Rustic Sweetness

Rustic Sweetness

This week I wanted to take a look at some of our coffees that would fall into the "rustic" sweetness category. How could I best describe rustic sweetness? Generally it's a quality in coffee that can be quite polarizing because many of these coffees wouldn't be considered to have fully clean cups and have some muddled qualities in general. Rustic sweetness has some nutty qualities to it like almond and walnut, but can also be herbaceous or rooty with a somewhat cola or root beer-like sweetness. There can also be a bit of an aromatic woodiness to them, which is one thing specifically that makes them polarizing.

What is their value in the spectrum of specialty coffee? For starters, these coffees tend to have exceptionally complex bodies/mouthfeels. Also, these coffee are very distinctive and have quite the following among coffee drinkers, and when there is great care taken in their production, they can still result in some fantastic cups of coffee. These coffees tend to handle a deeper roast profile, and in many cases are much better taken into the Full City range. The rustic qualities are accentuated by more caramelization, and in some cases even pair nicely with just a bit of roasty character. These are coffees with which you can reach the dark roast or, dare I say, Bold audience and still deliver a coffee with so much more going on than just simple roasted flavors.

The 3 coffees up on Shrub right now that I would place in the rustic category are:

Brazil Sertao - Santa Ines Yellow Bourbon -

Sumatra Lintong Dolok Sanggul -

Java Sunda Pitaloka -

I roasted all 3 to a Full City roast to help really accentuate the rustic sweetness of each and tasted them all side by side.

Brazil Sertao - Santa Ines Yellow Bourbon - Coffees from Brazil are known for their layered bodies and rich nuttiness. Cupping it in a line up with these other 2 coffees, I felt that the toasted almond and cocoa really popped in the dry fragrance, but also detected a nice vanilla note as well. This coffee has the densest body of the 3, with the afore mentioned layers with lots of texture. The roast pushes the almond and coca sweetness throughout the cup, which finishes with a candied peanut butter flavor. In this coffee, the rustic sweetness and body work hand in glove in creating this very full experience. There is very low acidity in the cup, easily the least acidic of the 3, but still some raisin and honey notes as it cools that just continue to add to the complexity.

Sumatra Lintong Dolok Sanggul - Coffees from Sumatra are frequently tagged with mulch, or jungle floor-like characteristics. When these coffees are carefully selected and processed though, those same qualities come out much more as a herbaceous flavor, like sweet basil or nutty/spicy arugula. At the Full City roast level, this coffee has an overt cola-like sweetness, with even a slight wold fruited-ness to it. Are the herbaceous qualities in these coffees the result of tartaric acids? Tartaric acid tends to lend more of a sourness and less of a sweetness to a coffee, and is common in grapes and can lead to the herbaceous flavors in some white wines. I could certainly see a green grape character in these qualities, although it's certainly buried under much of the other flavor. At a City roast, the mouthfeel on this coffee can be a little starchy, but at C+ and Full City the mouthfeel is like olive oil and coats the palate. The herbaceous qualities fold nicely into the cola or even tootsie roll sweetness which is the result of the caramelization at this level.

Java Sunda Pitaloka - This is a coffee from a project in some of Java's oldest coffee growing areas in the West. These coffees have been carefully selected and Wet Processed in small batches. The result in the cup is easily the cleanest of the 3 coffees here. Although it has a cleaner mouthfeel, it's still fairly oily and expansive even in mouthfeel. In the warm cup there's a dry walnut/almond right up front and a bright finish with the almond and a mild apricot note. As the cup cools, this apricot amplifies, and the body is more like a pulpy apricot juice, but the almond and walnut is present throughout. This almond and stone fruit sweetness is probably the most refined example of the rustic sweetness while still falling into that category. There is a bit of astringency with the walnut-like acid, but it helps accentuate the best elements here. At the lightest roasts, there's more banana esters, and the body is much more starchy, but at City+ to Full City, I find this to be a very tasty and unique cup, and think it adds some very interesting and complex characteristics to an espresso blend.