Review: Brown Coffee Co. Cottonwood Espresso (San Antonio, Texas)

I ordered this bag of the Brown Cottonwood Espresso at the same time that I ordered their Candy Factory. The Candy Factory was roasted May 24, but the Cottonwood must have been roasted to order because it was roasted May 30 (I ordered May 29). There was a bit of delay in the shipping, but it was fine in this case since the beans showed up in plenty of time and I did this tasting on about day 10, which is right around where I like to be for espresso testing.

Whole bean: I forgot to write anything down for this… sorry! I don’t think anything stood out particularly, which is good. The beans must have looked and smelled fine.

Espresso: I had a hard time personally with this espresso, as I was hoping to get a balanced shot with sweetness and smoothness. Frustratingly, I never quite got what it was I was looking for, though I did get some interesting flavors… chocolate, spicy chiles, lemon. No matter how much I varied the temperature (and I tried shots from 197-206 degrees F), the shots all came out awfully bright for my taste.

With milk: I don’t drink milk anymore so Shutterbug has become my tester in this regard. He liked the latte I made him using the Cottonwood espresso, saying that there was a good amount of coffee flavor to it, so perhaps this is an espresso that is designed to be consumed with milk vs. straight.

AeroPress: Now THIS I really liked. The brew that resulted from this method was deliciously rich like chocolate and marshmallow, yet not boring. It tasted a lot like Nutella and s’mores. I wish I could have gotten this flavor in a straight espresso shot!

Summary: Good with milk, but I found this particular blend to be too bright as straight espresso. It does make a decadent cup in the AeroPress, though. I think this is worth investigating how it brews as coffee!

From the roaster: Cottonwood Espresso. Rich, sweet, deep and fruited with chocolate rasberry (sic) notes that explode in the mouth with succulent crema. It gives your palate what it’s looking for: a classic expression of espresso in the American style. At its best, Cottonwood represents the very best of the world’s major coffee growing regions (12oz/340g bag).

Brown Coffee Co. Cottonwood Espresso

Review conducted 10 days post-roast.

Review: Klatch Coffee Panama Altieri Washed Geisha (Rancho Cucamonga, California)

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of Klatch. I don’t order from them very often, simply because there are so many great roasters out there to try, but I’ve never had a cup of Klatch Coffee that I didn’t like. Some of their roasts have been among my favorite cups of coffee EVER.

I recently got an email alert that Klatch was offering a sale on Geisha coffee, and it took me approximately 0.02 seconds to click the link to start browsing! The price of this coffee has been reduced from $39.95 to $29.95 for 8 ounces… it’s still expensive, clearly, but I thought it would be worth a try. Klatch has clear notes about roast dates for coffees this special – this Panama Geisha is only roasted on Mondays, and I have a feeling it won’t be offered for very much longer. I ordered this coffee the week of May 1, and at the time they were also offering a Panama Altieri Natural Geisha, but that’s no longer on the site. Jump on this ASAP if you want to try it.

Whole bean: Mild nutty fragrance that smelled like macadamia nuts and cashews, with a subtle note of tropical fruit. Papaya?

V60: This had a really mild but pleasant aroma, like just catching the barest whiff of perfume. Whispers of caramel and melon. This cup brewed for 2:30, and I think it could have used a finer grind for a bit more extraction, because the final brew tasted a bit bland and watered down to my palate. Not bad, but I was hoping for more flavor, especially for this expensive of a coffee!

AeroPress: Now HERE is the flavor I was wanting. Don’t you dare dilute this with any additional water! This brew was sugary, with notes of nectarine, and it tasted terrifically vibrant and alive.

Chemex: This method produced a coffee that was even more mild than the V60 cup. It had a hint of floral aroma, and it was sweet, but rather bland and plain. I don’t think I particularly care for this coffee in filtered pourover methods. With that said, I served this brew on a couple of occasions to Shutterbug (who usually drinks coffee with milk and sugar added) and he was able to enjoy this coffee with just a bit of sugar added (no milk). It is quite smooth.

Yes, I probably committed some kind of crime letting someone add sugar to a Geisha coffee, but everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?

