If you check out the Counter Culture Coffee web site you will see that for a limited time you can order some of the winning espresso from this years South Eastern Regional Barista Competition. This is Nick Cho's tribute to Aida Battle, the El Salvadorian coffee farmer praised for her passion and zeal for great coffees. The blend is available in very limited quantities because, well, there just isn't that much of the great coffees that make it up.
I was in their training center in Durham this afternoon to meet with some of the fine folks about some ideas I have to propel the shop in which I work to the forefront of the industry (Clover?), and they left me alone for a good half hour and told me to make myself comfortable, and there in the big black Robur was Nick's blend. I was told to help myself.
I pulled 3 doubles, just to make sure I was getting it right. After sipping a bit of the first two, and finishing off the third, I was satisfied that I had teased out most of what I was going to be able to get from it. This must have been pretty fresh from the roast, as the crema was as bubbly as a kitchen sponge, but I felt like I had just eaten a fruit cup. This was a flavor that was really outside the box as far as espresso goes, but there was nothing I found offensive about it. In fact, I greatly admired the balance, the big juicy citrus fruitiness, and the soft dissipating after taste as a well rounded and complete experience. There was absent many of the features one usually expects to get from a blend that is based in a Brazilian, but there was no dissappointment. These shots all had a sleek and sensual body that I would easily expect to see in a Victoria Secret advertisement.
Later on, as others came in for their daily 2:00 p.m. shots, as is the tradition at Counter Culture, the discussion carried on about the nature of Nick's Champion blend. It was generally agreed upon that the all El Salvador espresso was analogous to the fashion industry. While Intelligentsia's Black Cat could be said to be a three piece suit, and Counter Culture's Toscano an evening gown, Nick Cho's blend was more like something you would see on the runway. It is not necessarily something most people could pull off wearing to work any day of the week, but it can certainly be appreciated as Haute Couture. This coffee makes a statement. Maybe it says something about the nature of single origin espresso, maybe it is about the whole Seed-to-Cup nature of the coffee experience that is so easily overlooked by the average consumer. Either way, the statement has decibels behind it.
If you get the chance to order a pound of this, do it. I think it is a little piece of history that will soon vanish from the face of the earth. Other great coffees and blends will surly come and go, but each one is like a child. Character and personality manifest in each one in a unique way that can never be duplicated in exactly the same expression of life.
Born in a cabbage patch, raised on a raddish farm, trained in the marshall arts, graduated like a pitcher, I cut my teeth on an Ohio Scientific Aardvak.
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