Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #35.
To follow up on the post on coffee growing in Hispaniola, here is our second review of a Dominican Republic coffee (the first was Café Alta Gracia). Here wer have Organic Barahona from Larry’s Beans. Fair Trade and Certified organic.
Larry’s Beans is one of the members of Cooperative Coffees, a group of 23 roasters who have banded together in a green coffee bean buying cooperative. They directly source coffees from small-scale farms at or above Fair Trade price. You can read about their producers (which provide beans to the member roasters), and best of all, you can access all the purchasing documents — complete transparency. Not every lot is acquired through Cooperative Coffees, but access to the paper trail from outside purchases will also be available as the kinks are worked out of the system.
Cooperative Coffee’s DR producer is the Federation de Caficultores de la Region Sur (FEDECARES), covering 13 provinces in the DR with over 170 member organizations and 7600 farmers. This particular lot came from the El Polo Cooperative, one of the new member organizations, based in the southwestern DR town of Polo, in Barahona province. I believe this puts the elevation of the coffee at 800 to 1200 m.
The beans were a medium roast, with a sheen of oil and some pinpricks. Nobody could adequately agree on much about this coffee. One smelled honey and tasted honey, and was quite emphatic about it — and this is a flavor highlighted by the roaster that is noted on the bag. Another found it nutty, and I thought it had a woody or earthy taste. It was one of the few coffees I’ve had that I thought tasted better cool.
There was no roast date on the bag, but it did have a use-by date. Use-by dates are “X” number of months from the roast date; presumably the day of the month of the roast date and “expiration” date are the same. This would indicate I received the coffee when it was already almost three weeks old. The less-than-vigorous bloom seemed to back this up. I think this coffee would have been much better freshly roasted, or at least we would have been able to tease some more flavors out of it.
Overall, a soft, laid-back sort of coffee, pleasant but unremarkable, coming in at 2.5 motmots. If you’ve tried to convert a grocery-store coffee drinker to specialty coffee via a really refined and elegant bean and been disappointed that the person found the good coffee to be too different or just “didn’t get it,” this DR coffee might be a better place to start. It won’t be offensive,off-putting, or weird — just a big step up and a good price and ahead in sustainability.
UPDATE! Jonathan Bonchak, Goodwill Ambassador from Larry’s Beans, sent me a fresher bag of this coffee. Indeed, it had a much better bloom, and it was pleasantly sweeter than the last bag. Two people gave it substantially higher ratings — “It was delicious!” — and in this set of tastings it earned just over 3 motmots. Thanks, Jonathan!