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: Madcap Coffee Roasters Ecuador Pepe Azul (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

I’ve been wanting to try Madcap Coffee for a long time. I’ve seen their name mentioned in multiple “best of” lists over the years, I like their logo, and I like the fact that they’re based in Michigan (as I have fond memories of my time in that state for graduate school). All of the coffees on their website sounded great, but I chose this particular varietal because of the following description. The whole thing is worth reading, but I am copying and pasting this bit for your reading pleasure:

While the process places a heavy emphasis on quality, the real secret in producing such vibrant and unique coffee, according to Pepe Menor, is that the coffee is alive. The coffee experiences the passion of the family as every single seed is individually touched at at least one stage in the process. Each night the coffee listens to classic rock on vinyl (particularly Jimi Hendrix) as it is blasted from the system of their bamboo home located in the center of farm. 

Did you catch that? Each night the coffee listens to classic rock on vinyl. Are these guys after my heart or what?! If reincarnation exists, I don’t think I’d mind coming back as a coffee plant on this farm (at least until harvest time).

For any coffee farmers out there: Please raise a crop of coffee plants on shoegaze records. I would buy the heck out of that.

Whole bean: Subtle, delicate fragrance like white sugar.

French press: Flavors of plum, violets, and sugar. This was a tangy and interesting brew that kept me sipping because I was trying to decipher all the layers. I’m not sure I ever pinpointed all the flavors! Complex and delicious.

Chemex: Raisin and brown sugar.

AeroPress: Brewed straight as a concentrate, the coffee was too intense for my taste. It had floral notes combined with flavors of chocolate syrup and grapefruit. Once I added a bit of water, it helped make the coffee less aggressive and made it sweeter. Still complex, but not harsh.

V60: Brewed at a 3:15 extraction time, this was the sweetest and smoothest of the four cups. It was the most approachable brew but it was still layered and interesting.

Summary: This coffee was worth the wait. Believe the hype, people — I’m pretty impressed with Madcap so far, and I look forward to trying other offerings from them in the future. The French press and V60 were my favorite methods for this coffee, but I found myself returning again and again to the French press because I felt it brought out the most dimension. Did I taste Jimi Hendrix in the cup? Perhaps not exactly, but I certainly tasted something exceptional.

From the roaster: Floral, spice, tangerine, juicy, complex.

Madcap Coffee Ecuador Pepe Azul

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango (Dallas, Texas)

Considering the fact that Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters is based in Dallas, I suppose it’s a bit ironic that I picked up this bag in Tyler at the same time that I got the bag of Porch Culture Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural, but hey, when fresh coffee calls, I answer!

Whole bean: Aromas of butter, kelp, and plum. The kelp note was especially surprising to me – it was like a whiff of nori sheets, as if I was about to make sushi rolls. Once ground, the beans smelled sweeter and had a tart stone fruit character to them.

V60: I made this twice; the first extraction, at 3:00, was bitter on the front but improved slightly as it cooled. There was a lot of flavor in this coffee – vanilla, plus the butter, kelp, and plum I smelled earlier. However, it was still too bitter for my taste. The second extraction, at 2:45, was better but still did not result in a cup that I would deem sweet.

AeroPress: Not bad. A little perky/piquant of a brew. I drank this without adding water, and it was okay – I didn’t really feel like diluting this would have improved it, but the acidity was tempered when I drank it along with my breakfast.

Chemex: Big difference! At 3:50 extraction, this brew method resulted in a smooth and sweet cup of coffee that was reminiscent of Nilla wafers.

French press: Also resulted in a smooth and sweet cup, which tasted like vanilla pudding. Luscious.

Summary: I felt this coffee was the most delicious when brewed in the Chemex. It was also good in a French press, but it was just starting to push the boundaries of decadence for my taste!

From the roaster: Baked apple, vanilla

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango

(I forgot to snap a picture of the bag before I threw it away, so this MoMa mug will have to do!)

