Review: Ceremony Coffee Roasters Guatemala Las Moritas (Annapolis, Maryland)

I have a Word document on my computer that’s just a list of coffee roasters that I want to check out when I have the time/money/opportunity. Ceremony Coffee Roasters has been on that list for probably about a year, and I am sure I would have gotten around to ordering online from them eventually, but I happily had the opportunity to pick up some of their beans while in Maryland earlier this autumn. In the About Us section of their website, they proclaim, “We strive to deliver the cup of coffee that changes someone’s life.” How can you not respect that kind of passion and zeal?

I suspect there is no intended connection between this roaster and the song “Ceremony” by Joy Division, but I’m making one in my head. Talk about life-changing!!

I took this photo at the Harbor Point location of Ceremony Coffee Roasters, and I actually got to taste a pourover of the Guatemala Las Moritas while in the shop (I don’t typically get to drink the same coffee that I buy beans of, for various reasons). I got slightly different results at home, which I go into more detail about in the V60 section.

Whole bean: I wrote in my notes: “heaven.” Rich, sweet, creamy and chocolaty aroma that had just a hint of cherry.

V60: Nice powdery finish to this cup. Chocolate and citrus flavors dominated, but it was overall a pretty subtle cup flavor-wise. The pourover cup I had of this coffee at the Harbor Point location in Baltimore was slightly less flavorful than what I brewed at home. Perhaps I brewed with a longer extraction time at home versus what I got at the coffee shop.

AeroPress: This tastes good brewed as a concentrate – nice and sweet and flavorful. When I added some water to the cup, the coffee became quite bland and disappointing, so I don’t recommend diluting the brew.

Chemex: Clean flavors. Enjoyable. Less personality than the Hario V60 cup.

French press: Sweet and tangy with strong notes of peaches.

Summary: This is a coffee that has two very different personalities depending on the brewing method. I like them all but your preferences may vary!

Pourover (Hario V60, Chemex): Results in a more traditional, darker-tasting coffee with a smoother finish.
Immersion (AeroPress, French press): Go for this if you enjoy the flavor complexity of light-roasted coffee.

This coffee is not currently available on the Ceremony website, but here is a link to the single-origin coffees on their online store:
Ceremony Coffee Roasters Online Store (Single-Origins)

Review conducted 9-11 days post-roast.

Review: Avoca Coffee Roasters Misty Valley (Fort Worth, Texas)

A recent trip to Denton gave me time to visit Shift Coffee, which has featured interesting roasters in the past like Kuma and Chocolate Fish. This particular visit, they were featuring bags from local Fort Worth roaster Avoca, so I opted for Misty Valley, which is a blend of two Ethiopian coffees (Yirgacheffe and Gedio). The only other time I’ve seen an Ethiopian blend was when I reviewed Tweed’s Staycation Blend (which I rather liked) so I was curious how this would fare.

Whole bean: Creamy, raspberry, sweet like candy. Reminded me a lot of strawberry Starburst!

French press: No fruit flavor in this cup. Quite thick; almost dark roast in character.

Chemex: Cocoa was the dominant flavor here but it was delicate and smooth, with just a hint of brightness on the finish.

AeroPress: The sweet flavor of chocolate plus raspberries.

V60: Rather harsh – I accidentally brewed this at a slightly higher temperature than normal (205 degrees F; I normally brew at 200 degrees F) because I wasn’t paying attention to my kettle. Mind that you don’t heat your water to this level.

Summary: The aroma of the whole beans promised more fruit flavor than I actually got in the cup, so I was a tad bit disappointed to not get a berry bomb, but this is a good coffee for people that enjoy a nice balanced profile to their Ethiopian coffee. It is heavy on the cocoa flavor. Try it in a Chemex (for cocoa flavor) or in an AeroPress (for chocolate-covered raspberries).

From the roaster: Floral aroma with blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and cocoa flavors; balanced with a pleasant acidity and creamy mouthfeel.

Avoca Coffee Roasters Misty Valley

Review conducted 7-9 days post-roast.

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Kossa Geshe (Dallas, Texas)

I bought this bag from a Central Market location on the spur of the moment, on the eve of having a friend over for a coffee cupping. I always like throwing in a natural-process Ethiopian into a coffee cupping for its pronounced berry sweetness, and this bag sure didn’t disappoint.