French press: Smooth, sweet, with lovely body and a delicious tangy finish. It reminded me a bit of nougat and brown sugar with a touch of tangerine. This was my second favorite method after the AeroPress.

Summary: $60/lb + shipping is quite the splurge for coffee, and I don’t think too many of my readers would be crazy enough to do this, but if this coffee sounds appealing to you, I’d encourage you to act now before it’s gone. I loved this coffee in the AeroPress, as it really brought out exciting flavors, but other methods produce smoother, more balanced cups. You won’t get a bad cup of coffee with this stuff. Is it worth the cost? I’d say for an occasional treat, yes.

From the roaster: “It offers a sweet fusion of melon, floral and raspberry aromatics. An enchanting sense of sweet floral aromatics. The flavors in the cup bring out notes of cantaloupe, peach, sugar cane, marshmallow, and a beautiful finish of floral nectar.”

Klatch Panama Altieri Washed Geisha

Review conducted at 4 days post-roast.

Review: 1818 Farms Celebration Blend (Mooresville, Alabama)

I would classify myself as an inquisitive coffee drinker. Coffee has become a rather serious hobby of mine, and all of my delicious “research” has given me a huge level of appreciation for the work that goes into bringing millions of people around the world their daily cup. I like being pushed and stretched and challenged by the coffee I drink most days – it’s exciting to me to encounter unexpected surprises in my mugs. But, not everyone wants this from coffee! Lots of people out there want a coffee that they can count on, that will be consistently delicious, and that will be a bright spot in an otherwise challenging, stressful, and unpredictable day. For these folk, I definitely recommend that you check out blends. Good blends combine the attributes of multiple origins to ideally give you the best of all worlds in a cup, and good roasters/blenders know how to make that flavor consistent from year to year, even with all the changes that can happen to coffee crops.

I was contacted through this blog by the lovely folks at 1818 Farms about reviewing their private label coffee. 1818 Farms is not a coffee roaster; they appear to be much more than that. Their motto/tagline is “Life the way it used to be,” and as I read up on them on their website, they’re not kidding. For a city girl like me, it’s hard to imagine a place like 1818 Farms, where “residents” refer to sheep and goats and hens and pigs! Read more about them here. 

Note: For consistency and objectivity, I make it a rule to only buy from roasters that put roast dates on the bags, and I taste coffee within two weeks of roasting. 1818 Farms doesn’t have roast dates on the bags, so I don’t know when these beans were roasted. Based on the bloom and behavior of the beans while brewing, I’m going to guess they were around 12-18 days old when I got them – not completely stale, but not at peak freshness.

Whole beans: Chocolate ice cream. I could definitely get behind this! Once ground, the beans smelled like dark chocolate and marshmallows. Quite sweet.

AeroPress: Nice blend of flavors! Rich taste and texture without tasting burnt. Smooth enough to go down easy but not boring. There’s no need to add water to this concentrate assuming you like a nice strong coffee. To me, this cup tastes like the best possible version of an old-fashioned cup of coffee. I can’t tell from drinking it what the bean origins are or how it was brewed, but I really don’t care. If I was traveling and staying in a bed-and-breakfast and was served this coffee, I’d be pretty thrilled. It tastes comforting yet invigorating.

Chemex: Slightly brighter brew. Since I had tasted the deeper, richer flavors that these beans were capable of, I was a tiny bit let down by this method because I really think it benefits from the thinner filter, but it was a perfectly pleasant cup of coffee.

French Press: Thick, fudgy brew, with just a hint of bitterness at the end. Not quite as smoothly flavored as the AeroPress or Chemex cups, but I bet this would be awesome with a touch of half-and-half.

V60: This ended up being the last brew method I tried (about a week after receipt), and for some reason, while brewing, the odor of rubber/car tires made itself present. Strange! Thankfully, the coffee itself didn’t taste like rubber, but it was a bit bitter, even with just a 2:40 extraction. I don’t know if the beans were too old at this point, or if it was the brewing method, but I’d plan to stick with a different brew method.

Summary: I think this blend’s goal was to be a humble, uncomplicated, good coffee that would be rich and satisfying, and it succeeds quite well! It evokes a simpler time, before the coffee industry got so complex and scientific. If you’re looking for old-fashioned coffee, but better, give this a try, particularly if you have an AeroPress. This is also an excellent coffee if you choose to add cream and/or sugar.

