This tasting is a direct result of me getting to spend a little over a week in a dream destination for me (England) so though I’m going to remain as objective as possible about the coffee, I can’t help but smile when I think about just about everything related to this journey. Rose-colored glasses alert ahead!
This trip was an opportunity to see family in London and to bask in the ephemeral beauty of live music. In between concerts, I got to spend a day and a half exploring the city of Oxford. What a stunning, gorgeous place. I am incredibly envious of all those who get to live in a city that is such a feast for the eyes! I won’t bore you all by recounting every jaw-droppingly beautiful sight I saw on my visit, but there were many. However, my favorite part of my time in Oxford was getting to spend time at a pub with my friends Mark and Katie. Katie had previously tipped me off that I needed to check out a particular coffee shop in Oxford called The Missing Bean, so that was one of my first stops the morning after I arrived. At their cafe, I enjoyed two double espressos that had a lingering, decadent flavor of toasted marshmallows and honey.
That’s one happy coffee geek pictured. Good grief, my right hand looks HUGE! Am I a fiddler crab??
Later that same evening, Katie and Mark surprised me with a bag of this Unbirthday Blend, which made me so happy because I hadn’t purchased any beans at the shop and the roastery (on the other side of town) had closed before I had an opportunity to get there. I misread the label initially and thought it said Unhappy Birthday Blend, and I got rather excited until I re-read it and realized it wasn’t a Smiths reference. Oops.
(Just a thought to the Missing Bean: I’m sure there are probably copyright issues involved with doing this, but how cool would it be to name your blends after songs by Oxford bands/musicians? OX4. Morning Bell. Hot Fruit.)
When I did this tasting at home, I was a bit under the weather with a head cold, so I probably didn’t get to really experience the full flavor/aroma of this coffee.
(Spoiler alert: It was still massively enjoyable!)
Whole bean: I didn’t look to see what the blend consisted of before opening this bag, but I could pick out the scent of natural-processed Ethiopian beans with no problem. That berry brightness is so distinctive that there is no hiding it! I also smelled caramel, dark chocolate, and blackcurrants, particularly once the beans were ground. What a deliciously intense aroma!
V60: I made this twice, and at both a 2:40 and 3:10 extraction, the resulting brew was a bit less flavorful than I had hoped. The scent of the ground beans was quite sweet, but the coffee had a bit of a flavor like lemon pith (moreso with the shorter extraction time). However, the coffee did smooth out in flavor as it cooled.
AeroPress: This was my favorite method for these beans. I actually “ooooh”ed in the kitchen when I took my first sip of this brew! Beautiful caramel/butterscotch flavor in the cup, with a lovely touch of blackberry flavor to brighten up the brew and keep it multi-dimensional. This cup highlighted what I like about good blends – making a good coffee blend is like adjusting the treble/bass levels until you get just the right balance of sound out of your stereo. Don’t dilute this AeroPress concentrate with water, as the coffee was perfectly balanced and richly flavored straight out of the brewer. I tried this the way I always brew with the AeroPress (regular method) but I suspect if you use the inverted method, it would be even better.
Chemex: Clean, sweet aroma at a 4:00 extraction, but this method had the same issue for me as the Hario V60 – I think it’s just tricky using a pourover method in this case to extract all the full flavors this blend is capable of. I was left wishing for a bit more dimension.
French press: After tasting the AeroPress cup, I had high hopes for this brewing method, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a delicious blend of tastes – I couldn’t pick out any one predominant note but it was lively and kept me sipping to try and figure it out. Dangerously addictive, all these layers of flavor. It’s like one of those songs that you can listen to repeatedly without getting bored.
Summary: This blend shines beautifully in immersion methods. Caramel and berry flavors are the main highlights, and it’s an absolute stunner in the AeroPress. Thanks to The Missing Bean for adding to the list of things I adore about Oxford… the architecture, the history, the music scene, the people… and now, the artisan coffee. I hope to have a chance to return in the future to try some of your single-origin coffees!
From the roaster: No tasting notes on the bag or the website, but the bag does state that the Unbirthday Blend is a combination of Ethiopia Sidamo Guji, Guatemala Fedecocagua, and El Salvador El Engenio.
Sadly, The Missing Bean does not sell their beans online, so you’ll have to trek to Oxford to get their beans. I wish I didn’t live so far away!