Education

Coffee Questions: What is Terrior by Caleb Savage

Every so often, we get a question at the bar related to coffee or our thoughts on coffee that we feel should be discussed on a larger platform. We started a series of posts called Coffee Questions where we try to answer those questions and leave as a resource to anyone looking to learn more about the industry, brewing, or anything else! Click here to check out other posts in this series!

For our October Palate Training, we tried some Dick Taylor Chocolates from Madagascar, Belize, and Brazil and discussed the role different environmental effects have on the outcome of coffee, chocolate, and most other plant products! Factors like what variety of plant is being used, where the coffee is grown, sunlight and water received, and other decisions being made by farmers can all make a significant impact on the quality of the your morning cup of coffee. We can wrap all of those ideas into a single idea: terroir.

Terroir. /terˈwär./ Tear-wah. Yes, we’re bringing French to the blog. Pardon.

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Are Red Delicious Apples even Moderately Delicious?

I don’t think so. I’m more of a Granny Smith fan. Gala is okay, but save the Red Delicious for applesauce. I don’t want it. What’s with the apple rant? Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious are all varieties of apples. We can categorize them under that broad category of “apple” and you recognize them as they are, but no one would say that a Granny Smith apple tasted the same as a Red Delicious apple. Like apples, coffea arabica, the species of plant we use to make coffee has dozens of varieties grown around the world.

How does variety affect coffee?

Thanks to World Coffee Research, we can learn more about the different Arabica varieties, their susceptibility to various diseases, and other information farmers making decisions about profitability would be concerned with.

The variety of coffee plant grown can have a significant factor in the outcome and profitability of coffee, but it’s not the only factor.

Elevated Sweetness

In general, the higher elevation a coffee is grown, the better we will be able to achieve more sweetness & better developed flavors in the cup. Why?

Because temperatures are lower at higher elevations, coffee cherries mature more slowly which allows for more and more complex sugars to develop in the fruit. These sugars get stored in the seed that ends up becoming what we know as roasted coffee beans and when brewed, result in sweetness in your espresso or coffee!

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For coffees grown at lower elevations, farming decisions like shade and controlling access to water can mimic the benefits of higher elevation.

Care Creates Quality

At the end of the day, terroir is the set of environmental factors that affect the quality of our end cup of coffee, and more importantly, the sustainability of our industry, and the profitability of coffee producers.

For most coffee farmers and producers, developing coffees to their fullest potential is about increasing profitability and providing for their families and employees. This dedication to quality leads to higher premiums for their coffees and recognition from the coffee community. Therefore, a producer armed with the right tools, knowledge, and experience can temper potentially negative environmental concerns to cultivate excellent coffee.

We love getting to share great coffees with you every day. These coffees come from roasters, importers, producers, and farmworkers working hard to ensure that only the best is harvested, sorted, roasted, and brewed for you. If you’re curious about learning more about the coffees we serve, just ask a barista next time you’re in the shop!

Chocolate Palate Training: Class Recap by Caleb Savage

Last weekend we hosted a chocolate palate training and discussed how environmental factors impact the taste and quality of coffee!

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Using our Dick Taylor chocolate bars, we tried chocolates from Belize, Brazil, Madagascar, and a 58% milk chocolate bar using the same chocolate from Madagascar! Like coffee, the taste of chocolate can vary based on where the plant is grown, how the cacao or coffee bean is harvested and cared for, and how the product is roasted and prepared to be served.

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Afterwards, we compared the chocolates to KLLR Coffee’s Guatemala Ranferi Morales, a coffee from Southwestern Guatemala with a sweet milk chocolate body and tart grape acidity.

Curious about coffee growing and processing? Check out our overview on coffee from seed to cup!

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Let's Talk Tea: Class Recap by Caleb Savage

Let’s talk tea. Oklahomans love tea. Even as soda becomes less and less common in restaurants, you can almost always find tea on the menu served in two forms: black or sweet. In fact, it’s not terribly uncommon to go to a restaurant in our great state, order an iced tea and receive a sweet tea instead, but we aren’t here to discuss our state’s sugar consumption.

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Last Saturday we hosted our first tea class led by Aria & Caleb, examining the history and production of tea, discussing blends and single origin teas, and of course, drinking a lot of tea! We couldn’t have done this class without having an opportunity to talk to Sam Duregger at Woodshed Tea or serving fantastic teas from Urban Teahouse and 49th Parallel!

What is tea?

Tea comes from the dried leaves of the Camellia Sinesis plant, an evergreen with two main varieties. The plant is grown in places like China, Taiwan, Japan, Iran and Turkey as well as Sri Lanka, Kenya, and India. Countries like China & India have been cultivating tea for thousands of years, developing rituals, improving quality, and working tea into the culture of their communities.

