Stories Behind Coffees - Aged & Monsooned
The first thing to point out is the difference between “aged” coffee and simply “old” coffee. Truly aged coffee is carefully aged, usually for six months to three years, by regularly monitoring and rotating the beans to distribute moisture and even out the aging process between coffee bags. This prevents mould and rot from occurring. Coffee is usually aged at origin, and is often aged at a higher altitude, where the temperature and humidity are more stable than at lower elevations.
In the case of Old Brown Java traders used to hold coffee as an alternative to cash as its value was seen as being more stable than the local currency. This led to the coffee sometimes being held or traded / bartered for a number of years and as a result it took on its characteristically yellowy / brownish hue.
The concept of consciously aging coffee is a relatively new idea and came about as a result of improved logistics between the country of origin and Europe. When coffee first came to Europe in the 1500s, it was, due to the journey time aged. Europe's coffee supply in those days came from the port of Mocha in what is now Yemen. Prior to the building of the Suez canal (1869) any coffee imported into Europe spent a long time at sea as the journey by necessity meant going around the southern tip of Africa. This was also the case when coffee production spread to Indonesia and India.
Unbeknown to the exporters at the time, it was the length of time at sea and the salty sea air that changed the taste profile of the coffee significantly. In particular coffee from southern India which today we identify as “Monsooned” Malabar became puffed up and desiccated. The result was that Europeans enjoyed the aged coffee’s taste over the taste of fresh coffee.
However the building of the Suez Canal and the shortened journey times unintentionally changed the taste profile of the coffee. As a result the whole aging process shifted to origin
Today aged coffee has largely fallen out of fashion but it still has a significant following and for good reason. Old Brown Java is unique as a dark roasted coffee. If you enjoy a full favour with low acidity this coffee makes a wonderful espresso. It also provides a deep rich background coffee flavour for those of you who enjoy Lattes.
Monsooned Malabar is by contrast roasted a lot lighter and is as a result nuttier in profile but lacks the acidity that traditionally comes with light roasted coffees. Great as a filter coffee but even better as an Americano.