Review: Spella Caffe India Chikmagalur Peaberry (Portland, Oregon)

On my previous trip to Portland in September, Spella Caffe was on my shortlist of roasters/cafes to visit, but I ran out of time (and I had to cut myself off after acquiring six other bags of coffee!). Thankfully, I had another chance over the Thanksgiving holiday. Spella is a bit of an anomaly in the crowded PDX-coffee scene, in that it definitely leans more toward a traditional Italian-style espresso vs. the brighter, fruitier shots served in many third-wave coffee shops. Spella even pulls their shots on a lever-style manual espresso machine, rather than the semi-automatics common to most upscale cafes. The proprietor, Andrea Spella, roasts in small batches (eleven pounds at a time) for optimum quality control. Basically, all of these factors combined to make me very interested in trying their espresso beans.

Fate, however, had other plans for me, as when I visited the shop, they were out of espresso beans. My sister was outside the shop, and apparently she could tell exactly what was wrong when she saw the interaction between me and the woman behind the register as she watched through their plate-glass window.

“SPELLA!!!!!”

However, all was not lost, as they had a fresh batch of this India Peaberry on hand. The barista told me that this particular bean lent itself well to pourover methods, so I was intrigued enough to purchase it. I suppose I should have had an espresso shot in the shop, but I was in a bit of a rush, so I didn’t. Perhaps another time!

Whole bean: Earthy, buttery, and rich aroma. This isn’t a dark roast (the beans are medium at most, with no oily sheen), but it has a depth to it that I haven’t experienced in a while.

V60: If I was given a cup of this while blindfolded, I would have sworn it was a Sumatran coffee. It actually reminded me quite a lot of the “Eeyore coffee” I reviewed earlier in the year: a bit spicy like cloves, with a medium body.

AeroPress: The concentrate was full in body and tasted a bit like toasted marshmallow. However, the finish was brighter, like cranberry and star anise.

Chemex: This was a pleasant cup to drink; it was delicate and nutty, with a little bit of a buttery and spicy finish.

French press: Thick, satisfying, full-bodied and buttery cup. Smooth.

Summary: I haven’t explored a lot of coffees from this area of the world, but with winter coming, it almost seems like the right time to expand my horizons again. I used to drink a lot of Sumatran coffee before I got bored of it and decided to explore other regions, but this coffee (while not a Sumatran) reminded me of how good coffee from this general part of the world could be – it had very clean flavors and was meticulously roasted. I would recommend this either in a Chemex or a French press, depending on how you like your coffee (light/medium-bodied or full-bodied).

From the roaster: No tasting notes

Spella does not currently sell coffees online, but they are available in multiple retail outlets in Oregon.

Guide to Spella from Portland Food and Drink

Spella Caffe Home

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