ran into the same problem with Spade. I picked up on its “Guatemalanness” right away when I brewed it, as my notes read, “Seems to have that ‘Guatemala kick’/astrigency.” The only Guatemalan coffee I’ve had to date that doesn’t have this little “bite” to it was Equator’s Pandora Del Carmen Pacamara lot and I knew it certainly wasn’t that coffee. Populace had offered the Hunapu in the past and the Todos Santos was their current offering, so again, it could’ve been either one. The Todos Santos description from Populace really played up the peach flavor of it and I didn’t get that, at all, from my Spade sample, so I simply went with the wrong Guatemalan on this one! Like with the Colombia selection, though, I am pretty darn happy that I got the country of origin correct even if I got the specific coffee wrong!

Overall I was really happy with the Flight of Fancy. I think it’s a well-done contest and they were quick to announce the correct answers, which I was really happy about, instead of making people wait for days or weeks. The coffees were all nice coffees worth drinking in their own right and the challenge was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the research part of it, too. Next year I will need to carve out the middle of November to dedicate entirely to the FOF because the only downside is that I was preoccupied with the Flight when I had coffees to review for you, too! Good problem to have! Until next year!