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: Anthology Coffee El Salvador El Gobiado-Carmen Orange Bourbon (Detroit, Michigan)

This is the second bag I ordered from Anthology Coffee recently. Both were Bourbons, but this second bag, from El Salvador (a region known for its Bourbon varietals), could hardly be more different from the first bag I got from Burundi.

Whole bean: fresh, light scent with a hint of thai basil. Ground, it smelled nutty, sweet, rich, and a little complex (no herbs, though).

V60: Right out of the brewer, there was a plasticky scent and the flavor was a bit metallic, but that dissipated after the coffee sat for a few minutes. This particular cup, at a 3:00 extraction, was not very complex but it was pleasant to drink. Medium-bodied coffee with a hint of acidity on the finish.

AeroPress: This had the most intense flavor of the four brewing methods I tried. I had to add just a touch of water after brewing, as it was a little too strong for me to drink without dilution. Good robust flavor of nuts and chocolate, though.

Chemex: Almond.

French press: This was a milk chocolate bomb, with a hint of almond milk flavor as well. Smooth as silk.

Summary: This is definitely an example of a coffee bean smelling differently than it tastes (seriously, where did the thai basil go?). Fans of chocolate and nut flavors in their coffee will enjoy this. I thought it was perfectly drinkable in all methods, but it was best in a french press because of the additional body the brewing method provided.

From the roaster: No tasting notes provided

Anthology Coffee only offers two coffee varietals at a time on its website, and as of the date I’m publishing this, this El Salvadorian coffee is no longer available, but here’s a link to their online store:

Anthology Coffee Home Page

Review conducted 14 days post-roast.

Review: Blue Bottle Coffee Bella Donovan (Oakland, California)

My lovely friend Chloé recently made an order from Blue Bottle for two bags of this blend, and she graciously let me have one of them to review. When I started dipping my toe into the world of craft coffee around 5 years ago, Blue Bottle was one of the first craft roasters I tried, and Bella Donovan was one of the blends I tasted at that time (Giant Steps being the other – I’m a sucker for musical references in my coffee naming, and that one evokes John Coltrane AND the Boo Radleys). I remember thinking the Bella Donovan was fine at the time, but that was also back when I brewed almost exclusively in a french press and I still added milk to my coffee (which I don’t do any more). I was looking forward to seeing what I thought of it now!

This probably wasn’t intentional on the part of Blue Bottle, but thanks to the naming, I had Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” stuck in my head throughout the duration of this tasting, and for a few days afterward. The earworm was reflected in my tasting notes, as you’ll read shortly!

Whole bean: These beans were a medium roast, but with the barest hint of oily sheen to them. I get a little nervous these days when I see oil on the surface of beans, as it generally indicates the coffee is roasted darker than I personally like, but this was such a minuscule amount of oil that I wasn’t too worried. The beans smelled like cedar and clove.

V60: Throughout the tasting, in all brewing methods, even though I occasionally tasted notes of chocolate, the general feeling I got from this coffee is that it’s blended to taste like “coffee.” Since the Donovan track was playing on a continuous loop in my head at this point, I chose to assign treble and bass levels to each brewing method based on what I tasted. This V60 cup had some liveliness to it but was otherwise pretty generic.
Treble: 6 (out of 10)
Bass: 5

AeroPress: No additional water was needed other than what was used for brewing. Nice, fudgy flavor and consistency. Semi-sweet chocolate flavor abounded.
Treble: 4
Bass: 8

Chemex: Not too dissimilar to the V60 cup but a bit on the brighter side.
Treble: 7
Bass: 4

French press: Smoothest flavor but had the least amount of personality. Kind of murky.
Treble: 2
Bass: 7

Espresso: I was kind of underwhelmed with this coffee blend in the pourover brewing methods, but based on the nice result from the AeroPress, I had a hunch that it would make a decent espresso. I was right! The best shot I got from the bag had a lovely chocolaty flavor.

Favorite brewing parameters for this shot: 202 degrees F, 17.5 grams in, 35 grams out at a 25 second extraction.

With milk: Shutterbug tried a latte or two made with the Bella Donovan, and he approved. Not much else to say other than that, though!

Summary: I think this is a good middle-of-the-road coffee, either in drip methods or as espresso. If your tastes run to the more complex, fruity, floral, and distinctive side, you’ll likely be bored with the lack of layers, but this is a coffee that tastes largely like “coffee,” and won’t be offensive to most coffee drinkers. Blue Bottle describes the Bella Donovan as the “wool sweater of our blends – warm, comforting, familiar.” I think they hit the nail right on the head with that description. This may not be marketed as an espresso blend, but I think it shone best pulled as espresso. It also made a delicious fudgy coffee in an AeroPress.

