This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.
Two years ago, George Howell started sourcing Lintongs aged in climate controlled warehouses in Malaysia. Jim reviewed two of them, and both were standouts in terms of cleanliness and purity of flavor, very unusual for aged coffees, but a signature of George Howell's approach to coffee. I'm glad to say that other roasters and importers have taken note, and are also searching out these rare coffees. This sample is a 2004 Lintong being offered by Miguel Meza of Paradise Roasters. Lintongs are in general well prepped, and this lot is superb. This is especially important in an aged bean, and this lot is very uniform, rather than the mix of light and dark brown beans one finds in most aged coffees.
This is an extraordinary coffee in many regards. First of all, the prep is exemplary. The beans are near perfect, 18 screen and larger and after roasting, the beans are like nuggets of gold, evenly colored and deceptively huge. The aromatics in the roaster and after grinding are filled with unfamiliar spices and molasses.
And then there's the cup profile...ah, the cup. To describe it as a rainbow of flavors doesn't do it justice. It taxes the senses and memory of flavors to try and discern and separate some of these. In the higher end of the spectrum, the spices sensed in the roaster and the dry, ground coffee are confirmed in the cup. Coming down the line, various fruits come to the forefront; most prominent of them are stone fruit, strawberries and pineapple. Moving on we encounter a very slight brothy, bacon-like flavor and the inevitable hint of smoky wood that is a hallmark of the aged coffees from Sumatra and India. This and their syrupy body are also qualities that give these coffees their uniqueness.
And yet there is still another surprise - the acidity. This coffee doesn't just lay there in its sweetness; its finely tuned acidity frames and brings out the rest.
And now a cautionary note: One might think that a dark roast would do this coffee justice but this is not so. I made the mistake of roasting it to near second crack and the coffee lost its soul. Then, taking Miguel's advice, I stopped the roast, just out of first crack, and all of the poetry above, emerged. It was a good lesson. I didn't heed the advice I've so often given others; a great Sumatra will show its greatness, its sweetness and body at lighter roast levels. Over-roasting will nearly destroy its subtle flavors and bring a pungent woodiness. Try this for yourselves.
As is my custom for aged coffees, I deviated from my normal 425F in 11 minute cupping profile, and went to a 430F in 13 minute profile. The extra time is spent in the run up to the first crack, to bring out the woody flavors that are the signature of these coffees.
Quite simply, this is the best aged coffee I've ever had. Readers will notice that I gave it a 10 for taste. This does not mean it's the best coffee I've ever tasted, but that it is completely perfect for aged coffee. The flavor is oak, vanilla, ample sweetness that's so clean it's closer to honey than molasses, and hints of chocolate. This coffee is not quite as focused and clean as Terroir's, but it is more complex, deeper toned, and a more complete cup. After my jaw got back in place, I cupped it against an XO brandy, and the aged wood flavors were actually better and smoother in the coffee.
The espresso was another surprise. Most aged coffee beans are so soft that it is almost impossible to get an SO shot, since the grind has too few fines. This coffee is not quite as aged, and makes a proper shot if one grinds fine enough. The flavor is again perfect, and while unbalanced, it is an experience not to be missed. If you are going to blend an aged with very light toned, delicate coffees, the Terroir aged will work better; but this one makes an archetypal Mocha-Java with any middle toned Yemen, DP Ethiopian or even a darker toned Kenya.
This coffee will make a very good dark roast, but I recommend against it. A slow roast stopped when the second crack starts early, while the color is still medium, will bring out the full complexity of the aged flavors.
Dry Fragrance: 4.8
Wet Aroma: 4.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 92.0
Dry fragrance: 4.5
Wet Aroma: 4.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 92.0