Ken Palmer, Master Roaster, probably knows more about coffee than almost anyone else in this city. He stumbled into the industry several decades ago while out in Hawaii. Palmer had a natural intuition about coffee and was educated by Alfred Peet, who had taught his style of roasting beans to Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker, who then took the technique to Seattle and founded Starbucks in 1971.
Palmer travels around the world meeting with farmers and ensuring that the beans he buys are the best available. He then expertly roasts them for Java Pura Coffee Roasters.
Palmer taught me that there are anywhere from 600 to 1,000 food properties in a coffee bean, which helps explain the depth of complexity. The beans start out hard and green and then become crackly and intensely brown after the roasting process. Roasting the beans is indeed an art form, because although there are rough guidelines that dictate when the bean is ready for consumption, the process is largely instinctive. Palmer doesn't even let his apprentices perform the process on their own until they have trained for at least three years.
I had my first cupping at Java Pura, and I have to say, if you are at all interested in coffee, this is an experience that should not be missed. Palmer had me try four distinctly different varieties so that I could get a broader sense of Java Pura's beans. The Costa Rican Cerro Paldo Honey Roast was smooth and intense with a clean taste that I could easily see waking up to everyday. The Christmas Morning Blend had rich notes of chocolate and caramel and would certainly make a perfect gift for anyone. The Sumatran Estate Iskandar was made from big hearty beans that produced a decadent brew with sweet butterscotch notes. My absolute favorite, though, was the Ethiopian Organic Natural Amaro Gayo. This is hands down the coolest coffee I have ever sampled. It smells and tastes like fresh blueberries in the best possible way. The freshness and flavor elements are unreal. I have been drinking it nonstop and was shocked to discover it is actually better without any sugar or cream.
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You can find Java Pura at Central Market, or do what I did and head over to the warehouse (5250 Gulfton #4G, www.javapura.com). You truly cannot fathom how good this stuff is until you try it fresh from the Master Roaster himself.