It is almost standard in the sensory description of cigars to speak of “coffee notes”. But what does this analogy mean in concrete terms? How viable is it, especially when the products of the two highland plants are combined?
Our tasting panel explored this question – after paring cold brew coffees and cigars – this time with the royal class of preparations: Espresso.
Ten coffees, freshly ground and immediately prepared in the portafilter, and three cigars were to be examined for how they harmonised. And already the set-up of the tasting revealed some misunderstandings.
To speak of all the coffees of a region is like speaking sweepingly of the wines of Spain or all the scotch whiskies as was unequivocally stated by the Viennese coffee roaster Oliver Goetz.
The expert from the Alt Wien roasting house, who is also certified as a quality expert for Arabica and Robusta coffee, selected the majority of the origin coffees, so called single origins for the tasting.
But we haven’t talked about the preparation yet because it is precisely the usually very dark roast espresso that practically cancels out all the subtleties of an origin. One answer was to include a real origin coffee – not roasted for 16 minutes – in the tasting order.
90% of people prefer to drink their dark espresso. The range for the preparation of the green coffees, the degree of roasting and grinding naturally makes it difficult to compare the expressions. Nevertheless the selection which ranged from Sidamo, the Ethiopian Earl Grey among coffees, to the classic Iapar from Brazil – should provide aromatic suggestions.
HIGHLAND PLANTS PAIRED
Thus, a pure Robusta from Java was deliberately found alongside the otherwise tasted Arabicas from two roasting companies. Only blends were omitted in the interest of aromatic comprehensibility. For cigar lovers, this tasting thus offers another interesting aspect – because tobacco and coffee beans from the same growing regions were sometimes available. At Daniel Moser, the second roaster and operator of his own coffee farm in San Vito (Costa Rica) cigars and coffee were even marketed together for a while. But the resonant name Esteli also adorned one of the espressos tested.
This made its harmonising with the Perdomo 20th Anniversary Epicure Maduro from the Nicaraguan region particularly exciting. And with Turquino Lavado, the rare Cuban coffee from the Sierra Maestra also found its way into the tasters cups three times. The roasting company also says it has notes of cigar ash – a good omen for the pairing?
The Dominican Republic was also represented twice – once as a filler of the Vegafina 20 Aniversario Gran Reserva, once with the Santo Domingo coffee from roaster Oliver Goetz.
The American. Coffee growing countries were complemented by coffee producers that the barista scene is particularly interested in at the moment. Four Asian origins from Indonesia (Java and Sumatra) India and even Papua New Guinea, which is roasted quite dark at Daniel Moser at 21 minutes, surprised even coffee connoisseurs. Barista Jakob Gumpinger took care of the perfect preparation of the 30 individual samples, and the cigars on the test stand included the Vegafina and the Perdomo as the mildest, as well as the San Pedro de Macorís Ecuador Robusto.
ESPRESSO DEMANDS AROMA POWER
Despite its lightness, the San Pedro proved to be a surprisingly good espresso companion. Four times it made it into the top ten of the best rated combinations – and with very different coffees.
The San Pedro even scored well with the most intense representatives, the caffeine rich single Robusta from Java and the dark aromatic roast from Papua New Guinea. But the Robusta also found a connection at the other end of the taste scale.
The light shade wrapper plays very nicely with the acidity and elegance of the coffee, attesting to the combination with the Ethiopian espresso. Its accentuated citrus notes made it much harder for the tannins of the other two cigars. The habit of enjoying smaller or lighter formats with coffee was thus also quite understandable in this tasting.
But it can also become too mellow. This was demonstrated by the third cigar, which was not able to counter the roasted notes of the espresso; the Vegafina failed relatively unanimously as an espresso companion! The Cuban coffee Turquino Lavado saved the day – in combination with it, the cigar even made it into the top 5 of the best pairings. But 34 points out of a possible 45 were also the end of the line. Only with the home game, the coffee from Santo Domingo, did the Dominican Gran Reserve still manage 32.5 points in total.
All the other combinations remained far behind in the collective estimation. The delicate aromas of the cigar had a hard time with both the dark roasts – such as the Papua New Guinean – and especially the coffees with strong fruit acids. With a taster average of only 4.2 points, there was the least harmony among all 30 pairings with the already polarising Sidamo.