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Simple TRUTHs about Life and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
It started with a R5 million book on speciality coffee and a trip to New Zealand. After attending a wedding there, David moved to Greyton and bought and refurbished The Post House. Armed with the beloved book, here began his journey into the world of artisanal coffee. He couldn’t get freshly roasted beans delivered often enough for his liking, so he started sourcing and roasting his own. Ergo, the book fueled a flame that has consumed an entire decade and a small fortune invested in all things coffee.
Enter Thursday 2 September, 11am, TRUTH.coffeecult @ Prestwich Memorial
Press Tasting & Launch of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
1 Somerset Road, Greenpoint
Happily accompanied by my coffee-loving friend of Seared Tuna fame, we headed off, palates at the ready. Turns out we might have bitten off way more than we could chew. The concept ‘coffee tasting’ sounds about as exciting as luke-warm brew in a styrofoam cup compared to what we experienced – a window into the life and times of David Donde, Cape Town’s very own indomitable coffee evangelist, and some of the profoundly simple truths that make TRUTH.coffeecult, and good coffee in general, what it is.
Welcomed with a bag of the much-coveted Blue Mountain Coffee shipped straight in from the Famous Jamaican Clydesdale estate, we sat down with our ‘tasting charts’ and Zane our obliging coffee-brewer got ready with the first round of espresso shots. We were tasting the coffee black to really appreciate the true essence of it.
Jamaica has extremely strict laws in place when it comes to coffee and quality control. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is said to be 98% defect free, comes from the perfect terroir (natural environment) and it checks every single box that it should, yet without being exceptional in any one facet, it is therefore the most exquisite generalist in production says David.
Most of us have encountered Blue Mountain Coffee – in name at least. Heck, pick n pay even stocks ‘Blue Mountain Style‘ coffee. Chances are you have not had the authentic brew. The real thing is only properly sourced from 3 Jamaican estates, which offer the perfect nurturing environment for this liquid gold. To add to its scarcity, 85% of all Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee ends up in Japan where coffee-buyers pay a premium for it.
So that’s what those in the know have to say. What about little old me, fresh off the streets as an ‘ordinary’ coffee drinker by most standards, and who has been led to believe that there’s nothing cooler than patrolling the streets with a ubiquitous cup of Starbucks?
Here it is, My Whole Truth
1. Jamaican Blue Mountain Roast #01 – 17 August 2010 (About 2 weeks before drinking)
David introduced this as a ‘technically perfect espresso’.
I found it light and caramelly with fruity tones. Nicely balanced but not going to blow your socks off.
Lovely lingering aftertaste.
2. Charbucks – Roasted 17 August 2010 (Purchased July 2010, sell by July 2011)
Characterless. Just fine. We all know the kind.
3. Jamaican Blue Mountain #2 – 31 August 2010 (2 days before)
Elegant, sophisticated, bold. Beautiful.
“Young dinosaurs learnt that bitterness was poisonous” said David, his eloquence our companion throughout the tasting. In other words, between then and now nothing’s changed, avoid it at all costs. Amongst other things. Like over-heat milk and you break down the proteins until you destroy the flavour and creaminess and are left with watery yukkiness. Don’t over-brew. Don’t under brew. 2-4 minutes should be perfect. Don’t use water that’s too hot. He is also not the self-proclaimed sugar nazi for nothing. It clearly masks the taste of the coffee. And he’s relentless in his own brand of alchemy. What the good people at TRUTH do now will not be good enough in a years time. TRUTH and David Donde are, in short, about the pursuit of perfection.
Guess what else. Fair trade is not enough. Many people see it as nothing more than a piece of paper. All it means is that buyers are paying between $1.30-$1.60 per pound. It absolutely doesn’t mean that the growers on the ground can live a dignified existence on that income. The David Donde’s out there are landing it for nothing under $5/6 per pound. Bottom line, price equals value. Never was the concept of getting what you pay for more true. Oh, and PS – 560 plant-based insecticides are certified to be used in organic farming. Ya, not so warm and fuzzy is it.
“You are drinking vision and passion” says David. And you bet I believe him.
And though at sixty bucks a pop TRUTH’s extravagant Jamaican flagship might not become your one stop shop for a quick fix, that’s fine, David’s not going to have you shot, in fact the majority of their coffee offerings are specialities at familiar prices. That’s one of the things I like most about him, arrogant is not on the menu. He has the rare ability to graciously marry passion with a good dose of impartiality (towards his consumers that is, woe is the supplier without scruples). His message is free, drink it or don’t. And if you won’t change to buying in a different modality, in terms of flavour and terroir vs price and ‘kick’, at least re-calibrate your thinking. And be good to the planet.
In the words of Mr Donde himself, Go get geeky.
RESURRECTION BLEND: “How Strong?’ You ask. “Well,” we reply, “strong enough to resurrect even those that stupidly chose to drink Kool-Aid.”
VENGEANCE BLEND: A forgiving blend that is never forgotten. We drink it. Others live it. Some would die for it.
ANTITHESIS BLEND: “Do you have a pacemaker?” We ask. “Yes.” You reply. “Then this is perfect for you,” we say only with the slightest hint of ag-shame, “It’s coffee without palpitations, or caffeine.”
DONDE’S CHAOS: If you aspire to be: a megalomaniac, the dictator of a small oil-producing country or the charismatic leader of a cult, then this one is for you. Coffee for the crazies inspired
ORGANIC: Leaps tall buildings in a single stride, saves innocents and maintains coffee justice on a daily basis. All this without any of the nasties. Goes well with barefeet and lentils.
• Coffee Beans come from two different types of trees: Arabica and Robusta. Robusta has 4x the amount of caffeine and is relatively easy to grow. More likely to be found in mass-produced brands such as (cough) Sta*bucks.
• 1.4 billion cups are consumed daily around the globe.
• Second largest traded commodity after oil, coming in before steel.
• David also founded Cape Town’s renowned Origin Coffee. The difference between Origin, with it’s philosophy being on making quality coffee non-exclusive to the man on the street? At TRUTH they are doing a whole lot more to a whole lot less. Playing with pedigrees, if you will.
• Read more about the Prestwich Memorial here
• Read more about TRUTH here
Image of David taken from SA Men
All other images are my own.