IMG_0116It is a little known fact that coffee improves your objectivity as a journalist. O.K., I'm kidding. I don't believe in "objectivity" and usually avoid the word. It sounds like an impossible God-like standard. Most people who use that term are setting up a straw man. I prefer terms like balance, neutrality, fairness. And conventional newspaper journalism can certainly reach conclusions, so long as they are supported by evidence, and qualified.

This just happens to be a topic on my mind and in my Twitter stream. The fairness/objectivity debate is in the air.

I work for a news organization that promises fairness and ethics. Like Buddhist enlightenment and perfection in general, they may not be attainable. The value to the reader comes from aiming for the worthy goal, without fear or favor, bias or prejudice. Even the best newspapers print corrections every day, but they still set accuracy as the standard. We don't give up because perfect accuracy is unattainable. A journalist who expresses political opinions risks abandoning the habit of keeping an open mind, risks losing the audience and access to sources that might give a more well-rounded picture of the debate, whatever it might be.

There's a risk that a decided mind is a closed one that overlooks facts and lacks empathy for all sides in a contested debate. Reserving judgment is a sound habit for a political journalist, and others who cover controversial topics.

For these reasons, I don't share my political opinions, when I have them. Most traditional journalists are the same. The work should speak for itself. A great reporter should be able to cover an atheists' convention or a Christian revival without drawing complaints of bias from any quarter and without revealing any beliefs about God. Who cares about one person's opinion, really? Opinions are plentiful and easy to come by. Reporting is hard work. It is a higher calling than argument and persuasion.

But we're here to talk about coffee. I have opinions about it. No contradiction there. I don't have a problem passing judgment on coffee, the quality of books and writing, TV shows, the usefulness of gadgets and other topics. For one thing, my day job does not involve reporting about or critiquing these things. They also fall in the realm of inconsequential opinions, right up there with "nice weather" and "you look great." So let's return to my coffee quest.

Name Blue Batak

Origin Mandheling, Sumatra

Roasted Sept. 1 by Verve Coffee Roasters of Santa Cruz.

Purchased Sept. 4 at Café Grumpy, 224 W. 20th St., Manhattan, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Description Chocolate and caramel biscuit tones, earthy graham-cracker graininess, citrus, dried pineapple and plum, tree bark, cinnamon stick, etc. (see below).

In the Cup The Verve Web site, alas, still seems to be a work in progress. All I know about Sumatra and Blue Batak are from this entry at Sweet Maria's:

We offer the top grade, specially-prepared Lintong coffees as Blue Batak in honor of the Toba Batak people. Blue Batak is a near-zero defect preparation, without the usual split beans, broken pieces and crud found in standard Sumatras. It is carefully density sorted and triple-hand-sorted. The dry fragrance has chocolate and caramel biscuit tones, but with a slight earthy and graham cracker graininess. Surprising fruits come forward in the wet aroma, even a momentary whiff of citrus, pineapple, dried plum, fig. It's got great rustic sweetness, aromatic tree bark, cinnamon stick, black tea, and mulling spice in the finish. The body is a bit lighter than the Onan Ganjang micro-lot we have as a sister lot, even though they come from areas that are very close to each other. It also has less of the herbal notes found in other Lintong coffees, which I think makes it a better choice for use in espresso.

So -- no crud -- got that? That's quite a laundry list of flavors. I can't speak to the tree bark, but there was a finish of black tea and certainly a sweetness. I liked this coffee quite a bit, as I often do when there's a hint of chocolate and caramel. I mostly drank it as an espresso. No crud. (Here's some more information about the Dutch term Mandehling)

Good coffee. Nice weather. You look great.