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Kunming Mountain, China

August 22, 2006
Combined

This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.

One of the pleasures of coffee is that it comes from far away, exotic, and romantic places. Coffee from Yunnan Province, a heavily forested, mountainous, semitropical region in southwest China, of course, triggers all these expectations. But while China is very different from the West, "exotic" or "romantic" simply don't apply to how things happen there.

Coffee growing in Yunnan Province was introduced by French Jesuits in the late 1800s using South Indian stocks, but languished for lack of export opportunities. It didn't die out completely, since Chinese herbalists recognized coffee's similarity to other plants in the Rubiaceae family and incorporated it into their pharmacology. Growing was revived at the usual heroic scale during the Cultural Revolution; and, also as usual, stopped within a few years when it turned out that heroic mass-production coffee was undrinkable. From the mid 1980s on, in conjunction with the economic liberalization and the increase of demand for coffee by the Chinese themselves, the UN, then Nescafe, increased the acreage under production. It now amounts to around 18,000 tons per year, most of which is processed into locally sold R&G coffee by a joint venture Yunnan Government/Nescafe plant. Of this production, some highly selected, well processed green bean lots are finding their way to Western roasters.

This coffee was sent to us by Jateg Coffee Roasters, Inc. dba Treasures Coffee & Tea, based in Sun Valley, California.

One would expect the treestock and soil in Yunnan to be too young to produce great coffee; and this lot bears this out: there is very little that is memorable about the taste. This 2006 crop coffee has a classic cup profile with hints of cocoa and turpenney in the roast, a very slight inorganic earthy nuance, and a very subdued apple acidity on top. However, the care taken in processing is also telling; the cup is ripe, sweet and flawless, with an especially clean and sweet finish.

Overall, this coffee has excellent balance, low-to-medium acidity and a rather long finish. Jim thought the style very reminiscent of an indifferent Kona or other Hawaiian coffee; There is no doubt that Yunnan coffees will soon become a major constituent of "Kona Style Blends." All in all this is a simple crowd pleasing coffee without any flaws. It would probably make an excellent blender, combined with coffees that could enhance the personalIty of the whole. It is also a stark reminder of how much potentially great coffee, ruined by poor processing, ends up as greens far less tasty than this.

These beans are Arabica with a screen size of about 15 or 16 and a relativley low moisture content - about 9.5%, so roasters shouldn't expect too much in the way of an animated first crack.


Dry fragrance: 3.5
Wet Aroma: 3.5
Flavor: 7.4
Finish: 8.0
Acidity: 6.0
Body: 7.0
______________________
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 85.4


  • Lighter Roasts: Sweet, mild classic cup, reminiscent of island coffees
  • Darker Roasts: caramel notes will pick up until dark full City, ashy beyond that
  • As Espresso: Not suitable

 

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UPDATED: August 23, 2006