- September 2017
- Written by : Michael Sheridan
Director of Sustainability and Shared Value / Green Coffee Buyer
There is just something about fall.
The season arrives with an all-out assault on the senses. The leaves flare out in a stunning visual display, turning a subtle spectrum of varying shades of green into a dazzling kaleidoscope of yellow, orange, red and purple. The haze of summer is dashed by the cool air, bringing the world around us into crisp resolution. The first cool breezes of autumn shake us out of the last languid days of summer vacation, brace us and invigorate us for the busy back-to-school days ahead.
At Intelligentsia, we got a jump-start on the school year when we assigned some homework to our baristas. In August, the Quality Control team at our Roasting Works in Chicago sent samples of seven different fresh-crop coffees from Central America and East Africa to every one of our coffeebars nationwide along with a challenge to our baristas: develop a blend that evokes the flavors of fall.
We asked for fruit flavors of apple, pear and persimmon, molasses and brown sugar sweetness and baking-spice notes. Each store tested different combinations of the seven lots in their possession in pursuit of that autumnal flavor profile. When they settled on their favorites, they submitted their recipes to our lab, where our QC team tasted them until a clear preference emerged.
The winning recipe for this year’s Otoño blend features five lots from our Direct Trade lineup, and was created by the baristas at our Wicker Park Coffeebar in Chicago. It is anchored by our La Tortuga from the Caballero family in Honduras, leans heavily on a spectacularly floral organic lot from our Tikur Anbessa program in Ethiopia and a bright Flecha Roja Costa Rica lot, and includes a dash of coffee from two farms in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador: Christina and Patrick Murray’s El Majahual and La Reforma of Eduardo Álvarez.
While the baristas at Wicker Park didn’t exactly cheat on our Otoño blend assignment, it was almost as if they knew the answer to this test ahead of time. This was the same team that developed the winning recipe for our Summer Solstice blend through a very similar competitive process. Michael Carmody is an Educator-in-Training who works with the Wicker Park baristas. In describing the ingredients in that first winning recipe, he said, “We turned to the Honduras lot due to its syrupy sweetness and cranberry acidity.” So when the Otoño assignment was distributed, the Wicker Park team went back to Honduras, the source of those fall flavors, as the base for their Otoño recipe.
The blend they put together was crammed with seasonal flavors. The three flavors that stood out most to our QC team were cranberry, spiced apple and baked pear, but our tasting notes also included reference to red apple, applesauce, apple pie, ginger, persimmon, brown sugar and molasses: ingredients in any autumn feast. As you welcome fall to your neighborhood, tap into the flavors of the season with the 2017 edition of our Otoño blend.