Review: Ceremony Coffee Roasters Guatemala Las Moritas (Annapolis, Maryland)

I have a Word document on my computer that’s just a list of coffee roasters that I want to check out when I have the time/money/opportunity. Ceremony Coffee Roasters has been on that list for probably about a year, and I am sure I would have gotten around to ordering online from them eventually, but I happily had the opportunity to pick up some of their beans while in Maryland earlier this autumn. In the About Us section of their website, they proclaim, “We strive to deliver the cup of coffee that changes someone’s life.” How can you not respect that kind of passion and zeal?

I suspect there is no intended connection between this roaster and the song “Ceremony” by Joy Division, but I’m making one in my head. Talk about life-changing!!

I took this photo at the Harbor Point location of Ceremony Coffee Roasters, and I actually got to taste a pourover of the Guatemala Las Moritas while in the shop (I don’t typically get to drink the same coffee that I buy beans of, for various reasons). I got slightly different results at home, which I go into more detail about in the V60 section.

Whole bean: I wrote in my notes: “heaven.” Rich, sweet, creamy and chocolaty aroma that had just a hint of cherry.

V60: Nice powdery finish to this cup. Chocolate and citrus flavors dominated, but it was overall a pretty subtle cup flavor-wise. The pourover cup I had of this coffee at the Harbor Point location in Baltimore was slightly less flavorful than what I brewed at home. Perhaps I brewed with a longer extraction time at home versus what I got at the coffee shop.

AeroPress: This tastes good brewed as a concentrate – nice and sweet and flavorful. When I added some water to the cup, the coffee became quite bland and disappointing, so I don’t recommend diluting the brew.

Chemex: Clean flavors. Enjoyable. Less personality than the Hario V60 cup.

French press: Sweet and tangy with strong notes of peaches.

Summary: This is a coffee that has two very different personalities depending on the brewing method. I like them all but your preferences may vary!

Pourover (Hario V60, Chemex): Results in a more traditional, darker-tasting coffee with a smoother finish.
Immersion (AeroPress, French press): Go for this if you enjoy the flavor complexity of light-roasted coffee.

This coffee is not currently available on the Ceremony website, but here is a link to the single-origin coffees on their online store:
Ceremony Coffee Roasters Online Store (Single-Origins)

Review conducted 9-11 days post-roast.

Review: Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu (Austin, Texas)

Cuvée Coffee is regularly featured at my local Whole Foods market, but I don’t buy it very often because the beans aren’t often on the shelf within two weeks of the roast date (which is a common situation when you buy coffee at retail outlets like markets). However, I lucked out recently when I spotted this bag of their Guatemala Hunapu, and I realized it had been a LONG time since I had reviewed any Cuvée (the last time was their Decaf Spicewood 71, back in May 2015!). So, into my basket went this bag.

Whole bean: White sugar, cherries.

V60: Strong and nutty. There was a bit of flavor like almond skin. A tad overwhelming taken black – I expected more sweetness, given the sweet aroma of the beans.

AeroPress: Very thick and smooth brew with a bit of floral character. Not very sweet.

Chemex: Much better in my view vs. the V60 cup. Something about this method took away the strong bite. Sugary and light-bodied coffee but very smooth flavor like marzipan. Bit of cherry on the finish.

French press: Best of the four in my view. Fudgy, sweet, floral, nutty. Tasted like almond butter with some complexity, and it only got better as it cooled.

Espresso: On a hunch, I tried these beans as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled four shots or so, but it produced a really promising result that convinced me that these beans would be great in this method. Even over 2 weeks post-roast, there was an outrageous amount of crema, and the espresso tasted sweet and smooth. Delicious stuff.

Summary: Taken as a coffee, I like this brewed in a French press best, with the Chemex a close second. Works arguably even better as a single-origin espresso!

From the roaster: Nutty, orange zest, dried cherry

Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu

Review conducted 12 days post-roast (coffee), 16 days post-roast (espresso).

