Spud Sunday: Cuppa Spuds

While I could probably live quite well on spuds alone – and believe me, there are far worse diets than one that is predominantly potato-based – I do find that my mornings are much the better for the existence (and consumption) of good, properly brewed coffee.

Sunday Times Coffee

Last week's Sunday Times, where I was all about the coffee
(the article lives online, but behind the Sunday Times' paywall, alas)

It was thus my great pleasure, last week, to have the opportunity to relay, via the Sunday Times, the thoughts of some of my favourite coffee people – Colin Harmon of 3FE, Karl Purdy of Coffee Angel and Paul Stack of Marco, among others – on the subject of the variable, but improving, standard of coffee available to us here in Ireland.

It also reminded me of my first in-depth coffee tasting session with Karl Purdy a few years back, where I came to appreciate the fact that coffee is a fruit and, when not roasted into oblivion, it can have flavours and aromas that we think of as fruity. It was at that same session that I also learned (and perhaps you suspected this was coming) that there are times when coffee can have the flavour of spuds.

This “dreaded potato defect” is a phenomenon which, according to Karl, occurs in some batches of Rwandan coffee, caused by a bug that attacks and bores into the coffee beans, and is clearly one of those rare occasions when tasting of potato is not a good thing.

Former World Barista Champion James Hoffman of London-based Square Mile Coffee Roasters describes it in quite some detail here:

It is the result of a bacterial infection of the seed, usually after being bitten by an insect carrying that bacteria. Once roasted that particular bean carries very, very strong aromas of freshly peeled potato skins that is incredibly potent when you grind the coffee and when you brew it.

For the chemically minded among you, the odourous compound involved, as noted in this thread here, is 2-methoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine (I sometimes like to think that I know these facts just so you don’t have to). James goes on to say that it is a problem in several countries, but most notably Rwanda, which is capable of producing stellar coffees – stellar, that is, when not otherwise blighted by the curse of the spud.

Comments
  • Me thinks the curse of the spud onto coffee might have a deeper meaning, perhaps it is an alliance of the two great heroes of Irish tastes combining against a common foe. Yea verily the spud teamed with a cuppa properly brewed tea surely are at the source for this coffee sabotage, the tea being the brains and alas the spud essence being the brawn. Together in battle against the java fiend, they can remain supreme in the Irish kitchen.

  • An act of sabotage, masterminded by the Irish tea-lords? You could be on to something there Brian. Next thing you know, they’ll be discovering coffee that tastes of bacon and cabbage!

  • You had to bring the spud into it, didn’t you?!

  • That is my mission in life, Caroline! :)

  • […] After doing a little digging, this blog post had the most information I could find about the potato defect. […]

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