By: Eric Gulley
Every now and then, maybe a few times per year (if I’m lucky), I get to taste a coffee that is truly memorable; a coffee that I compare others to in the future. The kind of coffee that makes me say, “this is what coffee should taste like.”
I first tried La Cabra’s Shembati while working at the coffee shop. During a lull between Saturday morning rushes, I threw some of the coffee into the shop’s Malkonig EK 43, ground it up, and made myself and my coworkers a pour over using a Hario V60 cone. I used a 16.6 to 1 ratio, a medium-coarse grind setting, and I brewed the coffee with a thirty second bloom and a single pour afterward, agitating after the bloom and after the pour. The total brew time was 2:30.
The aromatics of the coffee were immediately prevalent. As the coffee was ground and brewed, my coworkers and I noticed an appealing perfume-like scent filling the space behind the bar. The coffee tasted the same; sweet, floral, and intensely aromatic. One fellow barista eloquently put it, “it’s like I’m drinking a bouquet of roses.” Another barista noticed a citrus acidity in the beginning, and to me, it tasted similar to a tangerine. Tangerine acidity, with a sweet body and floral finish. After brewing and tasting, I refracted the coffee and found the TDS to be 1.6% and extraction to be 21%.
The next day was my day off, so naturally, I made some Shembati in the morning at home. It was a sunny and brisk Sunday, and my wife and I had ambitious plans to clean the apartment before noon. I brewed the coffee using the same parameters and method as before; only this time, I used my humble Baratza Encore instead of the shop’s glorious EK. I brewed the coffee, split the brew between my wife and I, threw on a record, and sipped the coffee as I dusted and vacuumed. As we sipped and worked, we both found the coffee to be pleasant. This time around, the coffee seemed to have more of a dark-fruit note, similar to a blackberry or plum. I was also struck by the coffee’s natural light body. Even though the coffee’s body was almost tea-like, the flavors and aromas in the cup were truly intense and clear. Flavor notes aside, the coffee paired great with my Sunday morning and Fleetwood Mac record.
Whether you intend to experiment with brew methods, refract the cup, and pull out flavor notes; or make it in the morning to help you through a busy day, I believe you’ll find this coffee more than amicable. It’s a coffee with a delightful complexity that begs to be explored. But at the same time, the coffee wants to join you on your way to work or on a lazy Sunday morning. It’s complex, yet accessible; it’s the way coffee should taste.