Review: La Colombe Panama Ironman VI Geisha (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Earlier this summer, I visited the District of Columbia and while there, visited a La Colombe coffee shop for the first time. I’ve reviewed La Colombe coffees before (their Nizza espresso and their single-origin Colombia San Roque), and while neither were exactly to my personal taste, both were exactly what they said they were; their tasting notes don’t lie. So, at the cafe, when I saw this bag of Panama Ironman VI Geisha, I was curious to see if the tasting notes matched up as well as it has in the past with this brand. Plus, I hadn’t had much if any craft coffee for almost two weeks prior to this so it didn’t feel like too much of a splurge to pay the premium that I did for these Geisha beans.

Whole bean: Bright, sweet, fresh aromas. It reminded me of a light, refreshing white wine, like a pinot grigio.

V60: Strong notes of grapefruit in this with a nice (but sweet) complexity.

AeroPress: I had this as a concentrate – no need to dilute with additional water if you like the tart taste of grapefruit and nectarines. This was the most tart of the four cups.

Chemex: Creamy and complex cup that tasted of nectarine and citrus, but sweeter than the AeroPress result.

French press: By far, this was my favorite method for these beans. Layers upon layers of rich flavor here — creamy vanilla and sweet floral notes with nectarine and sugar. Very enjoyable!!

Summary: I really like Panamanian geisha coffee, and this bag is no exception. Try it in a french press and experience a vibrant, multi-layered flavor bomb.

From the roaster: White peach, blood orange, apricot

This coffee is not currently available on La Colombe’s website, but here is a link to their online store:

La Colombe Coffee Roasters Store

Review conducted 10-11 days post-roast.

Review: Driftaway Coffee Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor (Brooklyn, New York)

This review will be a both a usual and an unusual review, in that Driftaway Coffee operates as a coffee subscription company with constantly rotating offerings, so while you may not be able to get these exact beans, I wanted to do a full review of the beans I did receive to give an overview of what you might be able to expect from this company.

A recurring trend these days seems to be the personalized subscription… Stitch Fix comes to mind as an example, where you get clothes selected for you each month, you give the company feedback about what you do and do not like, and they adjust their future shipments to reflect your preferences. Driftaway Coffee works like that, where you first receive a tasting kit with four overall coffee profiles (fruity, classic, balanced, bold). Then, you choose your favorite of the four, tell Driftaway what you like or don’t like about the coffee via their website or iOS app, and Driftaway will send you freshly roasted coffees personally selected to reflect your preferences. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of going into a coffee shop and blindly picking out a bag, hoping you’ll like it. In addition, since it shows up at your door at the frequency you choose, you won’t run out of freshly roasted coffee. Great for busy folks!

In my case, rather than sending me the tasting kit, Driftaway simply contacted me to ask what I would like, and based on my answers, they sent me this bag from their “Balanced” taste profile – this Colombia Huila Finca el Tabor. Shipping was very quick, and I believe the coffee was in my mailbox 4-5 days post-roast. Having my name handwritten on the bag was an unexpected but very sweet touch; it really felt like this coffee was personally roasted just for me!

Whole bean: Peanut brittle, butterscotch.

French press: Very sweet. Toffee, nutty, rich flavor and mouthfeel. There’s nothing sharp or sour or off-putting about this coffee – it feels smooth and luxurious in the mouth. Delicious! If you usually take your coffee with cream, I challenge you to try this black and see if it doesn’t convince you that good coffee doesn’t need anything added.

Chemex: Tangy flavor, with a hint of blood orange. Mild citrus taste. Very different from the French press cup!! Sweet and tart at the same time.

AeroPress: Straight up Snickers bar (for anyone that doesn’t have Snickers candy bars where they live, it’s caramel, peanut and nougat, covered in milk chocolate).

V60: Like the Chemex cup in its citrusy character but with more of a toasty finish.

Summary: I was fascinated by how this particular Colombian coffee could have such different results; the immersion methods (French press/AeroPress) created a coffee that was decadent, sweet, and rich. The pourover methods (Chemex/Hario V60) resulted in a light, citrusy brew with a balanced finish. Both flavor profiles were fantastic but I have to say this coffee done in a French press was my personal favorite of the four methods I tried, and I think if I was introducing craft coffee to someone who had not had it before (especially if it was someone who was used to putting cream and sugar in their coffee), this would be a fantastic bean to give them to show what really great coffee can be like, unadulterated.

