20 Feb 2014

CC versus CC; a Kenyan Coffee Comparison Between Roasters

Gichathaini or Gitchathaini?
Coffee Collective or Coffeecompany?
Go Danish or Go Dutch?

As a starting barista and barista trainer, one of my most memorable and eye opening experiences was my trip to Copenhagen, to the Coffee Collective. This is where I stepped away from the huge lattes and syrupy concoctions and got introduced into the wonderful world of black coffee. Espressos that were sweet, chocolaty and balanced. Filter from an aeropress that tasted of strawberry lemonade. This is possible? With coffee?
Although I do still quite enjoy milk, in an espresso machiatto or flat white, I never looked back, never settling for a badly made black coffee. And as a result my house is overflowing with different coffee making systems, from a gorgeous 2 boiler Expobar to any type of filter method you can think of (almost...).

As I convinced my other half of the wonders of coffee to the same extent as I convinced myself, and the closest specialty coffee bar is about 2 to 3 kilometres away, we go through quite a lot of coffee at home, blowing through anything we can get our hands on. From my trusty filter coffee from the new Coffeecompany Roastery to Sweetcup, Lot61, Caffenation, Bocca, Single Estate and occasionally something more exotic like Madcap, Tim Wendelboe or Solberg &Hansen, depending on our trips abroad.

With the arrival of the Scandinavian Embassy however; importing several different brands of Scandinavian Roasters, I got the opportunity to try an old favourite; Coffee Collective! And by chance the exact same coffee I knew so well, the Gitchathaini from the Nyeri region in Kenya, a coffee that has been in the Coffeecompany portfolio for a few months, and a personal favourite for its beautiful round raspberry sweetness, cut by a tart blackberry acidity.

Who could resist? A coffee roasting comparison, with roast dates within one week of each other. And also such a nice collection of C's; a cc between the CC and the CC, done by C (a coffee comparison between the Coffeecompany and the Coffee Collective, done by Cerianne). Let's get started!

First of, the information on the packaging. If you want to buy specialty coffee, but you are not sure if what you found is the quality you think it is, check the packaging. Does it tell you where the (green) coffee comes from? The more specific, the better. Does it have a harvest date? The more recent the harvest, the better the coffee. In other words, don't buy a premium specialty coffee, no matter how good the reputation, if the harvest date is more than 1, 1 1/2 years ago. There should be a new harvest coming in! And what is the roast date? Again, the more recent the date, the better. Not that a coffee goes bad that quickly, but the taste does deteriorate fast.
Both packages are very complete in their information. The Coffee Collective has a lot more text going on, but unfortunately I cannot read it all. But the basics are easily found.

The roasts look very similar in colour, perhaps just a shade lighter on the Danish side. Looking at this I expect a little more acidity and a lighter cup as a result.

I want to make sure that the only difference I taste is between roasts, so I decide to not make filter coffees, but to cup the two different coffees, making sure the water to coffee ratio, grind, extraction, water and water temperature is the same, but also that the brewed coffees have the same standing time. Cupping also provides the opportunity to taste the coffee as purely as possible, not passing it through a filter of any kind altering the taste, and most definitely affect the body of the coffee.
If you want to try cupping coffees as well, check out this blog post on how to set up a cupping.

Smelling the coffees when ground already gives quite a big difference. The Coffee Collective smells more of red fruits, and smells a little greener. Overall however it has a less strong aroma than the Coffeecompany. Also in appearance there is a difference. Although the roast degree is still pretty much the same, the Coffee Collective has more chaff (silver skin), which could result in a little more heavy and smokey cup of coffee. But nothing is set in stone and it all comes down to the actual tasting.

After pouring the coffees and smelling the coffee wet, the difference in aromas grows bigger. The Coffeecompany's aroma is earthy, warm and smells of ripe blueberry. The Coffee Collective becomes more fruity, combining an array of red, blue and black berries.

Now, finally, without any presumption of patience, the difference in taste. Looking at bitter, sweet, acidity, body, smoothness and overall taste, the differences are very apparent. Both coffees do not have a very full and heavy body, but the Coffeecompany has a more round medium body, while the Coffee Collective is a bit more smooth.
Both coffees really have no bitter to speak of, which for me, in a Kenya is a good thing. Bitter is something I look for more in a really beautiful Indonesian coffee, as they usually carry it better than African Arabicas.
Then sweetness and the acidity. The Coffee Collective has a very clear berry sweetness and acidity reminding of raspberries and other red fruits, where the Coffeecompany reminds more of blue and blackberries. However where the Coffee Collective's acidity is more tart, the Coffeecompany's acidity is a little more aggressive citrus lemon-like, especially when the coffee cools. Eventually gone cold, the Coffee Collective's Kenya is more balanced, keeping its sweetness to the very end.

Overall, really, there is no winner. Both Gitchathainis are gorgeously roasted, both bringing out the berry-like flavours so recognisably Kenyan. I would say that the Coffee Collective Gichathaini is a little more tea-ish, with a very strong raspberry taste profile, perfectly balancing both tart and sweetness. The Coffeecompany Gitchathaini, although also very sweet, is a little more acidic, balancing a citrusy lemon and a sweet and sour blue and black berry. Also, the Coffeecompany's roast is, in comparison, a little more spicy.
Only when cooled, my personal preference becomes the Coffee Collective, as it maintains its syrupy sweetness, while the Coffeecompany roast does go a bit too sour for me. But if you drink your coffee a little faster than slothy me, you should really not run into this problem.

So which one wins, you may ask. And although you might find it annoying to read, there are no winners in this case. And that is a good thing.

There are a lot of badly roasted coffees, and a lot of bad tasting coffees in general. Both these coffees are amazing, and really which one is better depends on the personal preference of the beholder of the cup. Do you prefer raspberries? Or do you prefer blue and blackberries with a drop of lemon?

The cool thing is, that again it shows that roast profiling is soooooooo important for your end flavour. Starting with the same green coffee, from the same harvest, roasted within the same week, the coffee still tastes completely different. So, if you get the chance always, always, try different roasters and explore different tastes. Grow your own taste database and learn; what type of roasts and coffees do you like? Because in the end, you are the one that has to finish the cup.

Do you want to try these coffees too? Check out the respective Coffeecompany and Coffee Collective webshops. There is a price difference though, with the Dutch brand going at EU9,10 per 250grams, while the Danish is a more expensive EU13,20 for the same weight.

Once bought, do finish fast, as both disappointingly lose flavour very very quickly, resulting in a rather bland and flat coffee...

1 comment:

  1. C, great review! If one buys exactly the same coffee a few weeks later, assuming one has an amazing tasting memory, would it taste the same, or could it differ, maybe as much as between two different ones?


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