From the roaster: red berries, milk chocolate, caramel

Blue Bottle Bella Donovan

Review conducted 13-14 days post-roast.

Review: West Oak Coffee Milk and Honey Blend (Denton, Texas)

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

West Oak Coffee Milk and Honey Blend 

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.

Review: Eiland Coffee Roasters Espresso X (Richardson, Texas)

“How do you decide what coffee to buy?”

I wish I could say that I have a system for this, but I really don’t! Coffee isn’t my day job, so contrary to popular belief, I don’t spend all day thinking about it or making plans for where to get my next fix… erm, I mean cup. I do have a list on my computer of roasters that I’d like to eventually check out, and as time and finances permit, I do chip away at that list. However, about half of the time, the coffee that makes its way into my home is the coffee that catches my eye somehow while I’m out and about. Most of my coffee purchases are done directly from roasters or from specialty coffee shops. Occasionally, though, I have good luck at Whole Foods markets, as was the case with this bag.

I’ve reviewed and enjoyed Eiland Coffee before, when I got a chance to buy their Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi at Dallas Coffee Day 2015. Even though their roasting headquarters are probably only 20 minutes or so away from where I live, I keep forgetting how relatively local they are to me so I haven’t tried any of their other beans until now. This Espresso X was fresh and it had been a while since I had purchased a local roaster. Game on!

Whole bean: Super sweet. Chocolate and almond. I typically try not to look too closely at the tasting notes on bags prior to doing these reviews, but I couldn’t help but notice the words, “rock candy” on the label. They’re not kidding!

Espresso: Unlike the Ritual Day Drinker espresso, which was complex and sunny and almost didn’t taste like coffee, Eiland’s Espresso X would be what I would consider to be an espresso for everyone. This is not a frou-frou bean, but it is not dark or bitter either. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor notes, but what notes it does have (chocolate, sugar) are REALLY tasty. Smooth, sweet, and eminently pleasurable to drink any time of day.

Favorite parameters for this blend: 204 degrees F, 17 grams in, 28 grams out, 28 second extraction.

With milk: I just had a sip of Shutterbug’s latte to see what I thought of this espresso + milk. It didn’t disappoint – it tasted very much to me like Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream!! Granted, there was additional sugar in the cup, but the same creamy, smooth, luscious flavor was there. If I ran a coffee shop, this would be the sort of espresso I’d keep around as a “house” espresso. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t love this.

AeroPress: These beans weren’t quite as special in the AeroPress… Not bad by any means, but I just felt it tasted like good strong coffee. A bit generic, as I was missing the chocolate flavor that was present in the espresso. However, I will say that with a bit of sugar added, the coffee tastes pretty much exactly like it smells. One common lament I hear from people is that they love the smell of coffee but don’t like how it doesn’t taste as good as it smells. I’d love to brew them some of this and see if they change their mind.

Summary: I challenge you to find a more comforting, delicious espresso shot than this. It’s simple, but done exceedingly well. This isn’t trendy – it’s a classic.

From the roaster: Rock candy, milk chocolate

Eiland Coffee Roasters Espresso X

Review: Ritual Coffee Roasters Day Drinker Seasonal Espresso (San Francisco, California)

I had my first experience with Ritual Coffee Roasters while visiting Cognoscenti Coffee in the Los Angeles area, and I was really impressed with the quality of the beans and the flavor that I received in that cup (chocolate, plum, spice). However, I have yet to order online directly from Ritual because 1) their coffee is on the pricey side and 2) their shipping is also on the pricey side. I’m not averse to paying a premium for great-quality beans, but with so many great roasters out there (many of whom offer free or significantly lower shipping costs), ordering from Ritual had fallen lower on the priority list. No roasters local to me carry Ritual, but while in Scottsdale, Arizona, I happened to walk into Maverick Coffee and they were carrying Ritual’s Day Drinker seasonal espresso. When I asked about buying beans, they kindly broke open a 5 lb bag of this stuff and put it into an unmarked 12 oz bag for me. We had a nice chat about brewing methods and tasting notes. I think the staff was kidding, but thanks for the job offer…! 😉

Here’s the espresso I was served in their shop. It took me a little longer than I would have liked to get the photo taken, so you can see that the crema on the espresso is starting to dissipate. Still tasted lovely, like milk chocolate and oranges with a slightly spicy bite to it. I couldn’t wait to experiment more with it at home, as I had a hunch that there would be even more flavors awaiting me. I was right.

