Ginger Coffee? - A Barista School Digression

Alyssa De Jager, Head of The Barista School at Truth

INDIA is a large coffee-producing country. 7th in the world in terms of production (6 million bags of coffee in 2016) one would think that if you’ve tasted a few you have tasted them all. Not Wokha.

Very few have ever experienced coffee from this region I was not sure what to expect but hopes were high for a beautiful cup with an unusual yet hopefully fascinating taste profile. With baristas, roasting experts and coffee enthusiasts around the table, we broke the crust on a new terroir. With a vague scent of tomato rising through the coffee we cleared the cup in anticipation of the first taste.
The titillation around the cupping table was something to behold as each person grabbed a spoon and jostled for their first taste. The brief silence was shattered by an exclamation of “GINGER!” from one of our cuppers.

So, coffee from Wokha. These micro-lots are divided between the central and the western parts of the country, ranging in altitude from 1800m to 3350m above sea level. The specific coffee we are discussing comes from a single estate in the region of Wokha. Wokha is known as 'the Land of Plenty', thanks to it’s more than 75% natural virgin forest, rich mineral resources, soil fertility, copious flora and fauna and average 1940mm annual rainfall. The two varieties present on the farms are S795 and Kent (a hybrid of typica that is known to be resistant to rust and flourish in the specific micro climate (humid subtropical of Wokha). 50 different Arabica varieties were tested and these were the winners. Surprisingly, the land that is used for the coffee farms is a virgin forest.

Harvesting is done by hand which allows for individual picker discretion to ensure the coffee cherry is at its optimum ripeness. This, in turn, ensures a more flavourful coffee. Less than 500 of these trees were honey dried and then put through a huller where they are peeled and polished. The bigger farms deliver their harvest with parchment which is also peeled, polished and graded. The coffee has been hand sorted (although new equipment has been bought to help the sorting after the parchment is received).

A second bite at the cherry...

So, after a week of resting, we re-cupped. Gathering those nearby, we set up and waited in anticipation. The fragrance after grinding was potent, you could almost picture yourself sitting at a sushi bar getting your palate ready with the ginger that was offered to you. This time, when we tasted it one-by-one there was silence, but everyone had the same look on their face. The face of excitement, the coffee changed for the better after it had rested. Now it was beautiful!
Third time’s a charm?

Much like a fine wine, freshly roasted coffee gets better with time…well, to an extent of course. Within the first 24 hours immediately following roasting, beans will lose about 40% of the trapped CO2. As time passes oxidation will take place; oxygen seeps into the beans and begins the staling process.

Attempting to find that sweet spot between freshly roasted and the beginnings of oxidisation for a perfect cup is never easy. Different origins always hold different optimum brewing points. This was proven yet again in our third cupping session. We allowed the coffee to rest for just over two weeks. Its “wow” factor, due to ageing, had been noticeably watered down.

Under the optimum resting period and an open mind, this coffee is absolutely something to keep your eye on as your coffee journey develops.