Review: Commonwealth Ontology Espresso (Denver, Colorado)

Along with Houndstooth Coffee, Oak Lawn Coffee is one of my go-to places in Dallas for picking up high-quality, FRESH coffee beans. It’s a pity I live so far from both of these shops (30-40 minutes on a good day!). Thankfully, I was in the area for work and was able to pick up this bag from Commonwealth along with a bag of Tweed Foxtrot blend (review forthcoming).

Side note: The barista offered me a free drip coffee with the purchase of my beans, and even though it was 6:30 pm, I said yes. I mean, it’s free coffee! I got a to-go cup of their drip, and walked out of the shop. Before I even got to my car, I took a sip of the drip and turned around and walked right back into the shop, because I was delighted with the flavor in the cup (“What IS this??? This is DELICIOUS!!”). It was the Commonwealth Colombia Narino Carlos Munoz, and it was like creamy milk chocolate and tangerine and sweet fruit notes. So delicious… I hope they have it the next time I’m in the shop because this warrants further tasting.

Whole bean: Creamy, vaguely fruity aroma. Not much to talk about, actually… I have experienced beans that give off a lot more aroma than this, but I have also found that how coffee beans smell don’t necessarily equate to how they taste.

Espresso: I pulled these shots between 5-7 days post roast. Initially, I was unnerved by how light the streams were from my portafilter, because I was thinking the espresso was reaching its blonding point rather quickly! However, I soon realized that this espresso roast is a bit lighter than what I’m used to (especially after those Third Coast beans I pulled recently), so the lighter stream color was completely normal. This blend is a mix of the Colombia Carlos Munoz and an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere, and in the cup, you can REALLY taste what the Ethiopian beans bring to the table. At 201 F, there was an intoxicating berry scent to the espresso and it was full of blackberry and chocolate flavor. Not bad at all! I usually go for more straight chocolate/caramel/toffee notes in espresso, but found the blackberry in this one very interesting. When I pulled shots at higher temperatures, the blackberry note disappeared, and I found that I really missed it. Back to 201 F then!

Favorite parameters for this blend: 18 g in, normale shot @ 25 seconds, 201 degrees F.

With milk: I’m off dairy for a little while, so I made Shutterbug my guinea pig on this. Based on a hunch I had, I opted to make him a honey latte instead of a plain one, because the combination of honey and blackberries is to die for (especially served on top of Greek yogurt). This was a hit!

AeroPress: I was underwhelmed by this coffee in an AeroPress. Straight out of the brewer, the coffee had a great mouthfeel, but it was a little unbalanced tasting – it had some chocolate and blueberry flavor but it also tasted like the stems from a blueberry plant. I added just a touch of water and while it made the coffee smoother, it also made it blander. The lack of balance and complexity was disappointing. Stick to pulling this as true espresso.

Summary: Nice espresso blend that definitely leans toward the fruitier side in flavor. Try it with honey in a latte – it is delicious!

From the roaster: Jasmine, plum, caramel, baker’s chocolate

Commonwealth Ontology Espresso

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:

IMG_2994

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: Klatch Golden Bean Espresso Blend (Upland, California)

TL;DR: If you love espresso, GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS ASAP!!!

I’m actually finding it a little hard to organize my thoughts on this espresso. How do you explain the beauty of a sunrise? How can you put into words what happens to you when you hear your musical soulmate? That’s what tasting this amazing roast from Klatch did to me.

This was the roast that prompted me to make my recent order from Klatch; I’ve already been a fan of their coffee for some time and I knew that anything worthy of the Klatch name would make me happy, but something that won top honors from the Compak Golden Bean was something I definitely had to try.

Whole bean: Fresh aroma! A little floral and creamy. Very inviting scent.