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: Frolick like a lamb throughout the day with the help of our Medium Roast Blend.

1818 Farms Online Store

Review: Ascension Rwanda Cyimbili Gold (Dallas, Texas)

This bag was a sweet gift from my friends Julee and Brian. Thanks to one of my favorite couples! 🙂

Ascension has a pretty strong local presence here in Dallas, and their Peruvian Silk blend made it into my top 10 list for 2015. I’m always happy to review a bag of their beans.

Whole bean: Strong berry aroma. Very sweet fragrance that was an amalgam of red wine and honey.

French press: Awesome rich blackberry flavor with a thick body in the cup. Enjoyable. I wrote down “Pinot Noir” in my notes, but that isn’t a great descriptor since not all Pinot Noirs taste the same.

Chemex: This cup was quite fragrant. Deliciously sweet, fruity aroma. The blackberry flavor in the cup was both tart and sweet with a dry finish. It brought back memories of a summer I spent in Maine, and having the experience of picking and eating fresh blackberries straight off the bushes.

AeroPress: I wasn’t a fan of this cup. Initially, I thought this cup smelled like bug spray! Thankfully, the smell went away quickly but I didn’t find much about this cup to like. It was too strong and overwhelming to drink as a concentrate, but when I added water, it tasted bland.

V60: Ho-hum in the cup. Not sweet. This ended up a little bit metallic tasting, so I tried again with a slightly finer grind. The second time, I got a bit of toasted marshmallow and peach flavor in the coffee but it was a bit bitter as well, even at only a 2:45 extraction time.

Summary: A blackberry-heavy coffee that tasted best to me in a french press, but I think it would also be delicious brewed in a Chemex and served slightly sweetened over ice – sort of like blackberry iced tea but in coffee form.

From the roaster: Blackberry, peach, smooth body

This coffee is not currently available online.

Ascension Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review: Evocation Micro-Coffee Roasters Peru Cajamarca (Amarillo, Texas)

Shutterbug and I had the pleasure of checking out Evocation’s shop while visiting Amarillo for a wedding. It was hard to find; the shop is located in an industrial-looking area and there are no discernible signs from the road to indicate that there is a pretty special little coffee shop in the vicinity, but we found it anyway (thanks, Yelp and Google Maps!).

I enjoyed chemistry class while in high school, so I was pretty tickled that this was how their coffee was served:


The in-house pourover coffee that day was Evocation’s Colombia Las Colinas. The barista told me of the tasting notes, but honestly I don’t remember what they were; I just remember tasting this incredibly sweet and fragrant brew that brought the JAMC’s “Just Like Honey” to mind. It was seriously THAT sweet. There were also notes of dark chocolate present in the cup.

Compounding this pleasurable experience was the scent wafting through the shop of sweetness and bread. I thought it was french toast or brioche, but Shutterbug informed me later that they were making waffles (somehow, I didn’t notice this!). The one bean they had available in bags was this Peruvian Cajamarca, and I had pretty high hopes for it based on how much I enjoyed the Colombian coffee I tried in the shop.

Whole bean: Bright aroma of green grapes, cocoa powder, and vanilla with a creaminess about it. Once ground, the aroma became an unimaginably rich and earthy chocolate truffle plus notes of plum and port wine.

V60: Given the promise of the ground beans, this cup was a disappointment. I tried this twice; the first attempt (3:15 extraction time) smelled like warm clean hair or clothes… it didn’t smell like soap or detergent, but it smelled like burying your face into warm laundry just taken from the dryer. The taste was slightly bitter. The second attempt (2:50 extraction time) was smoother but still had weirdly bitter notes plus a chemical smell that bothered me. I was pretty sad about this! It’s possible my technique or something else was off here but maybe this is just not a good brewing method for this particular coffee.

AeroPress: MUCH better. Dark chocolate flavor and smooth mouthfeel throughout. There was a hint of caramel and stone fruit (plum?) on the finish that was really nice. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate because it was lovely just as it was.

Chemex: Less chocolate flavor and more plum in this cup. Pretty good! Sweet and perky.

