Review: La Colombe Coffee Roasters Colombia San Roque (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

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

La Colombe Coffee Roasters Colombia San Roque

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