Espresso: I experimented with various grind settings and dosages, and I don’t think I pulled a single bad shot. This was a surprisingly forgiving blend to work with. The overall flavor of the straight shots to me was dark chocolate with lavender – absolutely alluring! Higher temperatures (203 F) brought out a little bitterness, and I found the best result to be at 201-202 F, 18.5 g in. This blend was delicious pulled both as a ristretto and as a normale shot – it had a gorgeous refreshing finish that just made me want to drink more. The rich chocolate notes combined with the lovely floral perfume really captured my attention right from the start, all the way until the last drop. I can only imagine what this would be like pulled with higher-end equipment.

With milk: I don’t drink milk drinks very often, but this blend did make a delicious latte. It had a subtle floral aroma that was so inviting. I did prefer this pulled as straight espresso, as I felt the milk muted some of the really special notes, but that could be just my personal preference speaking. I would be over the moon if I did order a milk drink and got this in the cup.

AeroPress: I was particularly curious about how this blend would fare in the AeroPress, and WOW. It was unimaginably complex. Brewing this revealed a wonderfully rich cup with layers and layers of flavors. I can’t even describe them all. I drank this as a concentrate. Don’t add water to this – it’s smooth as silk and it would be a crime to dilute this.

Summary: I don’t know how long this will be available, but I am definitely ordering more. This is a really special espresso and if your tastes run to the complex and layered, you will really like this. I looked at the blend information after finishing the tasting, and this is composed of coffee from Panama and Ethiopia – two of my favorite origins. I suppose it makes perfect sense why I love this so much. Thank you for sharing this amazing espresso with us, Klatch!

From the roaster: The judges comments were: Tons of sweetness, distinct but subdued stone fruit, plum, berry and honey notes, balanced acidity and a round, creamy body.

Klatch Golden Bean Espresso

Review: Klatch Colombia Huila Agustino Forest (Upland, California)

Klatch ranks among my favorite coffee roasters, but I don’t order from them very often because there are just so many roasters I want to try. However, once news broke of their “Overall Champion” award in the Golden Bean Roaster Competition for their Golden Bean Espresso Competition Blend, I knew I had to at least order some of that (that review is forthcoming!), so I threw in this additional bag just because I could.

Whole bean: The aroma was a little creamy, like nougat. After I ground the beans, they opened up to reveal tangerine and cocoa. Ambrosial.

V60: Great depth to this cup. The predominant flavor was of cocoa powder, and it was a little buttery with a nice bit of citrus acidity on the finish to keep it interesting to the palate.

AeroPress: Thick and syrupy as a concentrate. I drank it straight because the dark chocolate + plum flavors in the cup were really gorgeous. It definitely leaned more to the plummy side vs. the chocolate side.

Chemex: Crowd-pleasing cup. I would be comfortable serving this to just about anyone. Notes of cocoa and toffee, not too thick or thin in body.

French press: Slightly syrupy, with a nice medium body. Dark chocolate with a tangerine finish. A slightly more intense version of the V60 cup, which was good in this case.

Summary: There’s something so subtle but lovely about a great cup of Colombian coffee. It isn’t as flashy and colorful as a natural-processed Ethiopian, but it’s not as brooding and dark in character as some Papua New Guinea coffees… it strikes a terrific balance. The french press cup was my personal favorite, but I wouldn’t turn down any of these cups.

From the roaster: This coffee offers a consistent tangerine and lemon-lime acidity. It also provides a well balanced combination of bright red apples with sweet amaretto body, giving a memorable and refreshing finish.

Klatch Colombia Huila Agustino Forest

Review: Octane Coffee Costa Rica El Higueron (Atlanta, Georgia)

A recent interview I heard on the Sound Opinions podcast was discussing the music listening habits of Spotify users, and the featured guest stated that their internal research indicated that most people who use the Spotify streaming service stopped listening to popular/current music at an average age of 33, and that people maintain a lifetime affection for music of their teens and early 20s. This made me think about my own music listening habits (at age 36), and while I still do seek out new releases, I don’t do it at nearly the frequency that I used to (it takes a lot of time and effort to stay current!). Do I maintain a love for music of my youth? Absolutely. In fact, I discovered my favorite band of all time, Ride, at the age of 12, and I just spent this past weekend crossing state lines to see them play two amazing shows. Would I love them as much as I do now if I had discovered them when I was 32 instead of 12? It’s an intriguing question.

