People have a lot to say about their passions for coffee, myself included. Because coffee is indeed an addictive caffeinated beverage and there is plenty of physiological and neuroscientific study to show why our brains and bodies love it, it makes sense that we feel the need to gush about our adoration for a beverage.
Some coffee growers are just as passionate as coffee roasters, preparers, and aficionados, expressing great love for cultivating their crops. If you’ve ever owned a piece of literal earth you know how giddily proud it makes you feel to take good care of it.
But maybe there is a little too much passion, and maybe it is getting in the way of other things. It is worth spending a few minutes to examine the benefits of dispassionate coffee, of objectively looking at coffee about which we do not feel warm and fuzzy.
The biggest example of this is probably Robusta. People tend to have a knee jerk reaction to even hearing the word, a reaction that may not be as proportionate to Robusta’s variation in quality compared with Arabica as people think. Robusta does taste decidedly less pleasant than most Arabica, but it’s also not entirely evil.
Within Arabica, though, I’m admittedly passionate about coffees from the countries I’ve been to. I love Colombian coffee because drinking it brings me back to the finca and sancocho con arepas. I love Costa Rican coffee because it smells of moutain rainforest jungle. Panamanian coffee tastes like Casco Viejo and Boquete all at once. These origins pass muster in traditional quality tests too, but they are my go-to coffees not because they are objectively superior, but because I have a passion for them that is decidedly biased by factors that are entirely separate from taste.
Since I began working with Ally Coffee and am learning the ropes of my new role as an account manager, I’ve started drinking more and more coffee grown in the rest of the coffee world beyond the familiar Nicaragua to Colombia swath. Ally is based in Brazil, so I have been cupping many and various coffees from Brazil. Up until this past year I had only had maybe one or two memorable cups of Brazilian coffee, but even then I did not pay close enough attention to remember exactly what they were.
But after trying more and more Brazilian coffees and learning to taste objectively, I have found coffees that taste truly incredible and surprising. Fervor had crept in the way of objective judgment and kept me from looking closely at the world’s largest coffee producer. That is what unchecked passion can do.
Love and loyalty are good, but so is an open mind. I have never understood Sumatran coffee or had a cup that I loved. But at SCAA this year I tasted a table full of Sumatran coffees that blew me away. Suddenly that flavor profile made sense. I was afraid I would be as underwhelmed as usual by a region that, in comparison to Central America and Colombia, has none of the coffee attributes I was most passionate about. But I approached the table ready to take notes, to really find out what was there. I was rewarded with vibrancy as bright and complex as that of Latin American coffees, but in the form of fantastic flavors from the opposite end of the spectrum. How do you compare Costa Rica tangy tangerine with Indonesian peppery Siracha? You cannot; and being too passionate about one can cause the other to go unnoticed.
It is easy to fall in love with something and then glorify its qualities and profess to love only that. It is decidedly more difficult to objectively approach things that have mixed reputations and judge them for what they really are. The best thing about being obligated to try new things and learning to understand more coffee origins is that it has taught me to taste what is in the cup, especially when it disproves biases that had no business existing in the first place.