(When writing up this review, I realized that I had never snapped a photo of the bag, and it’s now long gone, so I opted to insert a photo that I took outside of a cafe in Oxford, England instead. I think it fits.)

Whole bean: Berry sweetness galore.

French press: Smooth, thick-bodied brew with a strawberry flavor. I was wishing for a bit more flavor to the final product; perhaps it could use longer than the standard 4 minute extraction?

Chemex: I accidentally had the grinder too fine and this particular batch took 4:45 to extract (way longer than the 4:00 I shoot for). However, the longer extraction time didn’t seem to hurt the coffee any, as it was full of raspberry, strawberry, and vanilla flavors. Delicious!

AeroPress: Intense, bright flavors as a concentrate – I couldn’t handle it and needed to dilute the brew a bit. Once I did, the coffee revealed a nice depth with light fruit flavors.

V60: This was a surprise. The coffee brewed this way was SUPER fragrant and vibrant. Sweet, almost candy-esque. It most reminded me of the strawberry dessert topping on McDonald’s strawberry sundaes. I could see this being overly sweet for some – it was just too sweet for me. Not a bad coffee, but I couldn’t see myself drinking this on a regular basis; I’d have to be in a particular mood for a coffee THIS sweet and fruity.

Summary: Strong, strawberry sweetness dominates in these beans. I think it was best brewed in a Chemex for the balance between fruit and vanilla flavors. However, if strawberry candy/syrup flavors are your thing, this coffee brewed in an V60 will blow your mind.

From the roaster: Passionfruit, orange, grape

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Kossa Geshe (natural process)

Review: James Coffee Company Ethiopia Geisha (San Diego, California)

This is only the third Geisha coffee I’ve had an opportunity to taste-test on this blog; the first two, from Square One and Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, both originated from Panama, so I was especially excited to get to try this Ethiopian Geisha from James Coffee Co. Call me shallow, but I LOVE the glass jar that this coffee was shipped in. It’s like I got my own little coffee prescription!

Whole bean: The aroma was mild, a bit plasticky (which I find common among natural-processed Ethiopians), with a hint of unfrosted strawberry Pop-Tart. Once ground, the strawberry and sweetness were amplified.

French press: A bit smoky, with a flowery scent and flavor. As it cooled, the brew tasted more like tart strawberries.

Chemex: Sweet vanilla flavor, with a bit of pastry (again, unfrosted strawberry Pop-Tarts!). Smooth and floral on the finish. I really liked this!

AeroPress: Really nice brewed as a concentrate! Floral, sweet, full-bodied, with no bitter or sour flavors.

V60: At a 2:45 extraction, it had a pithy, slightly bitter flavor at the start, but improved as it cooled, emitting tart strawberry and floral flavors after a few minutes.

Summary: This was a delicious coffee made in a Chemex and an AeroPress; the Chemex rendition was my personal favorite for its vanilla and pastry notes. As with most Geisha coffees, it’s rather expensive ($17 for 8 oz at press time). Worth it? For an occasional treat, I’d say yes!

From the roaster: Jasmine, strawberry jam, vanilla, balanced body

James Coffee Company Ethiopia Geisha

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

Review: Novo Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Guji (Denver, Colorado)

I spent a lovely 24 hours in Denver recently, and picking up some coffee was high on my priority list. I’ve tried coffee from a number of Denver-based roasters before (Huckleberry, Corvus, Commonwealth, Boxcar), so I was excited to see what I could get my hands on in person. As fate would have it though, I arrived in town on a Sunday afternoon and by the time I was able to hunt for some coffee shops, many of them were closing for the day. My first stop was to Huckleberry, but the location I visited was closed early that day for a staff-only event. 🙁 I next visited a different coffee shop (don’t remember the name), but I left because they didn’t put roast dates on the bags. Third time ended up being the charm though, because I was able to find a Novo Coffee location that was open.

Upon arriving, I was immediately greeted by the staff and a friendly barista named Josh offered to chat if I had any questions about the beans I was looking at. Well, that was probably a mistake on his part because we ended up talking non-stop for the next 20 minutes at least about coffee, music, perfect pitch, more coffee… Sorry for talking your ear off, dude. I do love how excited baristas get talking about their house roaster, though! It’s a good sign that the beans are crafted with pride. My original plan was to buy one bag of coffee at Novo and perhaps one other bag at a different shop, but Josh talked me into buying three bags. Novo, you might want to look into giving this man a raise!

