In the 6 months thus far that this blog has been around, the coffee review with the most page views has been the Counter Culture Hologram Espresso. I figured it was high time I revisit Counter Culture’s offerings, but this time I opted to try a single-origin versus one of their blends.
Kenyan coffee has a reputation as being coffee for coffee connoisseurs. It’s not a coffee that has mass appeal, or one that people are likely to appreciate without a certain level of knowledge and experience with coffee. Obviously, there is no Billboard Top 40 chart for coffee, but if there was such a chart, it’s unlikely that any of the top sellers would have much cachet among “coffee snobs.” Music that is marketed toward a mass audience will have a wide appeal and will translate to lots of sales, but may not inspire the same kind of vocal, passionate, devoted following the way that “indie” artists might. There is a Brian Eno quote about the lackluster sales of the Velvet Underground’s debut album, saying that it only sold 30,000 copies in the first five years after its release, but “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Now, I’m not necessarily saying this coffee tastes like “Venus in Furs,” but it’s not easy listening/easy drinking compared to some other coffees!
My first experience with Kenyan coffee was this Victrola Kenya Nyeri Tambaya Peaberry, which, frankly, I really didn’t like. It was too swampy and savory and off-putting for my taste. I certainly am used to “sweeter” coffees, so tasting something that had so much funk/mushroom/seaweed in it was a shock. However, I did actually rather enjoy the Kenya Kirinyaga from thirty-thirty Coffee, and trying it made me resolved to research more Kenyans. I am not necessarily trying to make myself like Kenyan coffee because I should — I more want to expand my horizons and discover what others see in it.
I was a little surprised to find this Kenya Kamavindi sold in a box rather than a bag, but apparently Counter Culture recently started packaging their single-origin coffees this way. The bag inside the box still has a one-way valve to let air escape, but can’t be resealed; I ended up putting the remainder of the beans in an Airscape canister to keep them fresh.
Whole bean: heady, rich aroma that smelled like molasses and red wine. Ground, it smelled just like blackberry cobbler.
V60: Not too sweet – this cup had a savory, tangy character that reminded me of cherry tomatoes. The finish had some lovely meyer lemon notes.
AeroPress: Sipped as a concentrate, it tasted like straight lemon juice (but thicker-bodied). Once I added water, it added enough sweetness to make the cup pleasantly tart. The lemon-custard flavor and body lingered pleasantly on the tongue.
Chemex: Medium-bodied but surprisingly rich and sweet flavor of lemon and cream with a hint of berry. Delicious stuff! The finish tasted like brown sugar. This might be the “hit single” of the album – the most accessible track that hooks the new listener. Hey there, Sweet Jane.
French press: Raisin aromas in the cup. This particular cup was thick and not very sweet. It most reminded me of red wine (probably something like a Shiraz); complex flavors with a dry finish.
Summary: I am constantly evolving. If I revisit this coffee in a couple of years, maybe I’ll be all about cherry tomato and wine flavors! But at the moment, I like the Chemex itieration the best. I do appreciate the layers and the multi-dimensional character of this coffee. It’s a cup that reveals layers over time, for those who take the time to “peel slowly and see.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist! I’ll stop with the VU references now.)
From the roaster: Blackberry, currants, citrus fruits