Mike and I have enjoyed the past 26 extra days off for him since he began working for Sandia. With the start of school this year, our every other Friday dates have extended to 6 glorious hours without having to pay for a sitter. (The heavens just opened with the sound of angels’ voices, “Ahhhhhhh!”).
Last Friday we had a leisurely morning and then headed to Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. A local friend of ours had recommended we get on the email list and try having a meal there sometime. After researching it, I responded with an enthusiastic, “EEEEEEEKKKKKKK!!!!” It was right down our alley. They have events throughout the month, and we had signed up for a free coffee tasting.
The instructors were two brothers, David and Juan Certain, of Villa Myriam Coffee. They continue to own and operate the farm built by their grandfather in Colombia and named in memory of their aunt. The brothers import hand-picked beans and then roast them locally here in Albuquerque. Mike and I learned about all that influences coffee growth and flavor. We also learned the difficult process of qualifying as a specialty coffee, which only 10% of coffees do. We learned about roasting, storage, different ways of brewing and the cupping (or tasting) process.
We had two different roasts, a dark and lighter medium. The course grinds were in different cups and we smelled them dry. Then there was the first infusion smell after hot water was poured in a circular motion overtop and the fresh steam was escaping.
They asked us what we smelled with each step saying often there are differences in each stage. I thought I smelled the forest or something earthy with the dark roast’s first infusion, but Mike said he smelled rubber tire. We then broke up the crusty froth with our spoon and smelled again. To be completely honest, I just smelled coffee each and every time. My limited description was simply GOOD. With the lighter medium roast, I could maybe smell maple syrup. Or I was just craving sweet French Toast to go with the delicious aroma of a great cup of coffee. The other class participants apparently smelled all kinds of things that they bravely shouted out including at one point Brussels sprouts. Although the brothers said there was no wrong answer, I had to hold back “Bullsh$t!” because we were not playing that game and who knows? They could really have smelled Brussels sprouts in their cup. Thankfully, I definitely did NOT smell that in mine.
Finally, we tasted. I dutifully spooned tiny sips into my mouth when what I really wanted to do was chug the whole cup in one sloppy slurp. All this time smelling was torturously keeping me from that delicious brew! But it was good to savor the flavors. The light roast was divinely flavorful.
The tasting was in the dining room where Mike will be taking me for my birthday dinner next month. (CANNOT WAIT!) After the class, we strolled around the beautiful grounds. We walked to The Farm Shop where they sell all kinds of products including those made from the lavender they grow. The shop is always open to the public. However, the Inn area is not as a courtesy to the guests who are staying there. We were glad the class allowed us the opportunity to wander a little.
We bought a bag of the Villa Myriam coffee. Normally, I buy my beans at Trader Joe’s. I think I am splurging by choosing the fair trade certified canister (yes, that’s right, coffee snobs, CANISTER). Considering they are Arabica, shade-grown, organic beans, I am getting a deal. True, not as good of a deal as those $2 cheaper canisters, but it is still considerably cheaper than buying a cup at Starbucks every day. For this bad boy bag of certified specialty coffee, locally roasted just a few weeks ago, I paid double the price. DOUBLE. I justified the purchase because it is apparently far superior (even if smelling like Brussels sprouts to some), and there is a 3rd degree connection to the laborers who hand-picked them for Grandpa Certain. In truth, it was bought as a birthday gift for someone else to enjoy. WHAT?! Yep, I still have a canister of beans from good old Trader Joe’s in my pantry.
I do intend to get my myself a bag (or two, wild and crazy gal that I am) when we go back to the Inn on my birthday. That means we will have to get there early enough before the shop closes giving us plenty of time for pre-dinner drinks in the library before our reservation. Who doubts my intelligence now? If I cannot wait that long, they do have their own cafe in town and also sell their beans at Whole Foods.
Yesterday I drank a cup of coffee while at Starbucks to review material for my licensure exam. Maybe it was completely psychological, but it tasted burnt, even drinking the lightest roast they offer. I have no doubt that I can readjust my taste buds to enjoy my usual TJ canister beans and the occasional Starbucks. At least I can appreciate all that specialty coffee has to offer in those moments that I allow myself to truly splurge. It reminded me of when I took a wine course in college. (Don’t you wish your alma mater had a hotel school offering you college credit for drinking alcohol?) I learned to appreciate all that went into the (beloved) beverage and could savor that one $100+ bottle of aged wine. Yet I can still be equally happy consuming the best (or more accurately, the cheapest) that good old Trader Joe’s and Costco have to offer.
Taste and beauty can be in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps that is why there is no real wrong answer to what you smell or which coffee or wine you prefer. Mike and I went on to lunch at Cafe Jean Pierre. We discussed really missing the urban setting. Despite loving these Fun Friday’s, Mike does miss the fast-paced push of the past. True, that push had drastic effects on his health, but it makes sense that it is part of the loss he feels despite the gains we have enjoyed. We know that wherever we are living, whatever we are doing, we are trying to make the most of it all. We are resisting the urge to think the grass is always greener on the other side and allowing our eyes to behold the beauty of the grass where we are planted, whether that be in our city, church, school, work, community, etc. We have so much beauty to behold. We are just as thankful for that as we are these precious date nights, er, days together.