How clean a coffee could be?

Its not everyday that you can meet with your peers that works abroad. althought the world is getting smaller and smaller, with the existence of blog and twitter, having a chance to meet someone, have a sip, and a whole lot of chat is still really precious for me. Why precious? Through twitter you probably could learn technics or trends, but most of the time, the why factors, is still difficult to convey.
A chance to meet Tri satya Dharmawan, an Oz based award wining Indonesian Barista, excite my brain. A chance to take a sneek peek on how the coffee industry works in Australia tantalize my curiousity gland. So then, a day after christmas, I drove my self, wife and kids, to onefifteenth coffee, to meet him.

Being a barista champ meaning that people will expect you to make coffee, even on your days off. At onefifteenth, Tri is being put to work, brewing coffee for us. Copious coffee he brew, and at a moment, a certain comment that people made on a brew that Tri made, tickles my brain. Everyone is claiming how clean tasting the brew is. Deep inside my head, I mumble,yea its clean, clean enough that for me it resembles water leftover from boiling peanuts.

I’ve been hearing the words clean so many time in my line of work. Its been used so many times, and considered as one of the holy grails in the coffee industries. It’s been used so many times, that in a way, its started to lost its meaning. For me, at least.

From what I know, clean coffee means that you couldnt taste any unnatural uncoffee taste or aroma in the coffee you brew in the morning. How unnatural? Imagine diesel fuel, motor oil, tire rubber, and such. Aroma or taste, that the coffee, being hygroscopic it is, absorb during the post harvest, processing, shipping, and storage period. Another theory that I know, a coffee called clean, when the brew doesn’t leave a trace on your palate, after you drunk it.

So that lead to the big queation, how clean, a coffee, could be?

Why does a brew that reminds me with peanut boiling water, is called a clean coffee. What coffee? That question open up quite a lenghty discussion with Tri. For him, coffee is about balance, and about a journey. His experience shown him that Oz’s will appreciate this type of brew, especially when you build their expectation of the brew. “Tell them that they’ll be having a tea like coffee. Its coffee, but it behaves like tea”. Lead their imagination of what they’re gonna have, Tri told me, in a way. “What if no prelude was given?” I asked him. With a big grin, he answer, “I dont think those bloke might not enjoy the brew afterall”

No matter where you are, perception is a powerful weapon to sell a product. The word clean, is, an arsenal coffee people use to hijack the price of the coffee they’re selling. It’s I guess, the bule version of the word Luwak. It sells you a perception of good quality coffee, good enough that you have to shell out a few thousand or hundred thousand rupiah more for it. Hmmm.. another word that behaves the same way, pop up to my mind. That word is Specialty.

Back to our discussion, Tri fiddles up another brew using the aeropress. “This time we’re going to use different beans (from different countries)” Same method, same brewing parameter, and as expected, different result. “How was this?” He asked. “Like it better?”

This brew taste a bit better for me. Still taste watery, the kind of brew that will make me think wheter i have the brew ratio wrong, but still better than the first one. Reminds me a bit of coffee produced from a syphon, when I make one, at least. Funny thing about this coffee is, when I swallow it, I can feel traces of minerals depositing on my throat. That type of feeling that you got when you drink “hard” water. Water that contains plenty of minerals in it. Could this be called clean? Its coffee allright. Taste more coffee for me than the first one. But is it clean?

Sadly our discussion is interupted because I have to move this fat ass somewhere else. I wish I have more time to discuss coffee with this rising star in Indonesia’s barista world. Untill then, my brain still trying to digest what is the true meaning of the word clean ,on this fastly growing industry, in this country of mine.

Happy holiday everyone 🙂

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