Over-priced, expensive or good value for money? As the price goes up the question becomes more relevant. Am I paying a premium for quality? Am I buying geekery? Or am I a victim of good ol’ Snake Oil shenanigans? Coffee enthusiasts have a bucket list. Those coffees that need to get sampled during this lifetime.
Sadly for me, there was a movie called The Bucket List, in which the usually brilliant Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman fell prey to Hollywood and made a fun but cheesy movie. The sad part was the coffee. Kopi Luwak. An Indonesian rarity that is allegedly comes into being like this: A civet cat eats the ripest coffee fruit. It’s gastric system processes the fruit, allowing the seed, the bit we use, to be excreted and collected. The coffee tends to rate like how it was made. Expect to pay around a grand a kilo.
Then we have Monsooned Malabar. Geeky cool name huh? Take a coffee, store it for a season (instead of using this year’s fresh crop like we yearn for usually) in a dark damp cellar during monsoon season. Roast to taste. Sadly this one tastes like it was sorted in, well, a cold wet cellar through the rainy season. A grand a kilo again. Sigh.
Then we have Blue Mountain. You’ve seen this one on the shelves of your grocer haven’t you? Or have you? Certified Jamaican Blues (come on, this isn’t the appropriate time for a Monty Python Parrot recollection) sell for around R1500 a kilo, or four hundred South African Rondt for a small bag. So what is that stuff on the shelf you ask? Who the hell knows. Now the certification is around quality, and a good Blue Mountain is a delicate complex experience. If properly roasted, these coffees are an exquisite joy
As the price goes up, so too does the law of diminishing returns. One pays much more for decreasing layers of benefit. But man, once you have tasted the best…
The geekiest coffees for me at the moment just got shipped to my door. You all know of the varietals Arabica and Robusta I am sure? Particularly if you read this far? (If not, see here and here). Well coffee number one, which just arrived in my roastery by the way, is neither. It is Laurentina. Naturally low in caffeine. Excruciatingly hard to grow and harvest, and delicate, floral and delicious.
The other coffee is a sort of Arabica. The Arabicas are of different types, with most being modern hybrids and many of the best being Bourbons, both red and yellow. But what I have my grubby paws resting on right now, is a different, harder to roast one. The Geisha! The reward of careful technique, the Geisha is the equivalent of the wine world’s Pinot Noir.
Sadly both of these come in at way over the two thousand Rand a kilo mark. I kid you not. But value for money, I assure you, Come taste some with me.
- David Donde is the guy behind Truth Coffee in Cape Town.