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June 7, 2019

THE COFFEE CHEMIST AND THE ROASTER

“It’s buttery,” Yingyot describes Ethiopian coffee. “Imagine biting into a biscuit that has some good fat in it, like good oil,” he continues.

We were so enthralled with his description of the flavors of coffee that we started to get curious and lined up to taste Ethiopian Sidamo and Guji origins from a nearby stand.

True, each coffee origin indeed has a distinct flavor. I have always loved the chocolate and caramel notes of Guatemala Antigua and our own Benguet coffees.

I really do not like acids or citrus notes. When I drink coffee, I look for a clean chocolate taste. “The coffee seed is alive,” he continues. If you keep it away from light and food it struggles and starts to secrete acids,” he poetically explains. Then that gives the flavor to the bean.

“Are you a teacher?” we ask. “I am a chemist” he replied. That explains how he can explain (and why) this coffee is different from another.

“This,” he points to Francisca’s new crop which is dark green in color “is still too raw. You have to let it slumber after harvest for about six months in its parchment.”

“Hmm,” Francisca whispers, “maybe he is right”.

“This must be a very new crop,” he adds.

It’s the first time I am engaged and not irritated with the nuances one explains about the coffee bean. Some experts talk from a very intellectual and studied viewpoint, sometimes you just roll your eyes while they talk about acidity or brightness.

Not Yingyot. He engaged us, his audience of three women, with his observations about our green coffee samples. When he saw we had Liberica, he almost screamed in excitement. “I feel I have found a treasure,” he says. He has been looking for Excelsa and Liberica, two coffee varieties that are not (yet) popular in Thailand.

He thinks Liberica may just be the answer to an impending coffee shortage in Southeast Asia. “If we plant now, we can be differentiated and be popular and self-sufficient,” he exclaims.

One day we will meet this chemist and passionate coffee shop owner again. Oh and before leaving he helped us entertain a lady buyer who only spoke Thai. He sold the beans like he has been to Sagada, as he describes what its flavor could be, in his native Thai language. We happily watch as he convinces this lady to try a pack. She pulls out her cash to pay. Mission accomplished! Our customer has become our top salesperson in an instant.

The next day we meet another interesting person—a roaster who claims he is “just” a salesman. He explains that he plays around with samples in his Probat sample roaster and would gladly try Philippine beans. He asks us to pack everything we have (which were the last few packs anyway) and to start piling our bags to head to the airport before the rush hour starts.

What an angel! He sensed our anxiety as he saw our half-packed luggage waiting to be sealed. After packing the last of our stocks, we left the show with smiles only a coffee lover could elicit from us.

Two gentlemen who come from different backgrounds but surely made our days and our short stay most memorable.

 

 

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