Man, That Was Coffee!

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Photo Courtesy of Peet's Coffee


In Corby Kummer's recent post he lamented the loss of one his favorite blends. Sierra Dorada was one of my favorite blends too; I lamented its passing. Individual single origins--perhaps from a particular year--and unique blends do become woven into the fabric of our lives like friends and lovers. I recall a customer who would drink only Sulawesi from Indonesia. When it wasn't available, he stopped drinking coffee until it returned.

Does our memory enhance the flavor of the unobtainable?

In the case of Sierra Dorada, Peet's eliminated several coffees because the sales volume was too low to maintain freshness. It's axiomatic that the fewer coffees on offer--in any store--the fresher they are likely to be. Corby's lamentation, and my own, will have to be sublimated to the greater good of more fresh coffee for more people.

There will always be sadness for coffee friends gone missing. I recall well the Jamaica Blue Mountain of the early 1970s. We sold it straight and blended ($1.65/lb). It was complex and full-flavored, lacking only the acidity that would have come with a higher-altitude coffee. The Blue Mountain of today is not even a ghost of yesteryear's ambrosia. (Does our memory enhance the flavor of the unobtainable?)

And what ever happened to the Redjo brand, Java Peaberry? Man, that was coffee! Don't forget the Sumatra from the Gayo Mountain project in the late 1980s. That coffee tasted more like Government Estate Java of an earlier era than the Java coffees of the time.

After a few sublime years, the atavistic flavor was apparently sacrificed for more efficient husbandry. Already, "genuine" Estate Java had been the victim of removing the traditional typica variety and replanting disease-resistant, higher-yielding caturra. Alas.

And the list of lost loves goes on.

My suggestion, Corby, is to frame a used Sierra Dorada bag and put it on the credenza with the other photos. As you pass by, blow it a kiss.

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Jerry Baldwin is co-founder of Starbucks in Seattle, where he was the first roaster and coffee buyer. More

Gerald Baldwin purchased Peet's Coffee and Tea in Berkeley, California, in 1984, and worked diligently to sustain the vision of the founder, Alfred Peet. He remains involved as a member of the board of directors. Jerry was a co-founder of Starbucks in Seattle, where he was the first roaster and coffee buyer. He remained involved until 1987 when he sold the company of eight stores. He accepts no credit (or blame) for the ensuing twenty-odd years. He also serves as a member of the board of TechnoServe a non-profit NGO working to alleviate poverty in Africa and Latin America. He has also been Chairman and Trustee of Coffee Quality Institute and President and Director of Association Scientific Internationale du Café (ASIC). Baldwin is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Specialty Coffee Association of America www.scaa.org, where he served as a director of the SCAA, and the the founding chairman of its Technical Standards Committee. Jerry was honored as Coffeeman of the Year for North America by Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, and he is an honorary member of the Kilimanjaro Specialty Coffee Growers Association, known as Kilicafe. Baldwin was a founding director of Red Hook Ale Brewery and a founding contributor of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He writes in Sonoma County, California, a few miles from M.F.K. Fisher's home in Glen Ellen, looking over his small vineyard. Jerry and his wife, Jane, produce small crops of olive oil and Zinfandel in the Valley of the Moon.
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