Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Local Joe

One of my favorite parts of rural Nova Scotia life is the opportunity to get intimate with my food chain. I go to the post office to pick up mail and exchange greetings with Donna, who grew the cilantro for last night's Ginger, Sherry, and Cilantro Scallops. We drive past the cows that will feed us this winter on our way to the grocery store. Just this morning I had a nice chat with Perry Brandt, who produces our honey. (OK, his bees produce it.) His hives were knocked over by hooligans a couple weeks ago but happily, the queens all survived and are buzzing away.

And one of my very favorite local food businesses is Laughing Whale Coffee. Fair trade, organic, and soon-to-be something else sexy that I'm not allowed to give away, Laughing Whale is a glowing example of best practices in a situation where the local meets the imported. Even better, they occasionally give me some free beans. Are they any good? Here's the scoop:

I confess that I approached Laughing Whale’s new Sumatran blend with trepidation. As a connoisseur of fine food and drink, I’ve always felt that I should like dark roasts—yet I rarely do. A history with inferior darks, tinged with bitter or sour notes, has curtailed my exploratory nature. Starbucks, I point the finger of blame chiefly at you. Too many unpalatable cups had led me to think of dark roast as a sort of S&M food --with a cautious exception for the French, who surely must know what they’re doing.

Sue’s Sumatran turned out to be a delightful exception to my dark past. I found it rich and smoky toned while managing to avoid any outright bitterness. This finely attenuated roast was dark but smoothly balanced, and strong, yet gentle on the palate.

My favourite thing, though, about Sue’s Sumatran was its stellar ability to stand alone—no sugar, no cream, no crutch or mediator of any kind. Unlike most coffees, including my household staple grinds, the Sumatran tasted best to me straight up black. It was just me and the cup, poised in a long, calm sip with a clean finish before a headlong plunge into the day. 