One of the main reasons that I started this blog is so that I could have a record of my thoughts about particular coffees as I do these tastings. I wanted to learn everything I could about what’s out there and figure out which coffees I do like and which I don’t. As I’ve been doing this, my tastes have been evolving and I have learned to appreciate new things. For this reason, I’m reluctant to rule out drinking anything entirely, but I think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on my preferences for now. There’s music I appreciate on an intellectual level (but which doesn’t touch my soul), music I like, music I love, and music that makes me marvel that I exist in a world where that kind of beauty is even possible. I’m learning I am starting to feel this way about coffees as well.

Thus far, I’ve been less than thrilled with Costa Rican coffees. They haven’t necessarily been terrible coffees, but they have made me feel like I was on an awkward blind date, made me sob uncontrollably, and smelled like gasoline several days after opening the bag. On the one hand, I want to educate myself and learn everything I can about something before dismissing it as just “not my thing”… after all, not everything is love at first sight. It took me a while to get into cilantro but I love it now! On the other hand, life is short, and I question how much time I want to spend drinking coffee I’m not in love with, you know? Maybe that’s why people tend to just stick with the music they know they love as they get older.

Octane Coffee is an Atlanta-based company that has been in operation for 12 years, but has expanded into roasting and wholesale coffee in the last 4 years. They have cafes in three states: Georgia, Alabama, and West Virginia. Their website doesn’t feature their single-origin coffees, probably since they don’t even offer the option of online purchasing, but it does list coffees that are available wholesale. I only mention it since the names are amusing to me: Super Regular, White Lightning, and Gravy. I picked up this bag at their Homewood location in Birmingham, Alabama, and decided on this bag of Costa Rican coffee because it was in the optimal freshness window and the tasting notes sounded intriguing. Keeping an open mind as best as I can!

Whole bean: Smells like black tea leaves and bing cherry. Not a very sweet aroma. There is a slight hint of some sort of stone fruit (I wrote in my notes: plum??? Maybe??). Confounding.

V60: This is like tea + a splash of milk in texture and in flavor. It rings hollow in my mouth, like I’m getting just the outer edges of a sound and not the center. There is some bitterness on the finish, even with just a 2:47 extraction time.

AeroPress: The concentrate tasted like lemon pith. Adding water brought out a flavor like peanut shells. Not the peanut itself, but the sort of cardboard-esque flavor of the shells. I was suddenly taken to Texas Roadhouse in my head (and for those of you unfamiliar with this establishment, it’s the sort of place where people eat peanuts while waiting to be seated and they throw the shells all over the floor).

Chemex: Initial impression was that it had a chemical smell to it, but I think it was just that the top end was so strong. I can’t say it smelled like fruit or flowers or nuts or anything concrete, though – it just smelled astringent. It did seem to get better as I drank it. There was a slight tang to the aftertaste, like banana. Unfortunately for me, I hate bananas.

French press: This had the richest body of the four cups, and while the flavor was similar to the Chemex rendition, the thicker body seemed to make everything a little less objectionable by bringing more depth into the mix. If I had to pick a favorite preparation method for this coffee, it would be this one.

Summary: I’m close to dropping Costa Rican coffees from my playlist altogether, as I never really seem to be able to get into them. To me, they’re like a coffee version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (incidentally, a band quite popular in my teens, but one I never could get into!). I can’t fault Octane, as the beans do look beautifully roasted, and I can appreciate the work that went into this bag, but if I encounter another chance to buy Octane beans, I’m getting something else.

From the roaster: Floral, toffee, orange blossom, banana, lemon

This company does not appear to currently sell beans online, but you can purchase Octane Coffee at one of its retail locations in Alabama, Georgia, and West Virginia.

