Saturday, Kim and I went to a coffee tasting put on by Phoenix Coffee and sampled five Indonesian coffees. Had we tasted one of them this week and a different one next week, we may not have been able to taste all of the differences. We probably would have been able to pick out our favorite – the Sulawesi. We drink a lot of it.
The tasting was a lot of fun and side by side there were differences that would most likely have been too subtle to notice otherwise. The Phoenix staff did a great job of presenting the geographic and political background for each region. They also talked about what we should taste in the cup and why. They took us through the differences in dry and wet processing and showed us the different green beans that were roasted and brewed. They talked about the right roasts for the different beans.
Kim took careful notes on the sheet they provided. It was prestained with coffee so we didn't mind spilling a little here or there as we tasted and drank way too much coffee.
At a formal tasting, I think the coffee grounds are mixed directly with the hot water in the tasting cup. Here we had full cups of brewed coffee from Sulawesi, Java, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Sumatra. Water and little bits of bagel cleansed the palate in between. I wonder if tasting is something that can be learned. It seems that there are so many variables that are controlled after the bean is harvested. The depth of the roast and the style of brew all seem to change what rolls over your tongue.
The owners of the Phoenix had two daughters who were helping distribute prizes and collect donations. So cute. The eldest was nine. Side by side you could tell one from the other. There are people who are good at tasting the differences in coffees and people who are good at remembering the differences in people. I don't tend to be very good at either. I had the hardest time figuring out which of Kim's cousins were which for the longest time. It didn't matter that they didn't look that much alike. I would have to ask her "which one is that".
Even though we could easily tell Maggie from Elena – whether side by side or not – we would often call one by the other's name. I worried about that a lot after Elena died. Calling Maggie "Elena" when Elena was in the other room was no big deal. Making that mistake after Elena died was something else entirely.
It was a fairly common mistake. Many who would come visit us in the days after Elena died would look over at Maggie and quietly ask me "how's Elena doing?" Once I understood what they meant, it was a lot easier to answer.
I've wondered if each topic will lead me back to Elena. While she was alive it often did. I would see something and smile and think of one of my girls. Like calling out the wrong name, this mental path back to her feels different now that she's dead.
Something as simple as tasting five different coffees.
It could be that Elena loved helping me make coffee in the morning. If we were using the vacuum pot she would help me grind the coffee. She would turn the grinder until her arm grew tired. Then I would place my hand on top of hers and whirr it around until all of the beans were ground.
If we were using the french press she would stir the grounds and later press the plunger down slowly all the way. If we were using the espresso machine she would tamp down the coffee and turn the buttons on and off at just the right time.
The espresso machine isn't working lately. I've been shopping for a new one. I've compared prices and features and have spent way too much time on the whole process. I may be stalling. You see, I've looked everywhere and no one sells one that includes Elena as an attachment to help me brew coffee in the morning.