French press: This cup was the showstopper of the bunch. Both plum and chocolate flavors mingled in this cup along with the flavor of marshmallow fluff. This cup was ridiculously sweet; almost to the point of being too much for me to drink without laughing. Okay, I did giggle a little, but only because it was unbelievable how sweet this black coffee turned out! What a delight.

Summary: Try this in a french press if you’re ready to be bowled over with sweetness. The Colombia Las Colinas from this same roaster is also a winner. I’ve got my eye on you, Evocation! It’ll be sooner rather than later when we meet again.

From the roaster: Toffee, chocolate, plum

Evocation Peru Cajamarca

Review: Spella Caffe India Chikmagalur Peaberry (Portland, Oregon)

On my previous trip to Portland in September, Spella Caffe was on my shortlist of roasters/cafes to visit, but I ran out of time (and I had to cut myself off after acquiring six other bags of coffee!). Thankfully, I had another chance over the Thanksgiving holiday. Spella is a bit of an anomaly in the crowded PDX-coffee scene, in that it definitely leans more toward a traditional Italian-style espresso vs. the brighter, fruitier shots served in many third-wave coffee shops. Spella even pulls their shots on a lever-style manual espresso machine, rather than the semi-automatics common to most upscale cafes. The proprietor, Andrea Spella, roasts in small batches (eleven pounds at a time) for optimum quality control. Basically, all of these factors combined to make me very interested in trying their espresso beans.

Fate, however, had other plans for me, as when I visited the shop, they were out of espresso beans. My sister was outside the shop, and apparently she could tell exactly what was wrong when she saw the interaction between me and the woman behind the register as she watched through their plate-glass window.


However, all was not lost, as they had a fresh batch of this India Peaberry on hand. The barista told me that this particular bean lent itself well to pourover methods, so I was intrigued enough to purchase it. I suppose I should have had an espresso shot in the shop, but I was in a bit of a rush, so I didn’t. Perhaps another time!

Whole bean: Earthy, buttery, and rich aroma. This isn’t a dark roast (the beans are medium at most, with no oily sheen), but it has a depth to it that I haven’t experienced in a while.

V60: If I was given a cup of this while blindfolded, I would have sworn it was a Sumatran coffee. It actually reminded me quite a lot of the “Eeyore coffee” I reviewed earlier in the year: a bit spicy like cloves, with a medium body.

AeroPress: The concentrate was full in body and tasted a bit like toasted marshmallow. However, the finish was brighter, like cranberry and star anise.

Chemex: This was a pleasant cup to drink; it was delicate and nutty, with a little bit of a buttery and spicy finish.

French press: Thick, satisfying, full-bodied and buttery cup. Smooth.

Summary: I haven’t explored a lot of coffees from this area of the world, but with winter coming, it almost seems like the right time to expand my horizons again. I used to drink a lot of Sumatran coffee before I got bored of it and decided to explore other regions, but this coffee (while not a Sumatran) reminded me of how good coffee from this general part of the world could be – it had very clean flavors and was meticulously roasted. I would recommend this either in a Chemex or a French press, depending on how you like your coffee (light/medium-bodied or full-bodied).

From the roaster: No tasting notes

Spella does not currently sell coffees online, but they are available in multiple retail outlets in Oregon.

Guide to Spella from Portland Food and Drink

Spella Caffe Home

Review: Sterling Coffee Roasters Guatemala Los Carillos (Portland, Oregon)

I had expected that I would have a streak of five reviews concentrating on Portland-area coffee roasters, but that expanded to seven once I decided to get two additional bags of Sterling Coffee Roasters’ beans. This is the last in the series; the next bag will likely be something local as I plan to attend the sold-out Dallas Coffee Day this Sunday!

Whole beans: These beans gave off a milk chocolate, vanilla bean, and chocolate milkshake aroma. Very inviting.

V60: Nope. This cup was astringent and dry – not pleasant, especially considering the sweet aroma of the beans. Plain water tasted super sweet after drinking this.

AeroPress: There was a bit of marshmallow and some lemon flavor in this concentrate. Adding water made me think of s’mores, and made it a very smooth cup.

Chemex: Clean, light, marshmallow scent and flavor on the finish.