If the idea of having the equivalent of a coffee sommelier appeals to you, check out Driftaway! I am really impressed by the sample I received — it’s one of the best coffees I’ve tasted so far this year!! — and they couldn’t be nicer people to connect with. Many thanks!

From the roaster: Toffee, turmeric, peanut

Driftaway Coffee

Review conducted 6-7 days post-roast.

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: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Sunset Blend (Dallas, Texas)

Davis Street Espresso is the home cafe for Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters here in Dallas, but though I’ve gotten pretty familiar with OCCR over the past 2 years, I hadn’t visited Davis Street Espresso until quite recently because 1) I just don’t go out for espresso much and 2) I’m not typically in the area when they’re open. However, I finally had the chance to visit and enjoyed a lovely espresso while scouting out their bean selection. As typical for me, I looked for what was the freshest, and I ended up choosing the Sunset Blend.

The packaging describes the Sunset Blend as “Our most balanced offering, the Sunset Blend is specifically blended for wonderful sweetness and body. This coffee pairs well with a wide range of foods.” I was coming off of a run of drinking rather complex and challenging coffees, so the idea of drinking something balanced and simpler really appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE complexity in my coffee, but some mornings, the last thing I want to be is confused about what I’m drinking. Not surprisingly, it is directly proportional to how much sleep I’ve had… 😉

Whole bean: Black pepper? The scent seemed to be coming more from the bag than the beans, though. Once I put the beans in a little glass bowl, however, they smelled “normal” – I couldn’t pick out anything specific.

French press: Super smooth and uncomplicated. A bit murky. Not getting a ton of flavor from this cup but it’s pleasant – it’s a cup you can drink and enjoy without having to think about it too much.

Chemex: Incredibly smooth and sweet. Delicious! Not murky at all – clear as a bell. Milk chocolate and orange flavors. This was highly enjoyable.

AeroPress: Similar to the Chemex cup but with the volume turned up. Bit more citrusy.

V60: Creamy and sweet, with a good balance of flavors.

Summary: I think the pourover methods (Chemex and V60) particularly suit this blend, but all four cups were enjoyable. There wasn’t a huge difference between any of the cups but if given the option, go with a pourover method for the cleanest and juiciest flavor.

From the roaster: Sweet milk chocolate and citrus.

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Sunset Blend

Review conducted 3-4 days post-roast.

Review: Trader Joe’s Colombia Geisha (Monrovia, California)

Despite me listing Monrovia, California as the home base, the Trader Joe’s chain of markets can be found all over the United States, in 41 states and in the District of Columbia. It’s a place I enjoy shopping for groceries, as they have products available no place else, and I’ve appreciated their range of items and their quality, especially in the cheese, wine, and gluten-free categories. I used to buy coffee in their signature store brand canisters, because the price was low compared to other stores, but eventually started buying directly from roasters since there’s no real way to tell exactly how fresh Trader Joe’s coffee is (no roast dates are printed on the packaging). I’ve also heard anecdotal evidence of rocks being found in the beans and ruining grinders, so keep an eye on your coffee beans, kids!

Anyway, when I recently popped into a Trader Joe’s in Dallas, I had no intention of buying coffee, but I happened to catch sight of the display that held these canisters of Geisha coffee. Geisha coffee? At a TJ’s? I was skeptical about the quality. Past purchases of Geisha coffee for me have run anywhere from $30-40 per 8 oz, and Trader Joe’s was selling theirs for $20 per 8 oz. Much cheaper, but there was no roast date (just a “best by” date of March 22, 2018)… Ordinarily I would have walked away, but I was curious enough to try it (call it professional curiosity), to see if it was worth the chance. Plus, the “limited edition” packaging was a little hard to resist, as they numbered their cans and made it feel like an accomplishment to get one of the 48 cans allotted to this particular store location. Naturally, I searched until I got can #1. Felt almost as good as getting copy #1 of a piece of limited edition vinyl!

