Regional taste profiles

I’ve met a lot of coffee folk who are very concerned that a coffee from a certain region should fit a flavor profile for that region. I can see how this made sense even 10 years ago. However, much has happened since then! We now seek coffees differentiated by descriptors and nuances. If we don’t want coffees to taste alike, how can we want regional taste profiles?

Many things determine the final taste of a coffee. Some of the more important ones are the plant’s genetic makeup, the post-harvest processing and the roasting. If farmers and/or roasters begin to manipulate these important factors, variations to the profile are going to occur. This is a good thing! This is what we want! We must give up the idea that regional profiles are valuable. It is time to accept that “specialty” coffees have no boundaries or paradigms.

Let’s take the Kona district of Hawai‘i as an example. For a long time, people understood that there was a single Kona profile. This profile probably existed because most (perhaps all?) of the coffee funneled through only a handful of processors. This blending of the region’s coffees created a very narrow range of possible flavors. Today, there are over 700 farms in Kona, many of them vertically integrated and vying for the same consumer base. These farms have the potential to produce coffees with a range of tastes. While these coffees may have some commonalities, I suspect they could produce noticeably different flavors. By creating unique coffees within a region, producers will have an easier time finding and maintaining new customers.

What better way to convince a consumer that not all farms are alike by actually offering a coffee that tastes different than the rest? We need to give up the notion of regional profiles. Each farm and coffee must be given free reign to find its own magnificent potential. We shouldn’t narrow our vision because of preconceived ideas. Think of every coffee as its own entity and don’t compare it to anything else!

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