French press: Sweet and full-bodied! This cup was most like a chocolate milkshake.

Espresso: Sterling’s website stated that they pull this as a single-origin espresso in their shops, and that it is best consumed as a straight espresso because the flavor has a tendency to get lost in milk. I only pulled a few shots before I ran out of beans, but I managed to hit their suggested parameters, and the shot was decently tasty but not as good as their Blendo Stupendo in my opinion. As a straight shot, the Guatemala Los Carillos has a somewhat generic chocolate flavor with a note of lemon. Not my favorite flavor combination. Even with a small amount of milk (about 4 oz of milk added to my 2 oz of espresso), the coffee flavor really was muted.

Summary: Based on my previous experience with Guatemalan beans, I had expected that I would enjoy this brewed in a Chemex the most, but while it was delicious in a Chemex, I actually think I preferred this particular bag of beans in the French press, as it brought out the chocolate/vanilla flavor the most. I had limited experience with this as an espresso but from what I did experience, I think this is best served as a coffee. I will say that Sterling is 3 for 3 in impressing me with their beans!

From the roaster: Look for a delicate vanilla bean fragrance when ground, and a cup that smacks of dried Mediterranean fruit, marzipan, and that sublime cocoa flavor so characteristic of Guatemala coffee. Light roasted for drip and press.

Sterling Coffee Roasters Guatemala Los Carillos

Review: Sterling Coffee Roasters Kenya Nyeri Gachatha AA (Portland, Oregon)

This post begins a streak of 5 reviews of Portland-based roasters, and I couldn’t be happier about it! My trip to Oregon was sheer delight; I enjoyed gorgeous sunny weather with a nice cool breeze, mouth-watering food, and of course superb coffee. I’m starting with Sterling partly because it’s the “oldest” coffee in the bunch (which is still not very old at all, at only 10 days old when I reviewed it), and partly because I have a rather special story to go along with it.

Spoiler alert: EXEMPLARY customer service!!!

First, let’s talk about the coffee.

Whole bean: aromas of red wine, dark chocolate, and red fruits (strawberries, raspberries).

V60: My mouth started watering immediately upon taking a sip of this brew. It was more than simply sweet – it had a beautiful complexity to it. I tasted strawberry, lemon, and lychee flavors with a lovely dry finish. Sort of like a fancy strawberry lemonade. I could not stop savoring this cup. What a way to begin!!!

AeroPress: The concentrate was very acidic and lively with a citrusy pop. Once I added some water, it smoothed out. Still perky but more approachable. Nice depth!

Chemex: So smooth. Yum! Great balance in this cup. Light-bodied but with a juicy, creamy finish. The dominant flavors were of tangerine and nougat.

French press: Hello, marshmallow! This was a surprise because I had detected no hint of marshmallow before this. The citrus evident in the other cups was quite muted here. This cup was the sweetest of the four, with a bit of acidity to brighten and enliven things up.

Okay, now for storytime!

I perused the Portland Eater’s 20 Best Coffeeshops and Roasters list and plotted out where I could walk/take transit to in an afternoon. Based on that list, I wandered into Coffeehouse Northwest in Portland and went straight for the bags of Sterling across from the register. There were two people behind the counter and they greeted me with offers to answer any questions I might have. Quickly, I realized that I did indeed have a question: the bags were labeled with a “best by” date, not a roast date. This normally sets off alarm bells in my head because I associate “best by” dates with huge coffee conglomerates and grocery store bags, but clearly Sterling is a small company devoted to quality, so I inquired. Turns out the “best by” date is dated one month after the roast date. My bag of this Kenya Gachatha AA was dated October 14, which meant it was roasted September 14. My visit to this shop was on September 20 (nearly one week post-roast). I knew that I would be buying a LOT of coffee on this trip and I was slightly uncomfortable about buying coffee that was already a week old (since I wanted to consume everything within two weeks of roasting and I didn’t know if I could physically do it), but after hemming and hawing for probably 10 minutes by the bags, I plunked down some cash and bought this bag.

