If you’ve heard of the show Dangerous Grounds on the Travel Channel, you might already be familiar with Todd Carmichael, one of the men behind La Colombe Coffee Roasters. I admit, I have never seen the show, so I went into this tasting almost completely blind. The only real association I had with La Colombe was that I remembered hearing after David Bowie’s passing that he would regularly visit one of their NYC locations and order a double macchiato. La Colombe doesn’t have any locations where I live (they’re based primarily on the East Coast and in Chicago), so I opted to order a couple of bags from them online.
Now, when I order online, I am accustomed to ordering on a Sunday or first thing Monday morning, so that my order will be in the queue for Monday roasting and will be shipped within a day or two after it’s roasted, to arrive by Wednesday or Thursday. I did exactly this for this particular order, ordering on Sunday February 7. The next day, I got an email saying that my order was being prepared for shipment, but to allow an extra 24-48 hours for any orders containing single origins, as those are roasted to order. This raised alarm bells in my head, because the clear implication was that anything that wasn’t a single origin would NOT be roasted to order. Strike one?
My order arrived Thursday, February 11. So far, so good. However, when I inspected this bag of Colombian beans, it had a sticker that stated the beans were roasted on February 4. What?! So, I got pre-roasted beans, when they claimed that all single-origin orders were roasted to order? Even the best psychics in the world could not have predicted that I would be placing an order 3 days before I actually did it. The other bag I ordered also had some freshness issues, which I will discuss in more detail when I write that review. Some people might not think it’s a big deal to get week-old coffee… after all, it’s still pretty fresh! But, I have never had this problem before when ordering directly from a roaster so I was pretty shocked that a company as well-known as La Colombe would do this. Strike two.
Whole bean: Smelled like chocolate and Coca-Cola. Seriously sweet and syrupy.
French press: Very smooth on the tongue – plush and velvety texture. There was a little zing on the finish like orange zest.
Chemex: Ooof. I like coffees that are naturally sweet (to clarify, I never add sugar), but I think I have finally found a coffee + brew method that is just TOO sweet for me. This smelled like chocolate-covered cherries and tasted like someone blended chocolate syrup into a Cherry Coke. I could not drink this.
AeroPress: Consumed straight as a concentrate, this was smooth and pleasant. Rich flavor with a nice bright acidity on the finish that kept it from tasting overly cloying or sweet (like the Chemex rendition). Chocolaty flavor.
V60: Light and acidic cup with a floral finish.
Summary: Overall, it’s not a life-changing or groundbreaking cup of coffee, but it’s reasonably pleasant when NOT brewed in a Chemex (unless you love chocolate-cherry cordials, then you’ll LOVE the Chemex version of this coffee). Once I finished the tasting and looked at the tasting notes on the bag, I noted that I was pretty spot on — people, these guys aren’t playing around; you’d best believe what they say in the tasting notes. La Colombe does get a demerit from me for sending me pre-roasted beans, though.
From the roaster: Clementines, Cherry Cola, Chocolate