Geisha coffee, while originating in the village of Gesha in Ethiopia, can now be sourced from various places around the world. It produces a comparatively small amount of crop relative to other coffee plants, and the flavors are remarkably complex and floral. I’ve reviewed several varieties of Geisha coffees (three from Panama, one from Ethiopia) and all have been different but all have been markedly more layered than a standard coffee.

Trader Joe’s packaging didn’t make it clear what country this Geisha originated from, and it was only after reading the small print down the side of the can that I found out it came from Colombia. With the lack of roast date (just a “best by” date), I was seriously concerned that any complex/floral notes might be completely absent from the coffee… these things are best experienced when the coffee is extremely fresh (less than 3 weeks old at the max!). Was this a case of a money grab just off the back of the Geisha name?

Whole bean: hint of rainier cherry, but not much else. Mild. Not a bad start but not much character yet.

French press: Oh, this was a disappointment. My notes read:
“So bland. WTF?”
This tasted like a really weak cold brew. The flavor was that of marshmallow fluff, but without the sugar. Rich texture to this cup but no real flavor.

Chemex: Minimal bloom in the brewing, which just confirmed to me that this coffee was way past its peak of freshness. The extraction was quite fast and unbelievably, there was even less flavor in this cup vs. the French press cup. There was a bit of acidity on the finish but overall this coffee just made me mad because of its wasted potential.

AeroPress: Best of the lot. Fudgy texture and a flavor that had a hint of rose and nuts. This is only tolerable as a concentrate; as soon as you add even a little bit of water, it becomes bland.

V60: I purposely ground this quite fine to give the coffee as much extraction time as I dared. After 3:40, I tasted the brew. Nothing. It tasted like water!

Summary: If you want to splurge on a Geisha coffee, get a Geisha from a roaster that does it right, in small batches roasted to order. Cut-rate, stale Geisha is a waste of time and money. I love many things about you, Trader Joe’s, but this to me is a clear attempt to jump on the specialty coffee bandwagon and get people to part with their hard-earned cash on a product that is not worthy. Given the large reach of TJ locations around the country, there’s no real way to source enough of one crop of Geisha for all of your stores (even with limited cans) or to do proper quality control on a product that has such a short shelf life. Perhaps these beans were more delicious when fresh, but that time passed long ago, and I can’t recommend that anyone interested in coffee purchase these.

From the roaster: Full body with citrus notes

Trader Joe’s homepage

Review conducted at ????? days post-roast (who the hell knows?)

 

Review: Roseline Coffee Colombia El Ventilador (Portland, Oregon)

I ordered this bag at the same time I ordered the Roseline Ecuador Rosa Encarnacion, and I knew that as bright and divisive as the Rosa Encarnacion was, this Colombian coffee was likely to be completely different. I tend to gravitate toward Colombian coffees when I want something tasty and interesting but not too outside the box. I am used to tasting citrus and honey flavors in my Colombians, so I hoped this roast would fit the bill.

Whole bean: Sugar. Butter cookie. Marzipan. Delicious tangy scent like clover honey. Wow!

French press: This was sweet and rich with an undeniable note of citrus (tangelo).

Chemex: All I wrote in my notes here was the word “bright.” I had a little difficulty with the grind size and had to make this coffee twice (I guessed too coarse of a grind). I’m going to guess that this was not my favorite brew method.

AeroPress: Really thick and tangy brew that tasted strongly of both citrus and honey. I tried adding water but it immediately became bland, even with just a touch of it. Stick to drinking this as a concentrate.

V60: With an extraction time of 3:30, this had the least amount of citrus flavor, which is good if you’re not into that. It spoke mostly of brown sugar and had a pleasant bitterness to the finish, which would go extremely well with a sweet treat.

Summary: If you like citrus and honey, this is the coffee for you. It was lively and delicious with varying levels of those two flavors depending on the brew method.

From the roaster: Panela, butter cookie, and citrus

I am behind on posting reviews, so again, this coffee is no longer available on the Roseline website, but here’s a link to their online store: Roseline Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review conducted at 4-6 days post-roast.

