Review: Has Bean Coffee Malawi Msese Wetmill (Stafford, England)

I had a whirlwind trip earlier this summer to the north of England, and I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Manchester. As a fan of bands like the Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, the Stone Roses, and James, the city of Manchester is a place I had long wanted to visit, and it surpassed all of my expectations. I hope to return someday to explore it further!

Now, coffee wasn’t the cornerstone of my visit by any means, but I knew I couldn’t leave without bringing home something from a local roaster. However, despite the fact that Manchester is not lacking for coffee shops (I found 5 or 6 independent cafes within an easy walk of each other in the city center, not even including “chain” coffee shops), the beans that were available for sale were largely not fresh enough for my liking… most were a month or more post-roast. This bag of Has Bean Coffee was dated 13 days post roast, I believe, so I snapped it up, knowing that it was the freshest I was likely to find! Stafford is not terribly close to Manchester (around 60 miles away), but considering where I had flown from (Dallas!), yes, I considered Stafford to be “locally roasted” relative to Manchester. I picked up these beans from North Tea Power, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Whole bean: Even before I opened the bag, I had to giggle at the clever brand name. Plus, in all my years of drinking coffee, I had never tried a coffee from Malawi before! I liked this company already. Once I opened the bag, the beans smelled sugary and light.

French press: Thick, tangy, but not sour. Nice body to the brew, with a lovely smooth finish. Satisfying to drink. It gets more complex as it sits and cools, obtaining a note of tropical fruit.

Chemex: Nice spicy finish. Clean taste – not many layers to this cup, but it was pleasingly straightforward and simple. Very easy to drink, with a taste of brown sugar.

AeroPress: Similar in flavor to the French press cup. The kiwi flavor really comes out in this method.

V60: Sweetest of the four cups. Sugary and light-bodied coffee. There was a bit of a floral note on the finish.

Summary: This was a nice, complex, multi-dimensional coffee that is lovely brewed any way you can get it, but I think I liked it best in the Hario V60 for its sweetness. However, it has its merits in all four of my usual brewing methods.

From the roaster: Floral, kiwi, chocolate milk

Has Bean Coffee Malawi Msese Wetmill

Review conducted 18 days post-roast.

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