So a bunch of people have been in the shop telling me that I have to watch the show Dangerous Grounds, on the Travel Channel. Unfortunately I don't have the appropriate cable package for me to watch the Travel Channel, so two years later, through the magic of the interwebs, I watched an episode last night. The show is of the "reality" genre, with the host, Todd Carmichael, being the owner of a coffee roastery in Philadelphia. He travels the world searching for rare coffees to bring back to his shop to roast & sell. The particular episode that I watched took him to Borneo, in search of the rare Liberica bean. He claimed his goal was to be the very first American to bring back Liberica and that certainly nobody in this country has ever tasted it before.
OK, so right there, I'm raising an eyebrow because I know darn well I tasted Liberica for the first time in our friend Len Brault's tasting room at Heirloom Coffee in West Medford in 2011 and I'm pretty sure he'd been getting it for some time at that point. Len gets it from the Philippines, and I roast it for him almost every week. Yes it is a rare bean so quantities are limited, but hey, you too can get this bean right here in Medford! Liberica has a somewhat floral aroma and an earthy, slightly smokey finish. If you like interesting coffees you'll want to try it. Just let me know ahead of time and I can usually get small quantities of it. Or you can certainly order it from Len too.
At first I was put off by Mr. Carmichael's inaccurate claims, however, as I watched the show I was amused. He was clearly having a good time in Borneo and having a real adventure despite the fact that I don't believe for one minute he & his producers didn't know where to find the Liberica even before he stepped onto the plane in the States. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the Liberica coffee farm that he eventually "found" in Borneo has its own web site! But it was a good story and a nice travel adventure for sure. And it brought some exposure to the often overlooked Liberica bean, which is a completely different strain of coffee from the more commonly cultivated Arabica and Robusta strains.
As I was watching the show, the travel bug in me certainly came out of hiding and smacked me in the face! Before I got into the coffee business, my husband & I traveled a fair amount, often shooting comical videos of our adventures. I want to do that again! So I've resolved to take a trip this Spring in search of "rare" or at the very least, delicious coffee beans, someplace in Central or South America. I'll keep you posted about our destination and eventually, our travels & experiences delving into coffee origins! Think Spring!
It has been almost a year since we offered coffee from Papua New Guinea! Now we finally have a new lot, which we've been enjoying very much. And this bean is Fair Trade Certified(TM), produced by the Keto Tapasi Association, a group of 3,000 small-holder producers. Interestingly, most coffee produced in PNG is grown by subsistance farmers who devote only about a hectare of land to coffee. People grow food for their families on most of the rest of their land and coffee provides families with some cash. By necessity, small farmers need to pool their resources to process and export coffee, overcoming historical tribal and clan differences to work together. We are happy to enjoy the results of their cooperation!
We roast our PNG coffee on the dark side of medium. It has tons of body and a syrupy texture. Spicy and cedar with a chocolate and slightly smokey finish. It's very interesting and we hope you like it!
Sharon Hepburn is owner and roaster at Mystic Coffee Roaster.