When I started this coffee blog 9 years ago with two friends, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to write about.
First and foremost, I wanted to write about cafés. I fell in love with coffee shops before I started drinking black coffee. I had a personal blog where I talked about the coffee shops I went to and those posts would get the most traffic. It seemed like a natural progression to start a website that would guide people to the best coffee shops, and thecoffeecompass.com was born.
What I didn’t want to write were coffee reviews. At the time there was a glut of coffee blogs focusing on coffee reviews, assigning points or stars, quibbling over tasting notes. It felt tedious to me. So I made a decision: no coffee reviews. In the early days, we received almost weekly inquiries from roasters that offered to send us coffee, and though we happily received any free coffee a roaster wanted to send us, we made it clear we weren’t going to review it on this website.
Furthermore, at the time I was working for a coffee roaster, so it felt like a conflict of interest to review another company’s coffee.
But an unintended consequence of not reviewing coffees was that I didn’t get to write as much about the most fascinating part of the coffee supply chain: origin.
I visited a coffee farm for the first in 2015. The trip to Cajamarca, Peru felt like a pilgrimage. We cupped table after table of coffee. We picked ripe cherries and watched as they were processed. Between visits to dry mills, we ate delicious ceviche and lomo saltado. It was everything I hoped for and more. As much as I love barista training and education, I often wish my work took me to origin more.
Now that I no longer work for a coffee roaster, I primarily buy coffee as a consumer and to use in the SCA classes I teach. As such, I’ve decided to start a column about the coffees I’m enjoying called “Now Brewing.” Any coffee I write about will be coffee that I purchased.
It’s fitting to start this column with a roaster that is somewhat new to me: Brandywine Coffee Roasters in Wilmington, Delaware. They’ve been on my radar since my friend Steve brewed their coffee for me some years ago, and I’ve watched from the other side of the Atlantic as they’ve grown in popularity. A visit back to the States afforded me a chance to buy their coffee for the first time.When I saw they had a single estate coffee from Cajamarca, I knew which one I wanted to order.
This coffee was produced by Baltazar and Rosa Guerrero who own the farm La Orquidea in Pindo, a village in Cajamarca, Peru. Like most coffees in Peru, the coffee is fully washed. Typically, in Cajamarca coffees are wet-milled on the farm with small depulpers and fermentation tanks, and I would expect that’s the case here. At 1600 MASL it’s a relatively high elevation. The variety listed is Caturra, which is known for its cup quality.
This coffee is sweet. Brandywine offers “Milky Way Candy Bar” as a tasting note, and as much as I hate name brand candy references in tasting notes, I have to admit it’s pretty spot on. Like most Peruvian coffees there’s lots of chocolate, but it’s a nougat-like sweetness that really delights here.
More surprising, however, is the acidity. It’s bright and citric, but in beautiful harmony with the cup. The bag says grapefruit and I think that’s a great descriptor.
The roast is light, but not too light. In lieu of an Agtron reading, I would describe the roast degree to be “as light as I would enjoy.” The lighter roast serves to accentuate the fruity qualities of the cup, without sacrificing sweetness or body. With such expert roasting, I can see that Brandywine’s popularity is not simply because of the beautiful, screen-printed bags or the wax seal. (Though I do think both of these aesthetic touches enhanced my experience!)
Fresh crop Peruvian coffees typically arrive in the States in the winter, so I would guess this coffee is on its way out as we approach the summer. But if you get a chance, do try this wonderful lot from the Guerrero family. It simultaneously provides the sweet and chocolatey profile we expect and love from a Peruvian coffee, but with a lively acidity and added complexity that demonstrates Peru deserves to be recognized as one of the world’s great coffee origins. The coffee is beautifully roasted, revealing why Brandywine has become such a sort-after roaster in recent years.