Hyacinth. Lemon candy. Kumquat.
These are the sense-provoking words that Portland coffee importer Catalyst Trade uses to describe an Ethiopian coffee named Wush Wush #2. Going on auction in July, bulk lots of Wush Wush- and numerous other Ethiopian coffees like Red Honey Dimbira, Yaye, Cherico, Belaychew and White Honey Dimbira- will be offered as small-lot green coffee beans to Third Wave coffee outlets, in other words, to specialty coffee producers.
Catalyst Trade is a women-led, vertically integrated coffee trader with ownership in both the U.S. and Ethiopia, who caters to Third Wave coffee outlets. Their headquarters are in Portland.
In April, potential buyers gathered at Catalyst Trade’s Portland lab, and got a chance to judge the flavors for themselves in a process called cupping. The art (some would argue science) of professional coffee tasting, cupping is a multi-stage process. The process unfolds like this: first, 9 grams of ground coffee are placed in a cup. 150 grams of water, heated to exactly 200 degrees, is then poured gently over the grounds, forming a “crust”. Tasters wait a carefully timed 4 minutes, allowing the coffee to brew, and then scrape and remove the crust with two spoons. In 13 minutes, they begin to slurp (never gulp) the golden brown coffee at different stages of cooling. The buyers’ palettes experience the results; their pencils make copious notes.
I take copious pictures.
I photographed the event to capture the joys of discovering specialty coffee, an epicurean treat somewhere on the scale between tasting aged single malt scotch and eating wild mushrooms with cognac and truffles. But with extra points for caffeine.
Needless to say, the photographs don’t do total justice to the delicious smells and tastes at the Catalyst Trade lab. But they do show the taster’s reactions: eyes closed, lost in a parallel nimbus of coffee complexity.
I forgot to mention White Honey Dimbira. Here’s how Catalyst Trade describes its brewed flavor:
Just picture it.