From the Cycle Hub Blog by Doug Hook:
Reviewing Decadent Decaf Coffee
Still on the quest to find the perfect decaf coffee, it was great to receive some samples from the very nice Decadent Decaf Coffee Company. In reviewing Decadent Decaf Coffee Company I decided to enlist the help of a couple of friends, who I need to introduce to you. As we sampled the coffees it became apparent we were unconsciously taking on a character from Winnie the Pooh. Yes really, coffee tasters from Winnie the Pooh; you’d better read on...
Going from left to right there is Owl (Andrew), Christopher Robin (myself) and Eeyore (Paul). Owl is always measured in how he says things and expresses himself, taking his time to form a view and always bearing different things into account. Without doubt the quietest and thoughtful of the coffee tasting panel. Eeyore never holds back in telling you how bad something is and I do like knowing where I stand with Eeyore. Eeyore definitely brings balance, keeping my feet on the ground and bringing a sense of reality testing to many a situation. Besides, when something’s really good, he’ll tell you. As Christopher Robin, I’m the born optimist, always jumping around trying things out and definitely “half full”. Sometimes I might need calming down! We’re actually good friends, with much in common and this includes cycling (naturally) and the fact we don’t pretend to be expert coffee connoisseurs.
I wanted to do this coffee tasting properly so the dining room became the coffee tasting emporium for the evening. Eeyore was hungry and had my evening meal(!) and we all enjoyed a few nibbles to help keep our taste buds on the right track. The coffee beans were ground as we got to them with care being taken to get them just right; not too powdery, not too course. We used our ordinary coffee filter machine for making the brew. A jug of milk was on hand if needed, though we did make an effort to sip the pure black coffee as it should be.
Here’s what we thought of the Decadent Decaf samples. I’ll tell you now, it’s a mixed bag….
The Costa Rica Strictly Hard Bean was first up. I had complaints from Eeyore that it wasn’t strong enough and he went onto say there was only a slight coffee smell. Owl was circumspect, keeping a bit of an open mind but clearly not wowed by it. Wanting Eeyore to have a fair sample, I brewed some more and made it roughly double strength, alas it became quite bitter. Collectively we thought is wasn’t quite the “balanced body with subtle chocolate and nutty tones” as promised on the packet.
Although this was our least favourite, it has grown on me since. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute. Trust me, Christopher Robin knows where he’s going with this.
Espresso was better but not quite perfect. Even Eeyore said it was better than the Costa Rica SHB so I suspected we could be onto something. Owl wasn’t giving too much away as he sipped and contemplated the coffee. We liked it best with milk, that was all three of us. All in all we thought it was much better than the Costa Rica SHB.
The Indonesia Sumatra Mandehling was our favourite and we liked the smell of the beans, helping to fuel our taste buds. Noticeably stronger and darker, this seemed quite a serious coffee. There was a little bitterness to it but this was not unpleasant at all.
The thing is….
There’s a few things here:
- We are all different in our tastes.
- Neither Owl, Eeyore or myself claim to be connoisseurs but we all love a nice coffee when we come across that certain “something” to make it perfect
- Eeyore said he would rather drink cheap instant coffee to have a caffeine fix and avoid this decaffeinated lark.
- Owl was wary about giving up something he enjoyed like caffeinated coffee for something worse but I could sense there was some intrigue there. Owl will be bearing in mind the effects of caffeine and balance this against the taste.
- Me, I mean Christopher Robin, has already given up caffeine over a year ago but I still bounce around like my friend Tigger. I’m still looking for that perfect decaf.
In terms of that magic ingredient, we had quite a discussion about this. We suspect we are conditioned without realising it. It’s like the Blue Nunn wine from the 1980s (before I became teetotal) and everyone drank it because it was in a trendy bottle and wasn’t too expensive. When a really nice wine came our way we didn’t like it because we were accustomed to Blue Nunn. Ironically Blue Nunn was a mediocre wine, vastly overrated. Is it the same with coffee? So perhaps we are all conditioned by the Costas of the coffee world and we don’t recognise a really nice coffee when we come to it? I think there’s some truth in this.
We talked about packaging and the influence this can have. This applies to the “packaging” of a coffee shop environment and if coffee tastes better because our expectations are higher. Add to this something about “it’s expensive so it MUST be good”. We considered the actual DDCC packaging and whether the “look” of the coffee is the same as the taste – yes, perhaps there is an argument here and Owl commented on a number of upmarket coffees having dark packaging, in contrast to the white packaging of DDCC (even though it’s pretty stylish). So does the packaging make a difference? Yes, we think it does.
To enjoy really good coffee, do we need to develop and ‘acquired taste’?
Yes, we think so. This is beyond doubt in my mind. I remember giving up sugar in tea as a child; it was disgusting at first and then you like it so much you couldn’t ever go back to drinking tea with sugar. Having finished up the Costa Rica STB coffee I have found I really do like it now. Let me say this again, I really do like the Costa Rica SHB coffee: my taste buds have adapted and very much like the taste nowadays! This is in contrast to the less promising start with Owl and Eeyore – getting the strength right is very, very important for me.
So there you go. Short term dislikes can sometimes become absolute bliss – or at least I’m still heading that way. Which coffee is the next favourite, Indonesian, Espresso….?
Check out the Decadent Decaf Coffee Company website. They do mail order. They explain about the superior Swiss Water method of removing caffeine from the beans. Overall, an interesting website to browse ahead of a mail order.
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