What happens if, in a quest for a perfect shot of espresso, you actually find it, or something close? For one thing, perhaps like a fine wine, you can never be sure the next year's vintage will be as good. And your taste and preferences might change. Of course, my quest was mainly a conceit to try a bunch of coffees and blog about them. I didn't expect to actually find something so far superior to the rest. But the third bean I brought back from Intelligentsia in L.A. this July came close. Alas, I just drank the last shot. Name: Black Cat Single Origin Espresso, Anjilanaka, Bolivia
Origin Bourbon, caturra, typica grown at 1700 to 1900 meters, produced by Agricaby, in Bolivia.
Roasted June 30 by Intelligentsia Coffee.
Purchased July 5 at Intelligentsia Coffee Silver Lake Coffee Bar, 3922 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Description "The espresso that helped Mike Phillips win the 2009 USBC Flavor notes of green grapes and figs give way to a juicy acidity and crisp finish."
In the Cup It would be tempting to declare my quest at an end, because this was the smoothest espresso I've ever tasted. The flavor was perfectly balanced. Not bitter. Not overly sweet. No distracting fruit flavors. It took me a long time to even recognize what the bag called a "juicy acidity and crisp finish" -- though, it was there, finally, in the last few drops.
The folks at Volta Coffee in Gainesville, Fla., described it this way: "It is an entirely different beast when developed as an espresso shot. Taken as a ristretto shot, the Anjilanaka has a malty-caramel sweetness ahead of a bright mango tartness. As a cappuccino or latte, the Anjilanaka takes on a profound almond-walnut flavor." Twenty-five cents extra! That Web site has a pretty good definition of what separates an espresso from other roasts. I'm not a stickler, but there it is.
This was the second espresso I've reviewed related to The Black Cat Project. The signature blend at Ninth Street Espresso in the East Village, Alphabet City, is a riff on the Black Cat collection of espressos.
This coffee came in a very small black bag. And its disappearance from the Black Cat listings on the Intelligentsia Web site suggests that it is no longer for sale this season.
About the label: Who is Mike Phillips? What is the USBC? He represented the Chicago headquarters of Intelligentsia at the United States Barista Championships, which he won with this coffee. Intelligentsia baristas also won fourth and fifth place spots. There's video.
As Man Seeking Coffee explains, it was more a matter of presentation than the coffee itself, but the victory was nonetheless good news for Bolivia, a company with extreme elevations and transportation issues.
So I found the perfect coffee. My one regret is that I brewed it exclusively as espresso and didn't try it as a regular cup.
And now I need to find something else to drink until it comes around again. Onward.