Whole bean: Fresh and sweet. I was reminded of the smell of clean laundry. Dryer sheets. Sunshine. Odd but pleasant scent for a coffee!

Espresso: Lots of brightness to this blend at lower temperatures – I got a lot of orange pith in the cup until I cranked my machine up to 204 degrees Fahrenheit. Once I did that, the flavor in the cup smoothed out but still remained wonderfully complex. Sweet, chocolaty, floral, with that same note of laundered freshness that filled up my nose when I smelled the whole beans. I’ve rarely experienced an espresso like this – it reminded me quite a bit actually of Klatch Coffee’s Golden Bean Espresso that was a winner in my “best of 2015” list. This isn’t a normal espresso – I’m actually pretty impressed that Maverick was pulling this as their espresso that day since it isn’t what I would consider to be a “workhorse” sort of espresso. It’s quite special!

Favorite parameters for this blend: 204 degrees F, 17 grams in, 32 grams out, 26 second extraction.

With milk: I don’t typically have espresso with milk anyway, but I was especially averse to adding milk to this espresso. Something this complex needs to be enjoyed on its own! But, I did make a couple of lattes for Shutterbug with this stuff. His comment was that it didn’t taste like coffee. Good flavor, but definitely not a “normal” latte.

AeroPress: This was a surprise. I had expected this cup to taste like a muted version of the espresso, but the main flavor I got in the cup was of toasted marshmallow. The finish was of sweet orange, but the overall taste took me to a campfire. Not what I expected at all but hugely enjoyable!

Summary: Lots of surprises in this cup for adventurous palates. If you’re used to nutty, dark, moody espresso, this brew will be perplexing to you, but don’t knock it ’til you try it! I don’t think this is an espresso you can quaff mindlessly – it’ll make you think. And I sure enjoy thinking. 🙂

From the roaster: Rum-soaked pears, candied ginger, star anise, chocolate covered oranges

(Damn, I need to up my game in the tasting department!! I can definitely see the pear and candied ginger now that they mention it.)

Ritual Coffee Roasters Day Drinker Seasonal Espresso

 

Review: MauiGrown Coffee Company 100% Kona (Hawai’i)

Hawai’i is the only state in the USA that grows coffee, and Kona coffee in particular has a reputation for being both very mild in flavor and very expensive. It’s hard to get your hands on 100% Kona coffee on the mainland; finding blends is much more common. Certain roasters do offer fresh-roasted Kona beans (for instance, Peet’s Coffee has 100% Kona available on their website, roasted once a week). However, with so many varieties of coffee available at more reasonable price points, splurging on 100% Kona wasn’t really a priority for me. However, when one of my students told me she was going on vacation with her family to Hawai’i, I couldn’t resist asking her if she would mind bringing back some coffee. Happily, she obliged, and this was one of the two types of coffee she brought back for me. Thanks, K! 🙂

Whole bean: These beans looked to be roasted to about a Full City level; nice medium roast. There was the barest hint of cherry, but overall the aroma was simply a strong “coffee” scent, the kind that anyone that enjoys coffee would smell and go, “ahhhh.”

French press: Simple flavor of semi-sweet chocolate. One-dimensional, but a good dimension if you enjoy chocolate!

Chemex: This method yielded a sweeter cup, that tasted more of milk chocolate. It had a rather delicate fragrance, that wasn’t as assertive as the whole beans.

AeroPress: Brewed at 175 degrees F, this cup tasted of chocolate-covered almonds. This was the smoothest cup of the four, with no additional water needed (other than what is used for brewing). I do encourage drinking this as a concentrate!

V60: Very similar to the AeroPress cup, with a hint of butter on the finish. Delicious.

Espresso: Based on how much I liked this coffee in the AeroPress, I opted to try this as espresso. It had a lovely reddish-brown color, but the flavor was pedestrian. Admittedly, I didn’t do very many pulls of this bean in my espresso machine before writing this review, but I definitely enjoyed it more when brewed as drip coffee.

Summary: 100% Kona coffee is expensive and difficult to get unless you live in Hawai’i, but if your coffee tastes run to the chocolate/almond/smooth side, it might be worth getting your hands on some as a splurge! I liked this particular coffee best in the AeroPress and V60.

From the roaster: Kona coffee is grown only in the Kona district of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Most Kona coffee is the Typica variety. Not all Konas are alike. Depending on altitude, soil, nutrition, pulping, drying, and roasting, Kona coffees can vary greatly. MauiGrown Coffee Company Store has selected a Kona coffee with what we consider is a Classic Kona Taste.

