This direct-trade variety from Nicaragua was one of the earliest culinary coffees I wrote about on this blog, back in November 2008, when I first started to systematically evaluate the beans I was trying. Back then, I thought I knew a fair amount about coffee, but I really didn't know anything. My knowledge was limited to some basic presumptions I had about the geographic origins of various coffees. I didn't know much about individual growers or roasters. That level of detail was not readily available on the Web or on packaging until this third-wave era of coffee geekery with its focus on elevations, how beans are grown, dried and roasted, and the precise temperature settings on super-expensive coffee-making equipment. It used to be the specifics of coffee bean origins were known only to buyers, tasters and really obsessed fans. Maybe I'm turning into one of the latter, but I still have a lot to learn about the topic. I doubt I'll ever be an expert. I don't have the palate, or the patience, or the equipment. But when I saw that the Flor Azul was in season again, I was curious if my impressions of it had changed.
Name Flor Azul
Origin Las Brumas Cooperative in the Jinotega, Matagalapa region of Nicaragua.
Roasted Aug. 25 by Intelligentsia.
Purchased Sept. 4 at Café Grumpy, 224 W. 20th St., Manhattan, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.
Description Direct trade. Caturra, Catui grown at 1200-1550 meters. From the Web: "Flor Azul lays bare a flawless cup; clean and composed. Notes of melon fruit and apples express themselves affably in the forefront, hinting slightly toward citrus. The acidity plays a supporting role—adding lift to the mouthfeel as Swiss chocolate comes through in the finish."
In the cup The first time around, I think I mostly drank this as a regular coffee, drowned in soy milk, having found it too weird in general, and certainly too strong as espresso, my preferred way to take coffee. We were also having some water problems in our building last fall, and I had a cold. So many excuses. This time around, I tried it again as an espresso and as a regular cup of coffee.
It is certainly a challenging taste, lighter-bodied than I like and coming on strong first with flavors I guess are the melon and apple, but I've never been good at identifying those notes in a coffee. These seem to be notes that a lot of pro tasters value, but I still find it a bit weird in coffee. The reported chocolate finish was very slight to my taste.
So, this remains a complicated coffee for me, and while I recognize it as something good, and unusual, it's not something I can bring myself to drink every day. It's more of an interesting change of pace, but not something I will go out of my way to find again.
(Luckily, I have some other tasty selections I'm trying, roasted by Ritual and Verve, that I bought at Grumpy on the same day, and the excellent Montes de Oro from Stumptown.)
So, this was not an aha coffee. But that's OK. When you get down to the drinking, coffee is still a matter of personal taste. I'm learning that you can recognize something as good, of high quality, without loving it. I know there are a lot of people who enjoy Flor Azul, judging by some of the sell-side raves online, and it can be a way to jolt people with a new idea of what coffee can be, but this is not a selection I would want to drink with any regularity.