Octane Coffee Website

Review: Sterling Coffee Roasters Blendo Stupendo Espresso Blend (Portland, Oregon)

If you read my Sterling Coffee Roasters Kenya Gachatha AA review, you’ll recall that I was a babbling neurotic mess at the coffee shop and the roaster himself took pity on me and gave me a bag for free, with the suggestion that if I liked what I tasted, I could order from the website in the future as a thank-you. Well, since the Gachatha AA definitely lived up to my expectations, I fulfilled my promise and purchased bags of their Guatemala Los Carillos (which will be my next review) and this bag of their house espresso blend, named Blendo Stupendo.

Blendo Stupendo?!

I admit, I think this name is rather silly, but I rather enjoy silly things.

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous review is that Sterling ships their coffee in 10-ounce bags, which is a bit smaller than the usual 12- or 16-ounce bags from most roasters. I’m not generally picky about my bag sizing, but when it comes to espresso, bags smaller than 12 ounces make me a little nervous because it can take me a while to dial in the proper parameters for an espresso shot, especially if I’ve never worked with that particular bean before. What do I mean by “dialing in a shot”? When I am making espresso, I make note of the following factors:

Input (how many grams of coffee I grind into the portafilter)
Grind setting
Water temperature at the start of extraction
Output (weight of the espresso yield)
Extraction time

As I experiment, I note results in the cup and change one item at a time so I can pinpoint what parameters I think will lead to the ideal shot. This all can change as the beans age, and if the weather/humidity changes substantially! It’s quite a dance. I don’t typically do an espresso tasting on a morning where I have to be someplace because fine-tuning these shots can take quite a while. Luckily, once I find the “right” parameters, I don’t have to change them too much for the remainder of the bag. I started with the 10-ounce bag, and it took me about 4 ounces of beans before I felt I had figured out the right parameters, so I luckily had 6 ounces of beans left to enjoy.

Whole beans: Lots of sweet and nutty chocolate notes in the aroma!

I found that pulling shots timed between 23-27 seconds from first drip yielded the best-tasting shots. According to their website, Sterling pulls their shots at 19g in, 30g out, 24-28 seconds (no note on temperature). I tried this at 201 F, and it was pretty good – extremely smooth and sweet, creamy, very easy to drink. However, I must be a ristretto kind of person because 19g in, 15g out, 201 F at 27 seconds yielded a shot that was like sweet chocolate syrup with just a hint of plum. So delicious. The normale shot tasted bland in comparison.

Adding milk: To replicate as closely as possible what Sterling does in their cafes, I pulled a normale shot and added 10 oz steamed milk to make a latte. Creamy, sweet, mild, and delicious. It smelled like milk chocolate and tasted like love. Friendly, uncomplicated, gentle, and comforting. What a nice way to wake up!

I also pulled a ristretto shot and added around 4 oz of steamed milk. This was even better than the previous drink to me; I liked how the ristretto shot + less milk = a more assertive (but still super smooth and creamy) coffee flavor.

AeroPress: Even though these beans are a medium roast, when brewed in the AeroPress they came out tasting like a dark roast to my palate. There were no chocolate flavors – just a very strong and slightly harsh taste. When I added water to the concentrate, it was better but still one-dimensional.

Summary: Delicious blend for espresso, both straight and in milk. Underwhelming to me in an AeroPress, but if you like the taste of dark-roasted coffee, this might float your boat. I would love if Sterling would sell Blendo Stupendo in slightly larger bags so that I didn’t feel like I was wasting such a large proportion of my coffee dialing in the shot (the next size up is in 3 lb bags, which is just too much for me!).

From the roaster:

(website) Blendo Stupendo is carefully crafted to balance smooth taste and premium drinkability.  We use it in our shops as our primary espresso for all milk drinks and those customers who want a consistent, Italian-style coffee without a lot of brightness. Currently the Stupendo is 75% Cauca Colombia and 25% Sao Silvestre Brazil.  The Colombia is rich and smooth, and the Brazil adds a peanut brittle sweetness.  Medium roasted for every preparation.

