Savage Parabolic Gesha
Discovering Savage Coffee
Coffee competition came fast this year. When we learned two people from Blanchard’s would be competing at the US Brewer’s Cup in Boston, a very tight timeline began. We had just over 50 days to put together an entire nationals level coffee performance, dramatically less time than a traditional season.
One of the first orders of business as we began to prepare was to choose a coffee to compete with. As a competitor, this is a very complicated and personal process. In many ways, you’re simply looking for a coffee that will score well according to the parameters laid out in the score sheet. Though at the same time, you’re looking for a coffee you can identify with, and matches your own preferences for how amazing coffee should taste. All of this, while also having a story compelling enough to share from the stage.
We were going through this process in mid-February. Coffees from east Africa wouldn’t begin arriving for another few months, and many of Colombia’s fresh crop offerings were on track to be in Richmond early April, a bit close for comfort. In an effort to not put all of our eggs in one basket, I opened the search for a coffee beyond the usual suspects. Through a phone call with a friend and longtime advocate for coffee competitions, Panama began to look like an increasingly viable option. Some of the best and most memorable coffees I’ve ever tasted had come from there, and they had fresh crop coffee ready to go.
It was at this point that I began going back and forth with Jamison Savage. Jamison is something of a legend in Panama coffee, known as a pioneer of many experimental processing approaches. He has a deep reverence for the natural environment which affords the conditions that are very nearly perfect for his Gesha plants to thrive. He’s produced some of the most celebrated and decorated coffees in the world. Often seen taking top honors at competitions throughout Europe and Asia. As we spoke more about what I was looking for in a coffee to bring to Boston, we agreed on one big fundamental. Processing should elevate the coffee’s sense of place and terroir, not subtract from it.
I remember reading Jamison’s email from my tent while on a rock climbing trip in western North Carolina where he described a coffee that fit what I was looking for. It was a gesha that had undergone a deeply extended 100 hour anaerobic fermentation in the cherry. A time that rides the upper limit for fermentation times. Bringing intensity of flavor and acidity, while maintaining elements imparted from the growing environment of Volcan Baru. Jamison and his team worked exceptionally fast and had 5kg of green coffee waiting for me in Richmond when I arrived home from my trip. This would be the coffee that I would use in my performance.
Working with Jamison’s coffee challenged many things I thought I knew about coffee. A unique coffee would require a unique approach. It could be roasted faster than anything I’d worked with before, brewed in ways I previously hadn’t explored, the list goes on. Many rules simply did not apply here. In the weeks leading up to Boston, my goal was to leave no stone unturned and present the most interesting and memorable cup possible. Ultimately, this is the cup that was served to the panel of judges in Boston.
As mentioned above, 5kg isn’t enough coffee for a wider release beyond the competition itself. Competition coffees, in many instances, are exceedingly ephemeral. After the dust of competition had settled we began looking for ways to work with Jamison and his team to bring in a coffee that could tell the story of Brewer’s Cup, and Blanchard’s involvement with competition more broadly. A coffee that would serve as a way to celebrate with our customers and community, a side of the coffee industry that is notoriously insular and self facing. That search resulted in the coffee you now hold. A Panamanian Gesha, anaerobically fermented for 100 hours, produced by Jamison Savage. A competition level coffee if there ever was one.
I hope you enjoy drinking this coffee. I hope it challenges how you see coffee. I hope it inspires you. I hope the memory of this cup stays with you.
- Matt Brosinski
Why we enter coffee competitions
Coffee competition came fast this year. When we learned two people from Blanchard's would be competing at the US Brewer's Cup in Boston, a very tight timeline began. We had just over 50 days to put together an entire nationals level coffee performance, dramatically less time than a traditional season.
Learning From Peers
From local throwdowns, to the US Brewer's Cup, competition has been a huge part of my journey in coffee. They’ve served as a place to push myself as a coffee professional and test my own ideas about what the industry can look like, and how coffee can taste. This past season was made possible by the goodwill of many relationships cultivated over the years. Coffee is a team sport, and I’m proud and thankful for my team.
I have participated as a competitor in Brewer's Cup multiple times. I've always appreciated competition for the opportunity to be challenged to continue to improve my craft and drive the industry forward. Coffee competition is a unique environment where it doesn't much feel like a contest where everyone is trying to be THE best, but everyone is trying to be THEIR best. This past season I had the honor of supporting folks on their competition journey and being a part of this process has left me feeling more inspired and energized!
Coffee competition builds community, fosters innovation, and pushes industry forward. These past few seasons I’ve supported teammates who’ve competed, and volunteered to judge US Coffee In Good Spirits. It’s the newest category, and the one that excites me most. I see it as a breakout avenue to bridge specialty coffee into high end food and beverage. Industry has displayed strength and resilience these past few years, and I’m left hopeful for growth.