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#21: Post by luca »

josemolina wrote:Opinions?
What I'm writing here isn't an "answer", but, rather, just an exploration of a few things.

I guess there's the underlying question of what do you actually mean by "tastes like coffee"? I suppose that if you look at stuff that scores right at the bottom of the SCA specialty coffee scale, or commodity coffees, they do tend to have a bit of 'sameness' to them. But on top of that, I'd say that a lot of what people mean when they say "coffee that tastes like coffee", in Australia at least, is roast derived flavours, and probably quite often, specifically, baked roast flavours.

So this sort of gets us to a discussion of specialty coffee, coffee pricing, coffee supply, and availability.

The essence of "specialty coffee" is distinctiveness, much of which boils down to coffee that does not taste like coffee, but tastes distinctive. Coffees that taste less like coffee tend to score more highly, and to command higher prices. Either that, or they tend to be rejected entirely as defective. But they probably don't really hang around in the vast bulk of what you might call the lowest scoring, cheapest and most widely available tier of "specialty coffee." Such coffees might score a little higher, and command slightly higher prices, if all the non aroma and flavour components score very highly; if it is an incredibly balanced coffee, with incredible sweetness, a clean and long finish and with great body and acidity, but this would be pretty unusual, and such a coffee probably has a lower price ceiling than others.

So when you are talking about coffee that "tastes like coffee", there are really two possibilities:
1. the coffee inherently tasted like coffee, in which case it is probably something pretty fungible for which the producers were paid little; or
2. the coffee tasted somewhat distinctive, in which case the roaster has done something to it to reduce that distinctiveness.

For a variety of reasons, the supply of very distinctive and high scoring specialty coffees has decreased quite a bit, and is likely to continue to do so.

In years gone by, like, say, circa 2013, many roasters near me could easily get a bunch of beautiful, distinctive, 86 point specialty coffees and use them to make their house espresso blend. These coffees could easily have been sold as single origin coffees. And the fate of them was to be roasted to significantly dull their distinctiveness, to make "coffee that tastes like coffee" to be sold to people that never wanted the distinctiveness in the first place. This was a stupid outcome, and a total travesty. The customers would have been happier with cheaper and more plentiful green, and the producers probably weren't really rewarded for the distinctiveness of what they had produced.

Today, nobody is blending with coffees of that point level near me. To be fair to most roasters, they don't use points to advertise their coffees, but the few that do are pretty fanciful. And if I could get 86 point, well roasted, single origins near me today, I'd pretty much fall out of my chair.

Equally, there's something about coffee where it tends to attract people that have a disproportionate focus on the brewing equipment over the actual coffee. For some reason, there seem to be a bunch of people that have $5k+ in home espresso equipment that want "coffee that tastes like coffee". And, of course, these are the people that are going to pay for espresso roasts of distinctive coffees for the prestige "specialty coffee" marketing associated with them, but will actually end up buying coffees where the distinctiveness has been deliberately snuffed by the roaster to make it "taste like coffee".

So I guess my take on this is I think it would be great if people could be informed about whether they are looking for roast or bean derived flavours and, if so, which beans have the flavours they want, and buy accordingly, so that the dwindling supply of distinctive coffees that don't "taste like coffee" can be allocated to people that actually want that.
LMWDP #034 | 2011: Q Exam, WBrC #3, Aus Cup Tasting #1 | Insta: @lucacoffeenotes
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