Review: Tack and Jibe Ethiopia Sidama (Newport Beach, California)

I started this blog back in 2015 intending it to basically be my coffee diary. As I delved deeper into the world craft coffee and learned about the subtle differences between origins, roasts, brands, etc., I knew I’d want to have a way to keep a record of everything, and in the back of my mind, I remember thinking, “when I find THE BEST coffee, I’ll just start up a subscription to that roaster so I don’t have to keep searching.”

Well, it’s now been over two years, and at the risk of sounding like a player, I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to settle down and commit to one coffee roaster. I really enjoy seeking out new roasters and being surprised by the great diversity of flavors out there. Is it inconvenient? Yes, at times. I always have to keep in mind when I’m running low on beans so that I can order some online or buy some in-store (which usually means a special trip). Sometimes, I get overwhelmed with work and I realize too late that I’m out of coffee at home. The horror!!

Subscription services, of course, are a great answer to this dilemma, as they will ship freshly-roasted beans straight to your door on a schedule of your choosing so that you will never stumble into your kitchen in a sleep-deprived state only to discover that there is no coffee in the house. Many roasters offer subscription services, but it can be overwhelming choosing between all of the available roasts and origins, especially if you’re new to the craft coffee scene.

Enter Tack and Jibe. I was contacted by this coffee roaster/subscription company and was immediately impressed by several things about their business model:
1) They ship only freshly roasted, whole bean coffee. No pre-ground beans.
2) They have five categories of beans with short initial flavor descriptions to allow for easy selection, especially for newbies.
3) They allow easy changes (bean selection, shipping frequency, etc.).

I chose a sample bag of their Ethiopian beans to review. They roasted and shipped these beans to me on a Friday, and I received them the following Tuesday (that Monday happened to be a holiday, so who knows, maybe otherwise it would have arrived sooner!).

Whole bean: The beans looked very small – similar in size to many of the heirloom varieties of Ethiopian beans I’ve tried. There was no information on the bag other than “Ethiopia” but I would have bet $5 that these were definitely heirloom beans (and I found out later that I was right). The roast level was not as light as I am used to seeing with Ethiopian coffee, but was barely what I’d classify as a medium. Somewhere between medium-light and medium, perhaps. The beans had a creamy aroma but nothing particular stood out. I couldn’t tell for sure how it was processed but my guess was that the beans were washed because I didn’t detect any fruity/berry scent.

V60: At a 2:40 extraction, this brew was smooth on the front, like milk chocolate, and a bit like rum on the finish. Interesting! As this coffee cooled, it started emanating an aroma a bit like scotch – I associate scotch with the smell of shoe leather so it turned me off, but if you’re into that, hey!

AeroPress: Smooth and a little smoky. Pleasant to drink but there’s no way I would have ever guessed this to be Ethiopian coffee.

Chemex: My batch of this was slightly underextracted because I guessed wrong on the grind size, but it was a nice cup. It smelled like sweet vanilla. The taste wasn’t quite as sweet as the smell.

French press: This was my favorite of the four brew methods I tried. Lovely, rich texture and flavors of vanilla with a hint of cherry on the finish.

Summary: This particular Ethiopian single-origin coffee was roasted a bit darker than I am accustomed to, so I didn’t taste a lot of the distinctive flavors that I am used to finding in various washed and dry-processed Ethiopian coffees (floral, berry, citrus, chocolate, etc.). People sometimes complain to me that light roasted coffee tastes sour or weird or too much like stuff other than coffee, so I think this particular roast might be nice and approachable for someone new to single origins. I can’t speak for the other four coffee varieties offered (Brazil, Mexico, Sumatra, decaf), but the Ethiopia was roasted very evenly with lovely heirloom quality beans, they shipped fresh from the roaster, and they can come straight to your door. Worth checking out!

From the roaster: Roasted on the lighter side. Hibiscus, marshmallow, and herbal notes. Bright, juicy, and floral

Tack and Jibe Ethiopia

Tack and Jibe Home Page

Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket.

