February 13, 2009

George Howell

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For those of you who don’t know, George Howell is a very important person in the history of coffee. And he’s from Boston. George built the Coffee Connection 25 years ago or so, which he sold to Starbucks in the mid-1990s. Since then he’s been pushing the boundaries of coffee.

We had the opportunity to meet with George, his daughter, and a few other folks at George Howell Coffee Roasters, out in Acton. We had a blast.

First, instead of a cupping we did a tasting. The coffees were brewed, and tasted just above room temperature. This worked well for me. I’m just not great at the cupping thing yet.

Second, the coffees are really unique. There are a few reasons for this. George finds great coffee. But he’s also pioneering a few other things: (a) freezing coffee at picking, and (b) roasting lightly.

I could go on for pages about these two approaches, but here’s the short version: Coffee is harvested once per year. So most coffee you drink is old. Howell freezes it after picking, so it’s “new harvest” all year round.

What does it taste like? More like wine or tea than what I typically think of as coffee. Yum. This was a really cool experience. Rolando and I left inspired and excited. It was really really tasty. But quite different than what most of you are expecting when you order coffee. Has us thinking maybe we have a coffee that is dark, and a coffee that is “light roasted.” Not as simple as we’d originally planned, but perhaps worth the effort.

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