A flavour journey with Ninety Plus
Considered to be the pinnacle of coffee flavour and a career highlight for all that taste them, Ninety Plus Coffees are an unforgettable celebration of the unlimited possibilities within the coffee realm.
Known and praised for pushing the boundaries of coffee processing, Ninety Plus boast some of the world’s highest-scoring coffee and hold the world record for the highest price tag per kilo for their beans. Their trailblaze of innovation, sustainability and simply phenomenal coffee, have carved the Ninety Plus name into the history books of coffee competitions, and its name as ‘the brew of champions’.
This year ZEST took a huge step forward in deciding to showcase these incredible Ninety Plus coffees and join the celebration of the future and improvement of all coffee. With everything so uncertain around us, this experience with Ninety Plus provided us with fresh inspiration and confirmed within our whole team, that despite all, coffee would continue to unite, inspire and improve the lives of all that have been involved.
Our selections were the Lycello, Nekisse, Kambera, Juliette and Perci. The Perci already had a special place in our Head of Coffee, Aryan’s heart. Looking back to 2016, Aryan used this exquisite lot when competing in the Brewers Cup Championship. True to the Ninety Plus flavour brand, Perci has the most distinct flavours of pomegranate, dark chocolate and green apple, Perci has been a regular on the coffee champ podium. Stefanos Domatiotis and his victory in the 2014 World Brewers Cup Champion springs to mind.
No other coffee farm has produced more coffee that scores above 97, than Ninety Plus.
The question of how such coffee scores are accomplished and what makes a high scoring coffee, well, score high? The simple answer becomes incredibly clear after just one sip. Flavour. Not the flavour we are used to, but a flavour that is so distinct and so prominent you begin to wonder how this could still be coffee? With such clearly identifiable flavour notes comes a standout price tag. Some lots asking in the thousands of dollars for just one kilo! Notably, an experimental batch of gesha coffee developed by Ninety Plus founder, Joseph Brodsky broke records when it fetched USD $10,000 per kilo in 2019.
Echoed by his values of innovation, Joseph Brodsky has defined Ninety Plus as a flavour perusing coffee farmer. Refusing to accept whatever flavours came to him, Joseph and his team have conducted thousands of experimental lots, using different fermentation and processing parameters to get as close as they can to 100% control of the flavour outcome. Brodsky credits the open minded way they approach fermentation to the variety of flavours they are able to achieve, ‘using your imagination, time, temperature, in water, dry, with oxygen, without’ and ‘taking advantage of the entire coffee plant not just the seeds and the mucilage’.
Let’s go back to where it all started in 2006, where the Ninety Plus journey began in the heart of coffee’s origin, Ethiopia. Renowned for it’s gesha and heirloom varietals, Ethiopia set the perfect starting point for Brodsky to begin what would become one of the worlds greatest advancements and celebrations of coffee flavour. As a lover of all things our beautiful planet has to offer, it was only natural that Brodsky would embrace the original eco-system in which coffee grew. Instead of inheriting the mass production mindset, Brodsky nourished his coffee trees to thrive in their natural habitat, sheltered amongst the understory of the forest.
It wasn’t long before the first Ninety Plus ‘natural process’ coffees started turning heads and making waves. 2007 saw the first competition won using a Ninety Plus coffee and since then it has been a favourite for World Barista Champs and Brewers Cup Champs alike.
A keen pioneer for restoring biodiversity in forestry areas, Brodsky and his team headed for the western highlands of Panama in 2009. Bringing with them coffee trees from Ethiopia to establish what now is over 1000 hectares of land, owned and run by NP. In a recent live webinar, we caught a glimpse of Brodsky in the heart of his coffee paradise. Swinging in the branches of a tree from a hammock, the picture of living in harmony with nature couldn’t have been painted clearer. When asked what attracted him to Panama, Brodsky’s response was that Panama was home to the highest concentration of unique coffee trees in the world. Seems like a good enough reason to us!