This 100% Kona is not available on the MauiGrown website (as of press time), but here is a link to their online store: MauiGrown Coffee Company Store

Review: James Coffee Company DecafNation (San Diego, California)

Even though I’ve already written about James Coffee Company’s Night Owl Blend, this bag of their DecafNation blend was actually the first bag of theirs that I invited into my home to test, as I purchased this from Culture Craft Coffee and Espresso in Escondido, California. I didn’t intend to stretch out the decaf tasting, but with so many “normal” coffees in my house this summer, it took me more than a few days to satisfactorily complete my evaluation of this decaf. However, I think it was worth the effort!

I have to note that the back of the bag had the most detailed coffee brewing instructions I’ve seen to date, from ANY roaster. Props to you, James!

tn_IMG_4894

Whole bean: Spicy chocolate aroma. Super fragrant!

V60: At a 2:45 extraction, this coffee had a deliciously rich flavor with a hint of maple. Simple and satisfying. Quite nice!! I kept forgetting that this coffee was decaf, which is always a good sign.

Chemex: I brewed this at a 4:00 minute extraction, and the resulting brew was sweet like milk chocolate with a touch of maple cream. I started thinking about the maple candies I’ve had in Canada. Mmmmm.

French press: This version didn’t have much in the way of sweetness. I definitely preferred this decaf brewed as a pourover instead of in a press pot, as the coffee here tasted hollow and bland. Slightly disappointing.

AeroPress: I almost forgot to taste the coffee this way, as I got a bit distracted by all the other coffees hanging around my house at this time (SQUIRREL!), but by the time I got around to it (1 month post-roast), the beans brewed in an AeroPress tasted fine, “like coffee.” Not sure if I would have picked up any other flavors had I had this when the coffee was fresher, but it did result in a perfectly decent brew.

Summary: This is a great decaf for people that enjoy satisfying, crowd-pleasing flavors like chocolate and maple. If circumstances required me to drink decaf, this is one that I would be quite happy to consume, especially paired with a nice, sweet dessert.

From the roaster:

DecafNation is not currently available online, but here’s a link to James’s online store: James Coffee Company

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: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Hidden City Espresso (Dallas, Texas)

I have a confession to make. For quite a while, I was convinced that I didn’t like coffee from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. OCCR is a Dallas-based roaster who has a sizable presence in the city, at both coffee shops and restaurants. I am all for supporting local businesses, but I had multiple experiences at local coffee shops ordering espresso and espresso-based drinks made with OCCR’s Hidden City Espresso Blend that resulted in drinks that tasted like cigarette ash. It happened often enough that I figured, “well, this must be how these beans taste, because what are the chances that 4 different baristas at 2 different shops on different days could all be messing up?”

Spoiler alert: Apparently, the chances were good. I need to buy a lottery ticket.

Anyway, I started to change my tune about OCCR when I was introduced to one of their single-origin coffees by a friend, and I discovered that I rather liked it brewed as pourover coffee. I was really blown away by the Geisha coffee I bought from them on Dallas Coffee Day last year. I like their Rosemont Crest Blend and even have given it as a gift! However, I gave their Hidden City Espresso a wide berth until now. I am not an expert on espresso by any means, but I feel like I have decent enough technique and equipment now that I finally would be able to see for myself if what I had experienced from shops is true to the bean’s potential.

Whole bean: Slightly burnt smelling to my nose. This made me nervous. However, the beans weren’t oily or overroasted; they definitely were still in “medium roast” territory.

Espresso: The good news is, at no point did I pull a shot that tasted ashy or burnt. I was pretty happy about this! I got flavors of black currants, orange, spice, milk chocolate, and lilac in the various attempts. The bad news is, I never really feel like I figured this espresso out. I went through the whole bag feeling like I never quite hit upon the right parameters for espresso nirvana. I did start working with this blend a bit early – starting 4 days post-roast and ending 9 days post-roast. Perhaps I would have had different results if I waited longer.

AeroPress: This was actually how I liked this coffee best. In the AeroPress, the coffee was nice and complex in flavor, with a toasty finish and a bit of citrusy zing and spicy punch to wake up the palate. I enjoyed this.

Summary: The Hidden City Espresso has more complexity than I had realized. I might have to give this blend another try in the future, as I don’t feel like I have quite figured it out, but it’s much better than I thought. OCCR, I apologize for not giving your espresso a fair shake sooner.

From the roaster: milk chocolate, strawberry, spice

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Hidden City Espresso