Review: Quills Coffee Blacksmith Espresso (Louisville, Kentucky)

Quills is a new company to me, but I was absolutely floored by the amazing flavors in their Ecuador La Papaya (as you might have seen me raving about a couple of weeks ago). I ordered this bag of their Blacksmith espresso blend at the same time, but life kind of got in the way and I wasn’t able to do a full battery of testing on the beans in my normal time frame (around 7-14 days post-roast). This might have actually worked out though, as the beans proved to have a useful life for longer than I anticipated. Good job, Quills. 🙂

Whole bean: Fresh scent, with notes of cocoa and nuts and a hint of red cherry.

Espresso: I started pulling shots of this bean 10 days post-roast, and did another series of shots at 20 days post-roast. Throughout the first run of shots, the flavor was really bright and verging on sour, but I found that this bean benefited from higher temperatures (for my taste, anyway). The best shot to my palate tasted mostly of bittersweet chocolate, but still had a slight punchiness and acidity to it to keep things lively. There was plenty of crema throughout both tastings.

Favorite parameters for this espresso: 206 degrees F, 19 grams in, 40 grams out at a 25 second extraction time.

With milk: Shutterbug liked the latte I made for him, though to be honest, I think he was inclined to like just about anything I gave him after a really nasty surprise with a bag of Peet’s coffee I brought home (that review will be posted next week).

AeroPress: This was a bit disappointing. The coffee brewed this way tasted strangely watered down, even though I was drinking it as a concentrate. Stick to brewing this as true espresso – it tastes hollow and bland in this method.

Summary: This espresso benefits from high temperatures if you’re looking to get rich, chocolaty flavor with a good balance of acidity.

From the roaster: cherry, honey, toasted almond

Quills Coffee Blacksmith Espresso

Review conducted at 10 days and 20 days post-roast.

Review: George Howell Coffee Nicaragua Las Colinas (Boston, Massachusetts)

This was the second bag I recently picked up from Astro Coffee in Detroit (the first being the Andytown Colombia). I had never heard of George Howell Coffee before, but I liked the packaging and the beans were very fresh, so I decided to take a chance.

Once I finished my tasting and I started writing up this review, I realized that I must have been living under a rock, because George Howell is no stranger to the specialty coffee world. It’s worth reading his full story on the roaster’s website, but suffice to say, you don’t get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America just for making cortados. Hats off to you, sir.

Whole bean: Cherry, black tea, bright and refreshing, with a buttery aroma once ground.

French press: Smells like roses and tastes like black tea. Ultra smooth, but kind of hollow in flavor. This doesn’t really taste like coffee at all! This has a thicker texture to it than tea but if I was blindfolded, I might be fooled. Just out of curiosity, I added a splash of milk, but this ended up bringing out different flavors than I was expecting – the milk made the coffee taste more juicy, with notes of lemon and butter.

Chemex: The rose scent and flavor were more on the forefront with this brewing method. Complex, sweet, layered cup.

AeroPress: This had a lovely light, reddish-brown caramel color to it. Much lighter in color than a typical cup of coffee – I think the last time I saw a cup this color might have been the Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Panama La Milagrosa Geisha. Rich mouthfeel but unlike the OCCR Geisha, it wasn’t super flavorful, even as a concentrate.

V60: This was the best method for these beans, in my opinion. Rose, amaretto, chocolate. Smooth and sweet. This cup was a definite winner!

Summary: Lovely floral notes abound in this coffee. This is quite a light roast and may be strange for people that are used to their coffee tasting “like coffee,” but I really enjoyed it, particularly brewed in the Hario V60 due to the rich flavors and balanced nature of the cup.

From the roaster: Passionfruit, chocolate, black tea

George Howell Coffee Nicaragua Las Colinas

Review conducted at 7 days post-roast.

