Boasting two locations in the vibrant city of Columbia, South Carolina, Drip is must-visit if you’re passing through the capital city. With a busy storefront on Main St. downtown and a space more suitable to sit and stay in the eclectic Five Points District, great coffee is never too far from you if you’re in Columbia. Although local roaster Beach Loveland of Loveland Coffee is growing at an impressive rate, Drip has served Counter Culture of Atlanta since their inception a handful of years ago.
I visited each location multiple times on my most recent trip, enjoying bright and fruity Ethiopians from each bar. At the Main St. location, a particular El Salvadorian coffee peaked my interest.
Something truly unique
“Tasting notes of white grape, vanilla, and citrus” the chalkboard read, and I knew I needed to try it. That didn’t seem like a common flavour palette to me, especially of a coffee coming from South America. The barista gave me a little insight while I was deliberating between this coffee and an another of African origin, claiming that this particular bean was truly unique. She told me about a strong, legendary woman that was in charge of this farm, and the fertile environment in which she grows her coffee. I ordered a pour over and I took my seat.
While I waiting for my coffee to be brewed, I pulled up the Counter Culture website to read the specifics of the origin of this coffee. True to the tale told by the barista, Aida Batlle grows her coffee plants on the side of Santa Ana Volcano at an elevation of about 2,300m. But Aida is growing something truly unique on the Finca Kilimanjaro farms in El Salvador. As the folks at Counter Culture put it, there’s a bit of a mythic legend being told in South America of an experiment performed in the 40’s and 50’s, importing SL28 and SL34 trees from Kenyan soil of Central Africa to be grown in the El Salvadorian soil of South America. “This would explain the curious cupping flavors during our Cup of Excellence experience. When we first learned about these varieties being planted on Aida’s farm,” Counter Culture says, “and it was an exciting prospect because we had never even heard of a farm in Latin America that grew any of the Kenyan varieties. At that time, the conventional wisdom was that the microclimate and soil were more important to coffee flavor than variety, so we were shocked that we could actually taste the "Kenya-ness" of the coffee variety.”
This story proved to be more than a legend to me when I tasted this coffee. A delicate mouthfeel with the perfect amount of citrus fruit acidity was immediately reminiscent of some of the best Kenyan coffees I’ve ever had. A smooth like silk and chocolatey body finished off each sip, and lingered just long enough until the next.
As it turns out, Counter Culture recently sent some seeds from this lot to be genetically tested and to finally prove their origin. Although the seeds that Counter Culture sent proved to be the traditional Bourbon variety, the results from some leaves that Aida herself sent proved to be SL-28 and SL-34! The mystery of this coffee proved to be more than myth.
This coffee is a particularly brilliant example of how the variety of the coffee plant and the terroir of the land each contribute significantly to the end result in the cup in your hand. The fruity and tea like aromas of the SL-28 and SL-34 varieties are paired perfectly with the classic milk chocolate-like body of a South American bean, resulting in a truly unique but very nostalgic cup of coffee.
Cheers to both Counter Culture and Drip for roasting and serving tremendous coffee in a capital city that could use more of both.
*no, I didn’t bring my camera on this trip.
**no, I won’t do that again.