All three of the bags I bought were roasted around the same time, but I opted to start with this Ethiopia Guji because Josh seemed particularly excited about it. I just had a Guji/Sidama from Chromatic Coffee recently, so I was curious about if this would taste markedly different.

Spoiler alert: Yep, it sure does!

Whole bean: The beans smelled a lot like strawberry jam, and once I ground them up, milk chocolate aromas emerged.

V60: On my first try making this, I ended up with a 2:45 extraction time, and it was not nearly enough time. The resulting brew had a smooth aroma but tasted watered down. I was so disappointed!! However, once I tightened up the grind to result in a 3:45 extraction (which is on the long side for me with the V60), the coffee tasted a lot more flavorful, with a nice sweet milk chocolate flavor and a bit of Strawberry Quik character. It really wasn’t what I would call fruity, though.

AeroPress: Fruity/berry + chocolate flavor. It was a bit acidic on the finish with a bright lemony taste. I didn’t add any water to this concentrate, though, because I enjoyed the little bit of zing that came with the acidity.

Chemex: This brew smelled GREAT but tasted like disappointment. Bland. It brewed for 4:05 but based on my experience with the V60, maybe you’d need to brew it longer to get any flavor out?

French press: This method seemed to result in the best flavor of the four methods; the brew was a little thick with a chocolaty flavor. I wished for more fruit flavor though, as I like there to be a bit more dimension in my coffee vs. just chocolate notes.

Summary: I was expecting this to be a pretty bright, lively cup based on my recent Guji experience, but I actually found it to be rather bland when brewed with my standard parameters. Perhaps it had something to do with the change in altitude? I didn’t have any coffee at the shop so I can’t say if it tasted any different there, but if you do buy this, I would recommend using a french press and perhaps try brewing it for longer than 4 minutes if that is your standard (as it is mine). It seemed to be more successful in my opinion in the immersion methods vs. the pourover ones.

From the roaster: Pineapple, milk chocolate, strawberry, cream

This coffee is not currently available online.

Novo Coffee Online Store

Review: Counter Culture Ethiopia Kochere Birhanu Zerihun Organic (Durham, North Carolina)

This coffee’s name sure is a mouthful! It thankfully is a lot easier to drink than it is to pronounce. I picked this box up in a mad rush at Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas, which has become one of my go-to places when I want to grab something great to review. I had about 3 minutes to get in and get out, so I scanned the selections, checked the date on this box, paid, and ran out of there to get to my gig. The barista was helpful, but didn’t try and engage me in a ton of small talk or anything – I think he could sense that I was a woman on a mission!

Whole bean: This definitely smelled like a blueberry-flavored baked good… Blueberry scone, perhaps. Once ground, there was also a cherry note to the beans.

French press: Sweet blueberry scent. Plenty of fruit flavor with a thick body and a lot of depth. Not a lot of acid – pretty smooth. I brewed this for my usual 4 minutes and felt that a little longer steeping time might bring out a bit more flavor.

Chemex: The aroma coming from the carafe was sooo beautiful – it smelled like blueberry syrup and vanilla ice cream. It was actually very reminiscent of the Heart Kenya Kiangoi I reviewed earlier this fall, except with blueberry instead of cranberry/pineapple. This cup was quite creamy and smooth, and the blueberry flavor got a little stronger as the cup cooled, but overall the dominant flavor was of cream. Delicious.

AeroPress: As a concentrate, this tasted like berries and leaves – there was a grassy note to this cup. I added just a little bit of water and the grass note was muted to create a nice cup, but this wasn’t my favorite preparation.

V60: Brightest cup in flavor – the most blueberry and the least body, surprisingly (I would have expected that to be the Chemex, but once again, coffee has surprises in store for me).

Summary: This is one of the best natural-processed Ethiopian coffees I’ve ever had. It doesn’t have any of the plasticky flavor/aroma that I find common among this type of coffee, and the creamy, sweet brew that resulted from the Chemex was just magical. I can’t wait to brew more. In fact, why the heck am I waiting?!

