In the beginning, there was Robusta. It was the charcoal-colored stuff that dripped into your Mr. Coffee in the morning, scooped from cans the size of oil barrels and freeze-dried within an inch of its life. And no matter how much cream and sugar was added, it was not good. Robusta begat Arabica, a coffee that introduced America to baristas and the grande macchiato. It was better, but still not great.
Now cresting is a third wave of coffee that’s all about pour-overs, globe-trotting coffee buyers, micro-roasting and the quest for the ultimate cup. At the curl is Sonoma County’s Phil Anacker, co-owner of Healdsburg’s Flying Goat Coffee Company.
Sometimes referred to as our very own Yoda of coffee, Anacker has been on a nearly 20 year quest to find single-origin coffees from small producers that live up to his exacting standards. Scouring 13 of the world’s best coffee growing regions, from Ethiopia to Central America, his passport is a testament to his passion. “I just had to replace it,” he says, having filled the pages.
But his real mission is to get the rest of us to put down our caramel frappa-whatevers and actually taste a real cup of coffee.
“Coffee is something people drink every day, but most of us have no idea how it gets into the cup,” says Anacker. The second-most traded commodity in the world (after oil), coffee is ubiquitous, but all too often over-roasted to mask cheap, poorly harvested beans. Anacker buys small lots of some of the best coffees in the world.
In the back room of the Healdsburg warehouse that houses the company’s roaster, he demonstrates the process (which incidentally has a lot in common with wine tasting) of “cupping”, something he does up to 20 times a day to test out new batches of coffee. It involves pouring 200-degree water over roughly ground beans, a lot of sniffing and loud slurping to extract the flavors of each individual coffee. Some are more acidic. Others have sweet or fruity qualities. But none of it has the bitter, harsh qualities most of us identify with most coffees.
His staff often participate in the cuppings, and baristas in Healdsburg and the Santa Rosa outpost spend up to four months learning (and being tested) in the ways of coffee culture.
Soon, the Flying Goat will offer a Brew Bar for customers to sample some of its most exclusive coffees. Brewed cup by cup, these are top-flight pours from some of Anacker’s favorite producers from around the globe. Like San Francisco’s Blue Bottle, Ritual Roasters or Four Barrel, the concept is to expose coffee drinkers to a cup of coffee that’s been carefully managed from seed to mug. Perfectly picked. Perfectly roasted. Perfectly brewed.
So good, that you won’t need to spend 5 minutes at the condiment station masking the flavor.
“Our whole focus is to have people try different coffees and see how good they are. You don’t have to be a sugar and cream zombie,” says Anacker.