At this point, I sat down to figure out where I was going to go next, and I kept agonizing about this purchase. Is the coffee too old? Should I just order online? Maybe I should visit another shop (there was a Sterling Coffee Roasters shop less than a mile to the north)? What if the other shop doesn’t have this Kenyan (which sounded delicious)?! Will I have time to drink all this??? Argh!!!

I sat at that table for probably another 10 minutes before I walked up to the counter and said, “I know you probably think I’m crazy, but…” I then proceeded to blab about how I’m neurotic about my coffee and I was worried that the coffee would go stale before I had a chance to truly appreciate its potential, I know I’m probably overthinking all this and I completely understand if I can’t return the bag of coffee, but I would feel better about ordering a bag off the website so that I could get one that was closer to the roast date, since I wouldn’t be getting home for another 4 days and possibly not able to even open the bag for another 3-4 days past that, blah blah blah….! The bemused man behind the counter smiled understandingly, and proceeded to inform me that he could tell that I was having a hard time with this, and that he appreciated how much I wanted to experience the coffee at its peak, because…. HE IS THE ROASTER FOR STERLING COFFEE ROASTERS.

At this point I didn’t know if I should be even MORE embarrassed that I let the man who personally roasted this coffee see how nuts I was, or happy that of all people, this man would understand!!! I was a little bit of both. Mostly embarrassed, though. I believe I covered my face in my hands.

Here is where the exemplary customer service comes in. I didn’t catch this man’s name, so I’m just going to refer to him as Mr. Awesome. Mr. Awesome proceeded to refund me for my purchase, but he would not take the beans back. He wanted me to have them, because he felt that I would enjoy them even outside of the two-week window (I believe he said these particular beans maintained peak flavor as far as 20-25 days post-roast), and because he could tell I would really respect the product. He then suggested that if I did like what I tasted, then I could order from the website at a later date as a thank-you. At this point I informed him that I’m a coffee blogger and that he’d be getting a STELLAR write-up about how he went the extra mile to make me happy, and it was his turn to cover his face in HIS hands. Haha!

Summary: This coffee rocks. Purely from the final product in the cup, I can see why Sterling made the list I saw of the best coffee roasters in Portland. I loved it brewed in a Hario V60 in particular for the gorgeous flavors that it coaxed out of this cup, but all of the brew methods tasted outstanding. Sterling offers free shipping, and I can vouch that the people behind this operation are the kind of people I want to give my business to. I’m placing an order for another bag very soon… look for another Sterling review in the next few weeks. 🙂

Thanks, Mr. Awesome!!! (A bit of sleuthing revealed that Mr. Awesome is actually named Adam McGovern. Surely, Awesome could be his middle name, though?)

From the roaster: This Lot #006 Gachatha AA Nyeri Kenya is one of the finest coffees we have ever tasted, full stop. The smell of peaches and strawberry jam fills the room when it’s ground. In the cup you’ll find flavors across the spectrum, everything from oranges to apricots, cherries, and red currants. Seriously, folks, this is one of the ones. Light roasted for drip and press.

Sterling Coffee Roasters Gachatha AA Kenya

Review: Lexington Coffee Roasters Guatemala Waykan (Lexington, Virginia)

Thanks again to my friend Sarah for these beans! 🙂

I consider my tasting skills to be decent, but I can’t hold a candle to the fine folks at Coffee Review. I purposely did not pay attention to the tasting notes on this coffee until after I was finished, and I’m always interested to see where I agree with others and where I diverge. More details in the summary.

This particular coffee features top-quality beans from 55 communities in Guatemala.

Whole bean: In the whole bean format, I didn’t detect any particular fragrance that stood out, but once ground, they had a beautiful fragrance of bittersweet chocolate.

V60: My extraction time was a bit on the short side (2:30), and this particular cup tasted mostly like black tea with a bit of bittersweet cocoa and lemon.

AeroPress: In its concentrate form, this cup was pretty sour – it tasted like a combination of lemon juice and pith. However, once I added water to the concentrate, it smoothed out and had a more iced tea-like quality (but hot, of course). Rich body.

Chemex: Smelled a bit like the smoke from blown-out matches, but it tasted like milk chocolate. This also had a little bite of acidity at the end to keep things interesting, but overall it was markedly smoother than either the V60 or AeroPress cups.

