The story of the grands crus
Each new Nespresso coffee is a combination of creativity and method, chance and certainty. But it all begins in a private consultation with the whole planet. The head of coffee, karsten ranitzsch, and his team, reveal a profession fueled by emotion.
A GRAND CRU IS BORN IN ONE OF TWO WAYS. IT MAY HATCH FROM A THOUGHT OR INTENTION, PERHAPS A DESIRE TO SHARE THE UNUSUAL, SURPRISING, EXOTIC AROMAS OF AN UNDISCOVERED COFFEE-GROWING COUNTRY.
Or it may result from the tireless pursuits of agronomists on the ground, who constantly seek out new sources, special methods of processing the harvested beans, and exceptional varieties. In other words, our coffees stem from an idea or from a discovery. Either way, we work hard to pinpoint the perfect blend of sources or varieties, and tweak every parameter of roasting and grinding to get it just right. Fashioning a new Grand Cru is a large-scale collective effort that pulls together know-how from several departments. The Coffee Experts, for example, are like “head chefs”; they figure out which sources they need and constantly exchange with the agronomists on the ground to ensure that these coffees are grown under the best possible conditions. Once the concept of the latest coffee has been defined, the next step is to develop a prototype to be submitted to the Panel of Experts for approval. Meeting once a week in a Friday assembly, the Panel collectively examines the latest Grand Cru candidate, which must be approved unanimously. If the coffee strays too far from the original concept, it is sent back to be tweaked or revised. Sensory analysis is another essential step: the aromatic profile of the new coffee is determined by breaking down the traits that make up its personality. Blind tasting and comparison with other Grands Crus serve to “situate” the coffee in the realm of the senses. We use these methods to archive our creations and expand our vocabulary; in doing so, we hope to hone our understanding of this world of coffees that we delve deeper into every day. The result looks like a lopsided spider’s web, with 17 connecting points each representing the level of intensity of sensory parameters such as acidity, bitterness and fruitiness.
The Panel collectively examines the latest Grand Cru candidate, which must be approved unanimously.
THE WORLD MAP OF COFFEE CHARTS FLAVOURS
in the same way that every region in the world can be matched to a cultural environment. As coffee experts, we enjoy the privilege of being able to read this map. Our sensory memory is structured according to where these aromas and textures come from, just as a wine expert knows by heart the geography of wine-growing and can map the origin of every type of vine. Harnessing every tool available to us, we try to convert the knowledge we have gleaned from personal experience into accessible information, in the form of a comprehensive database of coffees we consider to be worthy of note. We use an infrared spectrophotometer to take the “digital fingerprint” of each sample and identify its main chemical components. Ultimately we hope to understand what it is all these fine coffees have in common. How do we explore new sensory terrain? We let ourselves be carried away and inspired by the aroma that emanates from the fruit as it grows locally. Every day we work harder to source particular processing methods and new varieties and terrains, and to learn about the farmers working the land. We study the sensory realm of these regions in depth before going there in person, but even though we always do our homework, we know that every expedition will be a combination of the planned and the unplanned. Every trip is an opportunity to discover new flavours or cups. We hold responsibility for sharing our discoveries with the rest of the world (even though large-scale processing seldom yields the same final product as small-scale processing). We strive to infuse every blend with diversity and originality. We keep the focus on coffee to delight our connoisseurs. And we take pride in delivering excellence: our objective is pure pleasure for all our Club Members.
We pursue coffees the way painters once chased after new pigments.
TAKE OUR “PURE ORIGIN” INDRYIA FROM INDIA.
This blend (see our Grands Crus section) was intended to communicate the biodiversity which so impressed us in the plantations of South India. We wanted this coffee to embody the luxuriously rich ecological and cultural diversity among which coffee plants thrive in the Karnataka State. But how could we use aromas to convey the feeling of boundlessness sparked by these coffee groves deep in the jungle? How were we to incorporate the local farmers’ habit of pulling several grounds from the same bag, supplementing their coffee income with cardamom, vanilla or pepper? Just as a perfumer instils an emotion, memory or image by means of skilful accords, we believe we have succeeded in infusing this complex, typically Karnatakan, symbiosis, in a balance of Arabicas and Robustas selected from superior plantations. Locally grown, these two coffee varieties complement one another, faithfully conveying the unique characteristics of the region. Unlike most of our Grands Crus, which usually combine several sources and origins as we assemble all the qualities we need to build the best blend, “Pure Origin” Espressos such as Indryia from India, Dulsão do Brasil and Rosabaya de Colombia each come from a single source country and render the identity of their homeland intact. Why are blends normally sourced from more than one area? Simply put, an exquisite blend commands a whole range of factors – the right conditions are seldom all found in one place. To start with, the terrain must be capable of producing excellent coffee, and an exceptional variety (many such varieties were unfortunately lost to the productivist turmoil of the Green Revolution). Should a region have the good fortune to meet both of these criteria – as is the case for Karnataka, the Cerrado region in Brazil and Colombia’s “coffee belt” – it must also offer sufficient production capacity, and its coffee must be grown in identical conditions to guarantee consistent quality. This is where the work of our agronomists is vital. Their job requires awareness and an innate feel for farming. They rely on the support of local exporters, who are our ambassadors to the coffee growers – our inter- preters as much as their shippers. Local exporters perform the invisible yet crucial task of verifying the quality of the coffee locally before shipping it to us. These entities help us gauge our approach to coffee growers the world over. We believe that farming methods that meet our quality criteria need not be incompatible with top yields, and can in fact respect the environment. This is the philosophy behind the Nespresso AAA Sustainable QualityTM Program, which offers coffee growers technical and financial support with the objective of boosting productivity, promoting good farming practices, and of course preserving the environment so that future generations may work the land in the same, if not better, conditions as their ancestors. This growing project promises to discover opportunities for new land, new terrains of taste, and new sensory horizons. As we push back boundaries, we start to see the most far-flung corners of the world as coffee- growing frontiers. We pursue coffees the way painters once chased after new pigments. Ours is a palette of coffees in all shades.
Design Sandrine Giacobetti Text Julien Bouré Photography Jean-Claude Amiel