a lady, yes, but of what birth?

July 28, 2007 – 12:11 am

this blog once churned 2,500 words about panama’s theist hacienda la esmeralda gesha. it won’t happen this year.

to wit: there is still nothing like it. there is no other place that we know of, no other seared plant granule, where the imbiber can ask for, and get, such a gentle, caffeinated wallop a la fruited thé aux fleurs. people may like other coffees better, but even this year’s so-called second-pick ez brought subtle labyrinthian excellence that only a gesha plant rooted in panama in a particular corner of a particular farm seems able to provide.

so when the price for the premium green stuff climbed to $130 a pound and the pontificating tsk-tsk-ers began to surface, this blog argued for the market’s right to pay what it wants, yes, but mostly for the flummoxing virtue of a coffee so distinct that it can revolutionize the beverage worldview of any neophyte with a tongue. last year, in fact, we tested that hypothesis. to this day, the foldgers-swilling editor, reporter, photgrapher and columnist are not the same. a coffee that can do that isn’t just earning a price commensurate with its taste — it’s netting a premium by offering a built-in, epiphanic marketing tool brilliantly accessible to the masses.

that’s what spurred the 2,500-word diarrheal tome. but the same simply cannot be said for this year’s crop. (UPDATED, beefier, keister-kovering kaveat: we got counter culture’s very light-roasted non-auction offering, and cupped it next to last year’s leftovers — newly roasted but still greatly diminished from storage. the comparison here isn’t based on that cupping, but rather solely on this blog’s memory of experiences with each one, fresh.) the subtleties of the 2007 are still there, the amazing aromas and fruit/floral signature … but not in the requisite quantities or intensities to blow the mind of a card-swiping consumer. not nearly, in the opinion of this blog and the blogfriends who’ve had it. it’s ethereal and intoxicating for a cupper. for a customer, it’s likely to taste like smooth coffee.

so who, now, is the esmeralda for? the snobs alone? the fanboys? there’s a difference, of course, between aesthetic elitism and an aesthetic superlative so transcendant it revolutionizes all of culture, base and bourgeois alike (shakespeare, anyone?). in crude terms, this year’s mesmeralda is somewhat the former, last year’s the latter. bidders, of course, have the right to pay what they want, and the most recent winners will surely have no problem unloading the stash. so what, in that case, is the primary appeal to consumers who buy it? the heady experience of paying that much? sheer bragging rights, with a nice cuppa thrown in for good measure? that’s not an uncommon phenomenon in this country of wide maws and even wider lines of credit, but then that would be like selling one of the world’s most amazing coffees for reasons other than taste alone, no?

it’s not worth it. but then … the arrival at such a conclusion might alone be worth the price of admission. pay as you will.

UPDATE: jaime, of course, has already posited this meme — with substantially more brevity! nate the finger, by contrast, was just being a carping sourpuss dewberry.