I am a huge fan of coffee. It shouldn’t be surprising, given that my earliest memories of family life were those of my father driving the Cadillac with one hand on the wheel and the other gripping a precariously full cup of coffee, and my mother daintily sipping from a mocha and eating delicate pirouettes at the Farmer’s Market. Having attended Berkeley and “studied” at its myriad cafes led me further down the coffee trail, and now, years from my first small sips of coffee and milk, I found myself at Groundwork Coffee Co., gawking at a flier that stated in no uncertain terms that I could, for a mere three dollars, have a 16-ounce cup of Panama “La Esmeralda Especial”.
This coffee varietal made waves for being sold at auction last year for $130 a POUND (and you thought Starbucks was expensive!). Groundwork managed to procure some from the same farm and was selling their beans for the slightly more manageable price of around $80 a pound. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many people willing to shell out that much for their morning joe.
Thus, I was super excited to be able to have a taste of this brew. Three dollars might be a lot, true, for a simple cup of coffee, but there were a few factors that made the decision easy for me:
- I would never buy an $80-a-pound coffee in my entire life. Unless I became incredibly rich.
- There would probably never be another opportunity in the near future to taste an $80-a-pound coffee for such a reasonable price (it’s like being able to purchase a taste of a first-growth Bordeaux).
- Two dry ounces of beans go into one cup. There are 16 ounces in a pound. There are, thus, eight cups of coffee in each pound. $80 / 8 = $10 per cup. I was SAVING seven dollars by drinking this coffee!
- I could write about my experience on this blog.
That settled it. I asked Anna at Groundwork to make me a cup using the single-brew cone filter method. I could hardly wait the two minutes it took to brew the cup.
The “nose” was redolent with citrus and chocolate. The first taste was a shock: it was almost brutally intense. It was NOT strong or bitter, but the flavors were like a punch in the face from a fist in a velvet glove. Very pronounced… um… tannic characteristics without being bitter or overdrawn. There were high notes of citrus and flowers that mellowed out to dark, dark, DARK chocolate–think 82% cacao. The body was medium, with a slight winy, more viscous-than-usual mouthfeel.
It had high acidity that threatened to spill over into the realm of unpleasantness, but the body managed to reign it in. The Esmeralda Especial had a very long finish that ended in, strangely enough, hints of alfalfa and soybean sprouts. Very unusual.
I went again to Groundwork the next day and had another cup. The same. My co-workers who had a taste of it were struck by the intensity of the brew. If I had to liken it to a wine I’ve profiled in this blog, it would be a cross between the Sean H. Thackrey “Pleaides XVI” and the Maipe malbec: a combination of the Thackrey’s acidity and high notes and the Maipe’s deep, dark, animalistic intensity.
All in all, I feel that the Esmeralda Especial was worth three dollars a cup. It might even be worth four or five dollars a cup. I still wouldn’t buy it by the pound.
A LITTLE PLUG FOR GROUNDWORK COFFEE CO.
I write food reviews on Yelp (click here for an idea of what my food reviews are like), of which one is on Groundwork. Check out the review, and check out Groundwork. They take their coffee very seriously.