(printed on bag) Blendo Stupendo is the George Washington of coffee. Composed of top quality Central and South American beans, the Stupendo is sourced and roasted to taste like the coffee our country grew up drinking. With classic flavors like rich chocolate, caramel, and a hint of toasted nuts, Stupendo will get you across the Delaware (or at least it’ll get you to work).

Sterling Coffee Roasters Blendo Stupendo

Review: Cultivar Colombia La Esperanza (Dallas, Texas)

During my last trip to Los Angeles, I had a little time to kill before returning my rental car, so I decided to try out Cognoscenti Coffee on my way to LAX. They had coffee from multiple roasters offered that day, none of which I had tried yet (Commonwealth and Four Barrel among them), and I opted to go with the featured pourover coffee from Ritual Roasters. Since I had to get to the airport, I got my coffee to go.

Let me tell you, I was walking to my rented silver Volkswagen Beetle and I took a sip of this coffee and stopped in my tracks (luckily for me, this wasn’t New York, so no one ran into me from behind while cursing me for being a stupid tourist!). I was so surprised by the flavor of the coffee… a little plummy, with semi-sweet chocolate and warm spice. Complex. Medium-bodied. Sweet and satisfying.

Once I got through LAX security, I called up Cognoscenti and demanded (nicely) to know exactly what it was that I was served that morning. They told me that it was Ritual’s La Esperanza microlot from Colombia. I thanked them and resolved to order a bag online once I got home. However, I soon discovered that it was not available online. Coffee is a seasonal product and my timing was both lucky (because I was able to try it at the shop) and unlucky (because I couldn’t buy more).

Dismayed, I’ve been checking Ritual’s website regularly ever since April to see if I could get my hands on some. No luck yet.

THEN….

On a recent trip to Denton, TX I remembered that Cultivar Coffee has a shop there, so I went to grab a bag. Cultivar is a regular on “best of” Dallas lists for their superb coffee, but their two locations (East Dallas and Denton) are both pretty far from my home, so I rarely have a chance to get to their shops. I got very excited when I saw this bag of Cultivar coffee with the words: Colombia, La Esperanza. It’s a pretty appropriate name for the coffee farm, really — I’ve been waiting for this coffee for what feels like a long time! Obviously, Cultivar may not roast in exactly the same manner that Ritual does, but I hoped that the fact that these beans originated from the same farm would lead to a similar cup.

Whole beans: Rich aroma. Buttery and spicy (like baking spices).

V60: From the first swallow, I was hooked. THIS is what I’ve been missing! It was perhaps a touch less flavorful than I remembered from my cup in Los Angeles, but the flavor profile was all there: semi-sweet chocolate. Dark stone fruit. Spicy and satisfying. Delicious!!! I brewed this at a 2:45 extraction time. When I adjusted the setting one notch finer on my grinder, it made it a 3:15 extraction time which happened to result in less fruit flavor and more bitterness. I’ll stick with 2:45.

AeroPress: Very dark and smooth. No fruit flavor. Somehow, this method makes the beans taste like a very dark roast coffee as opposed to the medium roast that it is. Rich, buttery body that coats the inside of the mouth. I mostly got a flavor of bittersweet cocoa here. I did not try it with milk and sugar, but it seems like it would be delicious.

Chemex: Brighter yet less interesting to me than the V60 or AeroPress versions. There was not as much sweetness and this cup had a powdery finish to it.

French press: More fruity/plummy than any other method. Delicious intensity of flavor, along with a thick, syrupy body. This had the flavor that I was missing (just slightly) in the V60.

Summary: At long last, I found the coffee I had been looking for. Thank you, Cultivar! The flavor of the french press was exactly what I wanted, but I also want it with the cleaner finish from the V60. Maybe a Clever Coffee Dripper will get me the result I want? I will continue experimenting to find my perfect balance. In the meantime, I think it’s very safe to say La Esperanza was worth the wait. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another cup to brew!

From the roaster: Syrupy. Baking spices. Berries.

Cultivar Coffee Colombia La Esperanza