Every time I visit Denton, Texas, I marvel at how much it’s changed since I was doing graduate work at the University of North Texas in the early 2000s. Denton has always had a counterculture vibe, with people taking pride in their differences and individuality, but the city has grown in the last 15 years and I am now finding all sorts of cool little eateries, record shops, boutiques, and coffee bars that weren’t here back when I was a student. Makes me a bit jealous, to be honest!
West Oak Coffee Bar is located in the Square (downtown Denton), which is also home to the fantastic Recycled Books and Records (I’ve spent many a pretty penny here — their classical vinyl selection is AMAZING) and Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream (Gah, I’m getting nostalgic). West Oak is one of the only places I know of in Texas that has Intelligentsia coffee on rotation, and I’ve purchased several bags of their Black Cat Classic here (all very fresh). On my most recent trip, they were featuring several different origins of their own house-roasted coffee. I opted to go with this Milk and Honey Blend due to its freshness (and really, doesn’t milk + honey sound good?).
Whole bean: Sweet chocolate and blueberry aroma.
V60: Rich mouthfeel to this medium-bodied coffee. There is a chocolatier a few miles from me called Sublime Chocolate that sells a dark chocolate bar with dried blueberries. This coffee tasted just like that. What a wonderful flavor to this brew!!
AeroPress: Buttery, semi-sweet chocolate notes. This was really delicious as a concentrate – no need to add additional water.
Chemex: This coffee had a mild, smooth flavor like milk chocolate. There was just a hint of berry brightness to it that was interesting but not obvious. Tasty and approachable. I feel like this particular method would be how I would brew this for a crowd.
French press: This had a bit of a chalky mouthfeel. The overall flavor was of semi-sweet chocolate but the overall flavor profile was unbalanced and a bit harsh. Not recommended this way.
Summary: I would absolutely recommend this coffee to anyone that might be looking to dip their toe into the waters of craft coffee but isn’t sure where to start. Blends often are more approachable than single origins, and this coffee is no exception. It has a lovely chocolaty flavor to it with just enough berry/fruit flavor to pique your interest and keep you wanting to drink more, without verging into sour/off-putting flavors for the uninitiated. My personal favorite brew method for this was in the Hario V60, because it brought out the berry flavor the most, but it’s also quite good in an AeroPress and Chemex.
For added feedback, I took multiple batches of this coffee to share with colleagues at a multi-week gig. I think I brought in this coffee (brewed in a Chemex) three times during that run, and of the coffees I brought for them to taste, this one seemed to win the most hearts. Granted, since the other option was pre-ground Folgers, I think my friends were already inclined to like whatever I provided, but this really did seem to be the most crowd-pleasing of the beans!
From the roaster: Buttery, honey, velvety, balanced
Review conducted 7 days post-roast.
P. S. – I stole the photo of the coffee bag from the West Oak website. I usually take photos of the bags myself, but I must have thrown my bag away before I had a chance to take the photo – these beans went FAST. Which, really, is a good thing!
P. S. #2 – In looking at the West Oak website, I realized that this is their espresso blend!! I never got a chance to try this as an espresso because the beans disappeared so quickly, but if I have a chance to get my hands on more, I’ll do so and update this review later. Just goes to show though that you don’t need to limit yourself to just brewing espresso beans as espresso… they can be good in multiple methods.
P. S. #3 (Update, June 2018) – I finally got a chance to brew these beans as espresso! They were 17 days post-roast when I did my testing, and I think these particular beans benefit from high temperatures – lower temperatures brought out a sourness that I found off-putting. I liked this espresso fine when consumed straight, but I think it’s particularly suited to milk drinks as the milk smooths out any bright notes in the espresso and makes for a strong and decadently rich drink. My kitchen was full of smells of chocolate cupcakes and marshmallow fluff while I was working with this blend. A pretty fantastic Saturday morning!
Favorite parameters: 18 grams in, 33.3 grams out, 208 degrees Fahrenheit, 24 second pull, made into a latte.