Review: Blue Bottle Kenya Embu Gikirima (Oakland, California)

Technically, I purchased this coffee at the end of 2016 and wrote up notes on it very soon after purchase, but I wanted to save the review to start the new year off with a bang, and Blue Bottle seemed like a good roaster to start this blog off on the right foot in 2017! This Blue Bottle review will actually be in two parts, as I bought this varietal both in whole bean form and pre-ground (gasp!). Yes, I broke the rule of just about every coffee geek and bought pre-ground coffee, but for a very good reason, as I wanted to see for myself if Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground really could live up to the taste of freshly ground coffee. More on that later, but for now, here are my notes on the whole bean version of this Kenya Embu Gikirima!

Whole bean: Honestly, I kind of forgot to observe this coffee’s notes, as it smelled great right out of the box and I was excited to start brewing. Oops! But it was quite fragrant, like caramelized sugar and tea and all sorts of good things.

V60: This brewing method made a cup that tasted like toasted marshmallows, with a slight “pithy” flavor like lemon pith. Not a very tart cup, but it had just a little bit of citrus bitterness to it. I did brew this on the long side (3:45) so perhaps a shorter brewing time would mitigate the pith.

AeroPress: A surprisingly smooth brew!! Caramel scent and flavor dominated this mug, with a tart finish like lemon candy to keep the taste buds interested.

Chemex: Grapefruit. Very tart and dry. My mouth was puckering.

French press: Very silky mouthfeel. Rich, sweet flavor with just a hint of brightness and tartness to keep things lively.

Summary: This coffee tasted best to me in the immersion methods, with the French press being my personal favorite, as I felt it had the best balance between sweet and tart.

Check back in a few hours for more on this coffee, this time made from Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground beans (their version of pre-ground coffee).

From the roaster: Cacao nibs, tea, citrus

Blue Bottle Kenya Embu Gikirima

Review: BeanFruit Coffee Company Ethiopia Sidama Guji (Jackson, Mississippi)

This is the second of two bags of coffee I had the pleasure of receiving from the BeanFruit Coffee Company, based in the Jackson, Mississippi area. Their Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry really knocked my socks off, and I was excited to see how this washed coffee from Ethiopia compared; I do have a soft spot for African coffees!

Whole bean: These beans had a sweet scent like clementines. Lovely!

V60: Brewed at a 3:00 minute extraction, this was a balanced and not overly sweet coffee that had a nice, bright, lively citrus tang.

AeroPress: Pure joy in this cup. As a concentrate, it was sweet, floral, and full of fruity/citrus flavor, with no bitter or unpleasant flavors whatsoever. It was like drinking the sort of sunshine you feel on a beach vacation!

Chemex: This coffee had an rich aroma reminiscent of heavy cream (though not the flavor of cream). Delicate flavor of honeysuckle with an orange-juice finish; beautifully balanced and complex. I loved this.

French Press: Slightly less sweet of a coffee than what resulted from brewing it in a Chemex; more tart, piquant flavor with a fuller-bodied texture.

Summary: Another winner from BeanFruit! If you enjoy citrus flavors in your coffee, this will definitely be your bag. These beans were especially outstanding brewed in the AeroPress and the Chemex.

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.

From the roaster: Juicy, tangerine, caramel

BeanFruit Coffee Company Ethiopia Sidama Guji

Review: Corvus Coffee Peru Satipo Finca Tasta (Denver, Colorado)

This is the second coffee I’ve tried from Corvus; the first was their Everyman Espresso, which had nice chocolate and blueberry notes. Thanks to Method Coffee in Dallas for having fresh bags in stock!

One thing I noticed last time but didn’t mention is that Corvus seems to employ unusually long bags to package their beans. Because I have multiple beans at any given time at my house, I keep the coffee in its original bag so that I don’t mix them up or forget what I am drinking. I will typically use a long-handled coffee scoop to transfer the beans from the bag to my scale for weighing and brewing. However, the height of Corvus Coffee’s bags is significantly higher than average, and my coffee scoop just isn’t long enough to reach the beans without my arm having to go halfway into the bag. It’s a minor annoyance, since I can just pour the beans out instead, but if I were able to change the length of their bags, I’d ask them to shorten them by just a few inches (or to glue the bendy-tab thingie a few inches lower so that we could cut the inches off ourselves).

tn_IMG_4656

(A comparison of the length of Corvus Coffee’s bags next to bags from Chromatic Coffee and Roseline Coffee.)

