Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea has served coffee to residents in southern Connecticut for 25 years. Now, the store is sponsoring an exhibit on the popular brew at the Peabody Museum — where Willoughby’s also held a free tasting Saturday.
Willoughby’s co-owners Barry Levine and Bob Williams brewed eight different flavors of coffee from around the world for about 100 visitors.
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Williams, who explained the origin and taste of each blend to a line of patrons that extended into the museum’s lobby, said each flavor of coffee is distinct. While Williams’ favorite flavor of coffee changes by the day, he is “very partial” to Panacoffee, which comes from Panama.
“[The Panacoffee is] very, very well balanced and complex,” he said.
Williams also offered visitors the Esmeralda blend, another coffee bean from Panama, which he said is the most sought-after and expensive coffee in the world. The Esmeralda, which was specially brewed for Saturday’s tasting, often sells for close to $100 per pound, said server Abby Levine, the daughter of co-founder Barry.
“What makes the Esmeralda so unique is it’s the first time the seed from Ethiopia was successfully grown in Panama,” Williams said. “The resulting taste was just explosive … very floral, fruity, big, sweet, unique.”
Visitors at the tasting event also streamed to the exhibit, “Coffee: The World in Your Cup,” which traces the origins of coffee and its economic and social impact across the world. While the exhibit was put together by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington, Seattle, the Peabody Museum approached Willoughby’s to sponsor the exhibit in New Haven, Abby Levine said.
Five people at Saturday’s event said they enjoyed having the opportunity to sample different flavors of coffee.
“I used to drink coffee every day. Typically I just have one flavor,” said Endah Sulistijo, a postdoctoral associate in the molecular biophysics and biochemistry department. “But with all these different coffees and roasts, you can really taste the differences in flavor.”
Psychology professor Jeremy Gray, who attended the exhibit with this family, said his two sons — neither of whom is a regular coffee drinker — enjoyed the tasting. His younger son Nigel, 8, preferred the decaffeinated coffee, while his other son Dylan, 13, favored the blend from Ethiopia.
“Adults tend to like [coffee] more than kids, but add enough cream and sugar and they’ll drink it,” Gray said.
Willoughby’s, which has won numerous state and local awards for its coffees and teas, owns four coffee shops, two of which are in New Haven. The exhibit will close Sept. 19.