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Plantation to Teapot

Since tea growing can be highly regional, it’s hard to set clear steps on how we get from plant to teapot. Practices on how and where plants are grown and how the leaves are dried and processed to be used for tea can be highly specific.

Tea leaves are plucked according to how the leaves will be used. Lighter teas are often younger while teas like Oolongs or Pu-erhs often use mature leaves. The leaves are then withered to lower the moisture content of the leaf to retain flavor and then the leaves will be rolled, oxidized, or fermented depending on their desired tea. Well-produced teas are then sorted removing inferior or smaller leaves and defects discarded.

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Current Offerings

You can always find a variety of teas in the shop as we always keep a black, a green, an Earl Grey blend (for London Fogs), a Chai blend (for Chai Lattes) and one or two seasonal teas! All teas can be served hot or iced.

Mexican Coffee by Caleb Savage

We’ve said before that a great cup of coffee is a coffee you enjoy drinking. While some see it as a polite non-answer, we truly believe that while there are strict standards to determine quality as well as scientific answers to how we taste, ultimately, your preferences in taste, the information you have about the coffee, and the setting in which you drink the coffee all determine your overall enjoyment of the coffee and therefore, its perceived greatness. While we work hard to source, prepare, and serve some of the best coffees available to our friends and family in Downtown OKC, every once in a while a coffee comes along that excites us for more than just checking the boxes for quality in care and cup. Heart’s Mexico Miramar Especial is one of those coffees. It’s not just that it’s a great cup of coffee, (it is) but the story of Specialty Coffee in Mexico is too good not to share with you.

Hecho en México

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Coffee has been a vital part of Mexico’s economy since the late nineteenth century. Often ranking in the ten largest coffee producing countries and accounting for around sixty percent of the world’s supply of organic coffee, our southern neighbor is a coffee producing machine. So why is Miramar Especial the first Mexican coffee ever roasted by Heart or served in our shop? A handful of issues arise: Mexico’s government began investing in the need for organic certification on coffee as the emerging specialty coffee market began shifting to a focus on quality, followed by a national bankruptcy which crumbled institutional support for farmers, and, in more recent history, issues with la roya or coffee leaf rust has decimated entire crops, causing a dramatic and devastating decline in production, due in part to rising temperatures. But these reasons alone aren’t the only things making it difficult for the best coffees being grown Mexico make it to the United States.

Drift: Mexico City

A magazine devoted to coffee, culture, and city, Drift Magazine prints dives into cities around the world with a passion for coffee. In its sixth volume, Drift captured the emergence of specialty coffee and the passion that comes from having coffee growers so close to consumers, roasters, and baristas in focusing on Mexico City, “the most populous and one of the oldest cities in North America.”

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If you go to Africa, they don’t have many specialty coffee shops. If you go to South America, they are starting to have specialty coffee shops. But, for example, they don’t have brewing methods yet because it’s expensive. Mexico has the U.S. in the North, and that gives us huge access to machines, equipment, and industry trends. But we also have the fortune of being a coffee-producing country. We can have coffee from our backyard and the technology from the North.
— Carlos de la Torre, Café Avellaneda (Drift: Mexico City)

With a growing specialty market, coffee professionals are developing relationships with producers and farmers to serve the highest quality coffees from southern states like Oaxaca, Veracruz or one of the twelve other coffee producing states in Mexico in cities like Mexico City, and Guadalajara. More than pride or novelty, cafes and roasteries are investing in specialty coffee in Mexico to close the knowledge gap from consumer to producers, to mitigate the effects of La Roya, and to support farms and co-ops that international buyers might avoid paying premium prices for when a similar scoring coffee might be found in Peru or Colombia for a cheaper price. It’s not all doom and gloom for Mexican producers though, with four coffees scoring above 90 points in the 2018 Cup of Excellence competition, with all 28 winning lots scoring above 86 points, with the winning lot selling at $100.20 a pound.

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Miramar Especial

The coffee we are featuring comes to us from the state of Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s most southern states and one of it’s most well known coffee growing regions.

From Heart:

“Miramar Especial was our favorite lot produced by the Sierra Mixteca co-op. The co-op is located close to the village of Guadalupe Miramar, in the State of Oaxaca. Sierra Mixteca is relatively small, with only 15 members. Our lot is a mix of entirely Bourbon and Typica varieities. Once the cherry has been picked and depulped, the farmers dry ferment their beans for between eighteen and twenty-four hours, then the coffee is washed. The farmers of Mixteca utilize both patio drying as well as raised parabolic beds.”

We’re thrilled to be able to share this special coffee with you! We taste notes of milk chocolate and guava.