Review: Stumptown Coffee Roasters Sleigh Ride (Portland, Oregon)

I almost never buy “holiday blends,” but this bag was a nice surprise at a Whole Foods location in Phoenix during the Christmas holidays. Impressively, it was only 4 days off roast when I bought it! That’s exceptionally fresh coffee for retail, especially considering that the nearest Stumptown roasting facility is in Los Angeles. I had to laugh a little when I saw the name of this blend, because for a freelance orchestral musician, there’s just about no other piece that evokes December and holiday craziness better than Leroy Anderson’s classic. Shaq conducting the Boston Pops in this piece is traditional viewing for me every year – I dare you to not grin while watching.

Whole bean: Scent of bittersweet chocolate and a hint of orange filled the room when I opened this bag.

V60: Light-bodied cup that tasted of chocolate but with a pleasant bite to the finish (not overly sweet). I wrote in my notes, “really good with vanilla ice cream.” Take that as you will. 😉

AeroPress: Hint of black cherry along with chocolate. Overall flavor is a bit edgy, not very sweet.

Chemex: Sesame seeds?? This cup smelled like tahini paste. Weirdly savory and confounding flavor – what a left turn from the whole bean and the other methods. And yes, my Chemex was clean…

French press: Smooth scent and flavor of dark chocolate with a bit of powdery brightness on the finish. This was my favorite method for these beans.

Summary: For a blend, I was surprised at the flavor variation produced by the different methods. I think brewing it in a French press produces the best cup, as I like the comforting richness and fuller body of this method (it reminds me a little bit of hot cocoa!), and it seems to feel right for wintertime. However, if you like a “cleaner” cup, try it in a V60. And have a nice dessert with it!

From the roaster: Sleigh Ride will bring warmth and joy to your holidays. This cup will take you on a journey with rich notes of chocolate and cherry accented by a touch of marzipan and baking spice to evoke aromas that remind us of holiday celebrations.

I undoubtedly got this bag of Sleigh Ride at the tail end of its availability (right before Christmas), and it’s not on the Stumptown website. However, here’s a link to their current coffees for sale. I can personally vouch for their Hair Bender!

Stumptown Coffee Online Store

Review: Flight Coffee Kenya Rutuma (Wellington, New Zealand)

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the North Island of New Zealand. What a heartbreakingly beautiful country (and I know I didn’t even come close to seeing even 10% of its beauty!). About half of my trip was spent in the capital city of Wellington. Wellington is an incredible city – it reminded me of all the best aspects of San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Denver, along with a openness and friendliness that is uniquely Kiwi. This city is particularly known for its motion picture industry (Peter Jackson, of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fame, has his Weta Workshop based here), its food scene, and its craft coffee scene. New Zealand’s craft coffee scene is comparatively young in the world, and unlike many other places, is centered around espresso and espresso-based drinks. I won’t get into the debate regarding whether it was the Kiwis or the Aussies who can lay claim to inventing the flat white, but rest assured that New Zealanders really know how to make an exceptional one. It’s actually rather difficult to find pourover coffee in New Zealand (compared to, say, Portland, Oregon), but you can find excellent espresso just about everywhere, from airports to food trucks to all kinds of restaurants.

Flight Coffee was a frequent name on “best coffee in Wellington”/”best flat white in Wellington” lists, and there was no way that I could leave New Zealand without doing some flat white research. When I visited Flight Coffee’s cafe (also known as the Hangar), I couldn’t resist ordering their Flight of the Flat White (three flat whites all made with a different espresso) and the barista asked, “Are you sure you can handle drinking three of these?” I accepted the challenge… and I would say I drank about 2 1/4 of the 3 drinks. Pretty good effort from me, I think, especially considering that I hadn’t had any coffee in two weeks prior to this day!

From left to right: Flat whites made with Flight Coffee’s Bomber blend (their house espresso), Ethiopia Gutiti (my favorite of these three – tasted like raspberry vanilla cake!), and Colombia La Reforma. I don’t typically go for single-origin espresso with milk drinks but this may make me change my tune.

