If you are looking for a great general purpose bean - one that is well-rounded, complete and offers the full flavor wheel.........
what would you pick ?
It is a question often posed to coffee roasters.............."what is the best bean ?"
Of course, there is no single answer and it's the question I dread as the second most difficult problem to solve after being thrown the "recommend a coffee to me" curve-ball.
Depends upon the brew method and of course one's own palette - both issues that are prone to numerous variables in extraction and preferences.
For a moment, let's take a few assumptions and constrain the challenge by taking into consideration that criteria of bean selection must appeal to the "broad majority" of Australian coffee drinkers and then add one more constraint with beverages that are milk-based espresso. Who knows what the average coffee drinker really likes, or wants ?.
If we now had to describe the coffee, we would be heading down the path of something that has body, reasonably bright (or higher in acid), rich classic coffee flavour, hints of chocolate and a sweet, clean finish.
To me personally, these tend to be the recurring themes when customers describe their ideal cup.
Today, the influence of fruit in the cup may not be as well known (or a term used correctly) by the general coffee drinking public - yes, they are starting to discover this character just as they did with wine many years ago, but on the whole, most will describe smooth, rich chocolate and sweet as their preferences without delving much further.
Fruit is a very interesting factor and whilst we don't wish to draw a long bow and limit fruit to just Africans, we can say that African's typically posses more intense fruit character in the cup.
Fruit can be found in all quality beans depending upon the processing method and roast depth.
From my experiences with serving a fruity African to a customer for the first time, they tend to be initially confused, followed by delight, then a curious look will appear across their face.
Around 50% of them go "wow" that's very nice - it may be so radically different to what they are used to drinking - more often than not it's left of centre and the other 50% may later say the next day or week they really enjoyed the African, it's just that their brain could not process it at the time.
Based on what I refer to as "feedback" when serving people single origins they may not have tried previously, a good PNG or Colombian will always have the greatest chance of winning their hearts and minds.
The Australian palette has grown up over the last 30 years with PNG and Colombian coffees (and of course many other origins), but it's generally been the PNG and Colombian components in a cafe blend that create that rich, smooth, rounded flavour profile.
It is often said that PNG's and some Colombians offer up beans that have potential to cover more of the flavour wheel than many other origins - hitting various segments of the wheel without being either overly extreme or diminishingly subtle.
Jamaica Blue Mountain coffees (and varietals that may have descended like many PNG's) are also in this category, however, the higher cost and limited availability of authentic JBM's tend to restrict their appeal to only those well informed and well cashed-up.
So, there you have it - quality PNG's and Colombians are a safe bet if you are seeking to create a cup that appeals to the general coffee drinker.
Personally, I love Africans, but a great PNG or Colombian can make my day !