A post about Daterra Farms Reserve
reminded me of a conversation I had with Luis Pascoal, the owner and the head of research for Daterra Farms. Daterra
is a maverick in modern coffee growing and processing, and have a few registered patents on preserving coffee quality in the green bean. Illy has a big research facility on their farm, and the research is done by Daterra's staff as well as Illy.
Well, to make a long story short, Luis said that Illy always buys 1-3 year old crop, and never uses the current year crop. If it is processed and stored properly, an older crop is more suitable for espresso. The bean is more mature, some of its acidity mellows, and some sharp notes get rounded.
I took his claims with a bucket of salt. He was there trying to sell his product so I thought, and probably has a ton of a 3 year old crop he is dying to unload.
Fast forward 2 months, and I'm cupping the 2005 offering of an espresso blend from a commercial roaster. I could hardly recognize the blend. I drank it a lot in 2004, it was stellar. The batch I cupped, a year later was very good, but not as good as the 2005, and it has a very different cup profile. Some of the body was gone, some of the dry fruit had turned into cherry and citrus, and altogether, it was more like a cross between Dolce & Black Cat than the 2004 crop. It was not as well rounded, and not as balanced. I called the roaster and asked him: "What did you do to the blend?" I know, he says, if I could only put my hand on a 3 year old Sunrise (from Daterra).
I don't know if it was the aging that made the difference, or perhaps the 2002 crop was just very different, but Luis's words in that meeting were ringing in my ears. There may be something to his claim that older may be better for espresso. If not for all the beans in the blend, perhaps for the base.