Whole bean: Bright, robust scent with a creamy finish. Ground, I smelled yellow cake and cinnamon.

V60: Nice bright flavor on the front, but there was a strange cardboard flavor on the finish. However, the brew got creamier and sweeter as it cooled.

AeroPress: This was my favorite of the bunch. Thick, rich, spicy coffee that was bright but smooth on the tongue. I drank this as a concentrate (no additional water added) because I really loved the warm cinnamon flavor along with the citrusy notes.

Chemex: Dark chocolate. Overall it was a bit dry on the finish, and not very complex.

French press: This cup smelled just like a Creamsicle (orange and cream)! Creamy mouthfeel, but not very sweet. It had a taste of tart mandarin orange on the finish.

Summary: I particularly enjoyed this coffee made in an AeroPress, as I felt that method brought out the most interesting and lively flavors. The French press was a close second.

From the roaster: Creamy orange, cinnamon, buttery, ripe blood orange, almond brickle

Corvus Peru Satipo Finca Tasta

Review: Wrecking Ball Coffee Ethiopia Classic Yirgacheffe (San Francisco, California)

This is my first experience with Wrecking Ball Coffee. I had initially heard about them through this article on Sprudge, and found their approach to coffee interesting (iced cappuccinos?? I’m not big on iced drinks, but kudos to them for trying something new). Plus, I love that their house espresso blend is named “Pillow Fight“! Someday I will try that blend, but for this particular order, I wanted to go with a single-origin coffee.

Whole bean: Smells a lot like jasmine tea. Once ground, it became SUPER bright and fragrant. I was overwhelmed (in a good way).

V60: A rather flowery-smelling brew with flavors of green grape and dark chocolate.

AeroPress: The concentrate was quite strong, full of grassy/floral flavor. I added just a touch of water and it balanced the coffee for the better. The brew became a little chocolaty with a hint of lavender.

Chemex: For me, this method was the star of the show. Somehow, brewing this coffee in a Chemex made the resulting coffee completely different in character than in the other three methods. It was quite light in color and light-bodied. Ultra easy-drinking brew, with notes of caramel, shortbread, butter, and a hint of lavender. Delicate. Delicious.

French press: Intense aroma of almond and flowers. This was a flavor explosion in the mouth.

Summary: Get your hands on this coffee and brew it in a Chemex for a really superb flavor experience!

From the roaster: Floral, citrusy, clean, complex, balanced.

Wrecking Ball Coffee Ethiopia Classic Yirgacheffe

Review: Chromatic Ethiopia Guji Sidama (San Jose, California)

Chromatic Coffee is where I get one of my favorite espresso blends. I figured it was high time I tried some of their other offerings, so I added a bag of this Ethiopia Guji Sidama to my most recent order.

Whole bean: mild, light, sweet, and fragrant. Reminded me more of perfume than coffee.

V60: At a 2:40 extraction, this coffee was quite floral, like I was walking through a garden. Bright and sunny. It packs quite a punch in flavor!

AeroPress: Brewed as a concentrate, this tasted like lemon pith and flower stems – bitter and grassy. I added some water and it was better, but whoo! This brew made my mouth pucker. The flavor was brighter than neon!

Chemex: Very floral and acidic. Tastes like lemon, grapefruit, and flowers. Springtime in a mug.

French press: This brew had the most body and depth, which combined with the citrus/floral notes, made for a weird combination. It tasted confusing to my mouth – kind of like if there was a chamber music piece consisting of glockenspiel, piccolo, triangle, and trombone.

Summary: This washed Ethiopian coffee reminded me a lot of the Case Coffee Ethiopia Mogeyes, which tasted like I had taken a “mixed bouquet of flowers and spun them in a Vitamix.” Very floral in aroma and flavor, with notes of grapefruit and lemon.

From the roaster: Citrus, floral, round

I JUST ordered this at the end of March but at writing time (early April), it’s already disappeared from the website! Guess I caught them right before they changed their menu.

Chromatic Coffee Online Store