French press: Dominant flavor was one of marshmallows, followed by hot cocoa. This is a nice cup for cold winter mornings when looking for a comforting way to start the day. Too bad it’s currently August in Texas! 😉

Summary: I liked this coffee. It reminded me a fair bit of the Coffee del Rey Guatemala Huehuetenango without the graham cracker flavor. Most of the flavors I noticed in this coffee were chocolate, marshmallow, black tea, and lemon. However, the reviewers at Coffee Review had this to say:

“Gently crisp, cedary, complex. Tobacco-toned cedar (think cigar humidor), vanilla, raw sugar, narcissus-like flowers in aroma and cup. Brisk, dry acidity; lightly syrupy mouthfeel. Vanilla, flowers and cedar carry into a resonant finish.”

Yeesh, I need to work on my tasting game!

From the roaster:

Aroma: Candied Fruit & Chocolate

Flavor: Apricot, Pecan, & Milk Chocolate

Acidity: Brisk

Body: Silky

Aftertaste: Tangy Fruit, Nut, & Cocoa

Lexington Coffee Roasters Guatemala Waykan

Review: Rook Coffee Roasters Costa Rica (Ocean, New Jersey)

I heard about Rook thanks to a tip from my friend Max. Founded in 2010, this relative newcomer to the specialty coffee world has gotten attention from sources ranging from The New York Times and PBS to BuzzFeed and Maxim. In addition to brewing their freshly roasted coffee in eight cafe locations and selling their beans online, Rook also operates a successful bottled cold-brew business, with both traditional and New Orleans style brews available.

Rook offers free shipping on their beans, which was a definite perk (the cost of shipping can really add up, especially if you order beans as often as I do!). What I wasn’t expecting was for the free shipping to be USPS Priority Mail. Very fast! I received the beans just two days after they were roasted. Excellent service.

I chose Rook’s Costa Rican beans because after my last experience with Costa Rican beans where I was a sobbing, emotional mess, I wanted to see if all Costa Rican beans affected me like that.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t cry this time. Phew!

Whole beans: The scent, especially when ground, was a whole lot of bing cherry. There was also a plasticky aroma to the beans that bothered me a little but I hoped it wouldn’t come across in the cup.

V60: Ooof. The whiff I got after brewing was a pretty strong plastic smell. Honestly, I was turned off but I made myself drink it. The coffee had a little bit of a bite on the aftertaste, like white pepper. Medium body with moderately low sweetness. I really wasn’t liking this much. At this point, I drank a little bit of seltzer water to cleanse my palate and I tried it again. This time, the coffee tasted a little creamier and sweeter but it was still not really a favorite. (For the record, I had not eaten anything prior to this tasting – I always eat breakfast after tastings, so I know the pepper I tasted was not due to food).

AeroPress: Big change. This brew was very smooth and pleasant to drink, even undiluted. I tasted marshmallows. I kind of wished there were some other flavors present to complement it, but it tasted good as it was.

Chemex: Overall, I felt like something was missing. The brew didn’t feel like it had much personality and it tasted hollow. You know how when you meet new people, that sometimes you just “click” with them and you feel at home right away, and sometimes it’s just awkward and uncomfortable, even after multiple meetings? If this coffee and I were having a conversation, it would have sounded like this:

Me: “Hi! It’s nice to meet you! My name is Margaret.”

Coffee: (mutters) “Hey.”

Me: “How is your day going?”

Coffee: (grunts, looks off into the distance)

Me: (trying to think of something to say that will establish some sort of common ground or connection) 
“Your wristwatch is pretty cool…”

Coffee: (stone-faced)

Agh! Get me out of here!!!

French press: Richest body of the four brews. It wasn’t unpleasant but it didn’t particularly win me over, either. One-dimensional and kind of dull, but inoffensive.

Summary: Man, I had a hard time getting to know this coffee. I am grateful that this one didn’t make me burst into tears, but this tasting made for a pretty awkward morning. I did actually like it in the AeroPress brewed as a concentrate, but I just felt like it had nothing to say to me brewed any other way. Maybe Costa Rican coffee and I are not meant to be BFFs.

From the roaster: Ripe cherry. Mild tangerine. Honey.

Rook Coffee Roasters Costa Rica