I wanted to pick up some of the Bomber blend to experiment with at home, but none of the beans available were quite in my freshness window. These Kenyan beans, however, were only 3 days post-roast, and I figured it would be nice to try these as pourover back at home.

Whole bean: Buttery aroma. The beans were quite light in color, and tasted much like red fruit, particularly cherries; tart and sweet.

V60: This cup practically glowed in my mouth. The flavor was like brown sugar and cherry pie filling. It was a lovely balance of tart and sweet tastes.

AeroPress: Nice bright tartness on the front that mellowed to a rich sweetness of berries and stone fruit (cherries, plum).

Chemex: Powdery texture on the finish. Not overly fruity, but sweet and light.

French press: A lot was going on in this cup… it was impossible to pinpoint any one flavor note that stood out, but it was a complex brew that kept me drinking until the very last drop was gone. I tasted pretty much everything that I had tasted in my other cups, though!

Summary: I didn’t get to do quite as much coffee research in New Zealand as I would have liked, but I can easily believe that Flight Coffee is among the very best roasters in the country. They’ve made me want to experiment more with single-origin espressos, and though NZ isn’t known for drip/pourover coffee, I really enjoyed this Kenya Rutuma in the V60 and AeroPress. If my travels ever take me back to Wellington, I’ll definitely be stopping in again.

From the roaster: Red currant, blackberry, and green apple.

Flight Coffee Kenya Rutuma

And, as a little bonus, here is a pic of Wellington at sunrise! My view on my first morning there, from the Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout.

Review: Caffe Vita East Timor Hatuhei (Seattle, Washington)

On my recent trip to New York City, I told myself that I needed to limit my coffee purchasing to just two bags of coffee, and they needed to both be roasters which were new to me. Birch Coffee’s Emma Espresso was the first, and this bag from Caffe Vita is the other. Now, I’ve actually had Caffe Vita before, so I feel like I am cheating just a tiny bit from my resolve. I had a cup from a storefront across the street from Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon, and I had another cup at a corner cafe on a different trip to Portland. Both cups struck me as being on the darker side than I usually drink, and darker than I typically get from ubiquitous roasters like Heart and Stumptown. Is this bad? Not necessarily. I decided it warranted further investigation.

Whole bean: The bag itself, once opened, has a pretty strong smell of plastic (perhaps it’s something to do with the inner coating?). However, the beans were rather fruity, like peaches and cherries.

V60: Toasty and milk chocolaty flavors at the start, but on the finish, this brew tasted like nail polish smells. Terribly astringent. I don’t know what it was about this, but it tasted like chemicals and rubbing alcohol. Not my favorite! Surprisingly though, when I came back to this cup after it had cooled down, it smelled JUST like french vanilla ice cream.

AeroPress: Slightly burnt tasting when consumed straight; I had to add water. Once the water was added, it was a pleasant, if slightly generic tasting coffee.

Chemex: Same notes as the V60 method, but even more objectionable. Something about the pourover method must just bring out notes in this coffee that overpower the cup and make it smell/taste strange.

French press: This was the best method for this coffee, in my opinion. The coffee had a nice deep toasty flavor that was accented by a slight hint of nectarine.

Summary: Coffee from this region of the world is not my personal favorite and I don’t drink much of it, so take my opinion for what it’s worth ($0.02?), but I think this particular bean is best suited to being brewed in a french press. Back when I used to drink Sumatran coffee more regularly, the french press was my favorite brewing method for that bean, and I do think it coaxes out the best flavors for beans similar to it. This coffee is fruitier than most Sumatrans, but it shares many of the same characteristics in the cup.

