Review: Novel Coffee Roasters Guatemala Chimaltenango (Dallas, Texas)

I’ve only had Novel Coffee once before (their Ethiopia Idido) but enjoyed it very much, so when I visited Trio Craft Coffee recently and saw fresh bags of this Guatemala Chimaltenango on their shelves, I snapped one up faster than you can say “chemex.”

Whole bean: Bright, lively aroma. HONEY. Really, really strong scent of raw honey. Hint of apple as well, but the overwhelming character of this was honey.

V60: Considering the sweet scent of the beans, this was a surprisingly savory coffee. Hints of cocoa and kelp. Smooth but not very sweet in the cup. 3:30 extraction.

AeroPress: As a concentrate, this had a rich body with the flavor of red apple peels and lemon. Upon adding a bit of water, the lemon flavor dissipated and it became a more generic “coffee” flavor.

Chemex: 4:00 extraction. Very similar to the V60 cup; delicate brew with a hint of kelp. Not very sweet.

French press: Medium-bodied with apple flavor and a hint of kelp.

Summary: This wasn’t a bad coffee, but to me, it was a case of unmet expectations. Since the beans smelled SO sweet and honey-esque, I was expecting something rather different in the cup than I got. Granted, I think most coffees smell different ground vs. brewed, but when you smell raw honey and get kelp? Yeah, not exactly what I was after.

From the roaster: Lively apple, nougat, amber honey

Novel Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Hidden City Espresso (Dallas, Texas)

I have a confession to make. For quite a while, I was convinced that I didn’t like coffee from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. OCCR is a Dallas-based roaster who has a sizable presence in the city, at both coffee shops and restaurants. I am all for supporting local businesses, but I had multiple experiences at local coffee shops ordering espresso and espresso-based drinks made with OCCR’s Hidden City Espresso Blend that resulted in drinks that tasted like cigarette ash. It happened often enough that I figured, “well, this must be how these beans taste, because what are the chances that 4 different baristas at 2 different shops on different days could all be messing up?”

Spoiler alert: Apparently, the chances were good. I need to buy a lottery ticket.

Anyway, I started to change my tune about OCCR when I was introduced to one of their single-origin coffees by a friend, and I discovered that I rather liked it brewed as pourover coffee. I was really blown away by the Geisha coffee I bought from them on Dallas Coffee Day last year. I like their Rosemont Crest Blend and even have given it as a gift! However, I gave their Hidden City Espresso a wide berth until now. I am not an expert on espresso by any means, but I feel like I have decent enough technique and equipment now that I finally would be able to see for myself if what I had experienced from shops is true to the bean’s potential.

Whole bean: Slightly burnt smelling to my nose. This made me nervous. However, the beans weren’t oily or overroasted; they definitely were still in “medium roast” territory.

Espresso: The good news is, at no point did I pull a shot that tasted ashy or burnt. I was pretty happy about this! I got flavors of black currants, orange, spice, milk chocolate, and lilac in the various attempts. The bad news is, I never really feel like I figured this espresso out. I went through the whole bag feeling like I never quite hit upon the right parameters for espresso nirvana. I did start working with this blend a bit early – starting 4 days post-roast and ending 9 days post-roast. Perhaps I would have had different results if I waited longer.

AeroPress: This was actually how I liked this coffee best. In the AeroPress, the coffee was nice and complex in flavor, with a toasty finish and a bit of citrusy zing and spicy punch to wake up the palate. I enjoyed this.

Summary: The Hidden City Espresso has more complexity than I had realized. I might have to give this blend another try in the future, as I don’t feel like I have quite figured it out, but it’s much better than I thought. OCCR, I apologize for not giving your espresso a fair shake sooner.

From the roaster: milk chocolate, strawberry, spice

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Hidden City Espresso

Review: Corvus Coffee Peru Satipo Finca Tasta (Denver, Colorado)

This is the second coffee I’ve tried from Corvus; the first was their Everyman Espresso, which had nice chocolate and blueberry notes. Thanks to Method Coffee in Dallas for having fresh bags in stock!

One thing I noticed last time but didn’t mention is that Corvus seems to employ unusually long bags to package their beans. Because I have multiple beans at any given time at my house, I keep the coffee in its original bag so that I don’t mix them up or forget what I am drinking. I will typically use a long-handled coffee scoop to transfer the beans from the bag to my scale for weighing and brewing. However, the height of Corvus Coffee’s bags is significantly higher than average, and my coffee scoop just isn’t long enough to reach the beans without my arm having to go halfway into the bag. It’s a minor annoyance, since I can just pour the beans out instead, but if I were able to change the length of their bags, I’d ask them to shorten them by just a few inches (or to glue the bendy-tab thingie a few inches lower so that we could cut the inches off ourselves).

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(A comparison of the length of Corvus Coffee’s bags next to bags from Chromatic Coffee and Roseline Coffee.)

Whole bean: Bright, robust scent with a creamy finish. Ground, I smelled yellow cake and cinnamon.

V60: Nice bright flavor on the front, but there was a strange cardboard flavor on the finish. However, the brew got creamier and sweeter as it cooled.

AeroPress: This was my favorite of the bunch. Thick, rich, spicy coffee that was bright but smooth on the tongue. I drank this as a concentrate (no additional water added) because I really loved the warm cinnamon flavor along with the citrusy notes.

Chemex: Dark chocolate. Overall it was a bit dry on the finish, and not very complex.

French press: This cup smelled just like a Creamsicle (orange and cream)! Creamy mouthfeel, but not very sweet. It had a taste of tart mandarin orange on the finish.

Summary: I particularly enjoyed this coffee made in an AeroPress, as I felt that method brought out the most interesting and lively flavors. The French press was a close second.

From the roaster: Creamy orange, cinnamon, buttery, ripe blood orange, almond brickle

Corvus Peru Satipo Finca Tasta

Review: Madcap Coffee Roasters Ecuador Pepe Azul (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

I’ve been wanting to try Madcap Coffee for a long time. I’ve seen their name mentioned in multiple “best of” lists over the years, I like their logo, and I like the fact that they’re based in Michigan (as I have fond memories of my time in that state for graduate school). All of the coffees on their website sounded great, but I chose this particular varietal because of the following description. The whole thing is worth reading, but I am copying and pasting this bit for your reading pleasure:

While the process places a heavy emphasis on quality, the real secret in producing such vibrant and unique coffee, according to Pepe Menor, is that the coffee is alive. The coffee experiences the passion of the family as every single seed is individually touched at at least one stage in the process. Each night the coffee listens to classic rock on vinyl (particularly Jimi Hendrix) as it is blasted from the system of their bamboo home located in the center of farm. 

Did you catch that? Each night the coffee listens to classic rock on vinyl. Are these guys after my heart or what?! If reincarnation exists, I don’t think I’d mind coming back as a coffee plant on this farm (at least until harvest time).

For any coffee farmers out there: Please raise a crop of coffee plants on shoegaze records. I would buy the heck out of that.

Whole bean: Subtle, delicate fragrance like white sugar.

French press: Flavors of plum, violets, and sugar. This was a tangy and interesting brew that kept me sipping because I was trying to decipher all the layers. I’m not sure I ever pinpointed all the flavors! Complex and delicious.

Chemex: Raisin and brown sugar.

AeroPress: Brewed straight as a concentrate, the coffee was too intense for my taste. It had floral notes combined with flavors of chocolate syrup and grapefruit. Once I added a bit of water, it helped make the coffee less aggressive and made it sweeter. Still complex, but not harsh.

V60: Brewed at a 3:15 extraction time, this was the sweetest and smoothest of the four cups. It was the most approachable brew but it was still layered and interesting.

Summary: This coffee was worth the wait. Believe the hype, people — I’m pretty impressed with Madcap so far, and I look forward to trying other offerings from them in the future. The French press and V60 were my favorite methods for this coffee, but I found myself returning again and again to the French press because I felt it brought out the most dimension. Did I taste Jimi Hendrix in the cup? Perhaps not exactly, but I certainly tasted something exceptional.

From the roaster: Floral, spice, tangerine, juicy, complex.

Madcap Coffee Ecuador Pepe Azul