From the roaster: Maplewood, toffee, marionberry, black tea

Caffe Vita East Timor Hatuhei

Review: Commonwealth Coffee Panama Carmen Estate (Denver, Colorado)

I’ve had my eye on trying Commonwealth Coffee for a while, since I saw that Oak Lawn Coffee in Dallas carries their beans along with Heart Coffee (one of my favorite roasters). Commonwealth is a young company (it’s only been around for a little over two years), and when I read the “About Us” section on the company’s website, the word that kept coming into my head was “inclusive” (though it was not a word used). These guys do NOT sound like snobs, that’s for sure!

Whole bean: These smell awesome. Creamy and complex aroma.

V60: I admit, my very first impression immediately after brewing this cup was off-putting because it smelled to me like cherry cough syrup. However, that scent dissipated very quickly and there was no trace of that flavor in the cup (thank goodness)! This was a bright, deceptively smooth cup that was reminiscent of cherry limeade (but definitely weighted more toward lime than cherry). Rich, creamy finish.

AeroPress: Butterscotch sweetness and richness, plus bright lemon flavor. This was a satisfying cup that needed no additional water to dilute the concentrate – I was quite happy to drink this straight.

Chemex: This was a complex cup that had a dry finish reminiscent of a Bordeaux. Very nice!

French press: Of the four cups, I had the hardest time pinning down the flavors here. Delicious syrupy body with rich flavors of toffee, cherry, and rose. This cup really made me slow down and have to think about what it was I was drinking. Great if you’re already awake, but I don’t know that I would be able to handle this at 6:00 am on a weekday — it might be too complicated for my fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain to fully enjoy! I feel like this coffee would be a combination of the overtly chipper voice of morning-show radio DJs plus the thought-provoking content of NPR/public radio. Nothing wrong with either of these things, but I would have to be in the right mood to not be overwhelmed and/or irritated by the combination. 😉

Summary: A pleasantly complex bean that will please people that like bright flavors. I wasn’t able to pick out most of the flavors in the roaster’s notes, but I did enjoy this brewed in a French press. I’m looking forward to trying other offerings from Commonwealth in the future.

From the roaster: Peach jam, cinnamon, kaffir lime, vanilla ice cream

This coffee is not currently sold online.

Commonwealth Coffee Online Store

Review: Kuma Coffee Ethiopia Reko (Seattle, Washington)

I’ve reviewed Kuma Coffee before, back when I received a bag through my former subscription with Craft Coffee. That time around, I sampled their Guatemala Finca La Folie, which unlike some Guatemalans I’ve tried in the past, was less about chocolate and more about a pleasant acidity (Riesling wine, grapes, citrus). On a recent visit to Shift Coffee in Denton, the barista pointed me toward this bag after I told him that I was looking for something that wasn’t chocolaty.

Whole bean: Red cherries, citrus, brightly floral notes.

V60: This cup smells sweet and smooth. It wakes up your mouth with the flavor of grapefruit.

AeroPress: Very bright flavors of papaya and grapefruit as a concentrate. Once I added water, it was smoother and less distinctive so I might not be inclined to add too much if I planned to brew it this way again; I like its personality.

Chemex: Sweet and tart cup which puzzled me for a few minutes because it made me think of something I couldn’t put my finger on from childhood. After a bit, I realized it tasted like flat 7-UP soda, with a bit of grapefruit. You see, I used to add fruit juice to lemon-lime soda when I was a kid, and this was very reminiscent of that (without the carbonation, of course).

French press: Not as sweet as the other cups. The thicker body with the bright flavors is really confusing to my palate. I don’t like this. Coffees that have a fairly high acidity level need filtered methods in order to bring out the bright flavors, in my opinion. This would be like having a light, crisp Vino Verde wine but with an oaky Chardonnay body – it just doesn’t match. Love the French press, but not for this particular coffee.

Summary: A nice, lightly roasted coffee that will really capture your interest brewed in a Chemex if you dig these sort of flavors.

From the roaster: Grapefruit, lavender, lemon-lime soda

This coffee is not currently available on Kuma’s online store. Here is a link to their current selections: Kuma Coffee Online Store