From the roaster: Juicy, raspberry, strawberry

Counter Culture Ethiopia Kochere Birhanu Zerihun Organic

Review: Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi (Richardson, Texas)

This past Sunday was the first annual Dallas Coffee Day, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. What a great event! Eight fantastic Dallas-area coffee roasters gathered to celebrate their shared collective passion for craft coffee and the steady elevation of coffee culture in Dallas/Fort Worth. There was such a friendly and welcoming vibe to the whole event. I suppose it’s not surprising that a large room of caffeinated people would be in a good mood, but there really was a terrific convivial feel to the whole day.

The featured roasters were (in alphabetical order):
Ascension Coffee Roasters
Avoca Coffee Roasters
Cultivar Coffee
Eiland Coffee Roasters
Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters
Novel Coffee Roasters
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters
Tweed Coffee Roasters

I’ve been lucky enough to sample coffee from all of these roasters in some capacity (and I’ve even reviewed a number of them on the blog), EXCEPT for Eiland (same pronounciation as “island”), which is ironic since of all the roasters on this list, they are the closest to my house. Eiland (like all of the other roasters present) had small bags (8 oz) available for sale, so I bought this one after asking the helpful associate which he would recommend if I was just buying ONE bag.

Whole bean: Notes of berry and cocoa. There was a nice depth to this aroma. Ground, I smelled buttery richness. I’m already liking this.

French press: Mostly cocoa flavors with some toasty characteristics. Smooths a bit as it cools. Bold, strong flavor. As it sat, I got a rich, buttery mouthfeel in the cup.

Chemex: Yum. Smooth as silk!! This brew had less cocoa and more berry character but it was not overly fruity or tart. I was surprised at the rich mouthfeel in the cup considering the rather thick Chemex filter. Again, as the coffee cooled, I tasted and felt butter on the palate. Decadently delicious.

AeroPress: I drank this as a concentrate and felt it was pretty strong but pleasant. There was a slight tannic presence but it had a nice cocoa note and brightness of strawberry. More butter on the finish! I’m sensing a theme here.

V60: Bright, sharp scent to this cup, with a toasty, nutty flavor. Very little fruit in this cup but once again, in time I tasted a beautifully buttery finish.

Summary: Of the natural-processed Ethiopians I’ve tried thus far, this particular crop has some of the most emphasis on cocoa/chocolate flavors that I’ve encountered. Since I like berry brightness, I enjoyed the Chemex version of this most, but even that batch wouldn’t be a coffee I would classify as fruity or heavy in berry flavor. This coffee is good for people that like deep chocolaty flavors and buttery richness in their brew. Approachable, comforting, and delicious, with just a little hint of interesting character that keeps you thinking about drinking more!

From the roaster: Jam, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, buttery, medium body, strawberry-like acidity, natural (dry) process

Eiland Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi Natural Process

Review: Kickapoo Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido Cooperative (Viroqua, Wisconsin)

Kickapoo Coffee is another award-winning roaster featured in my most recent shipment from Craft Coffee. Like many roasters, their standard size is 12 oz, but instead of using bags, Kickapoo ships in cans. I did not receive a can since I got the sampler bag from Craft, but it looks like it would be a nice reusable vessel.

Kickapoo

In a way, I think it’s good I didn’t get a can, because my mind immediately drifted to this can in my fridge. I know they don’t really look alike, but I couldn’t stop thinking about hummus when I saw the Kickapoo can.

tahini

Sorry for drifting off topic! Back to coffee…

This particular Ethiopian bean is an heirloom variety, and the beans are smaller than typically seen. In addition, I think that the beans are possibly denser, because my usual grind settings are much too fine for these beans in a pourover setup – I only had 4 oz of beans to play with and I didn’t quite dial in the setting properly for either the V60 or Chemex methods, so I don’t think I achieved the full flavor potential of these beans.

Whole bean: A little nutty, with a bright berry scent – strawberry?

V60: I needed a slightly coarser grind because my (already coarser than usual) setting led to a 3:40 extraction time. The result was slightly bitter, but also had a buttery, juicy flavor with honey notes. The aroma was slightly like burnt toast or matches. Wish I could have tried again.

AeroPress: The concentrate was much too tangy and bright (and thick!) to drink straight. After I added some water, the dominant flavor was of strawberry-rhubarb pie. This particular cup seemed to flatten out in flavor as it cooled and the interesting flavors sort of faded so that it resulted in just a “nice” cup of coffee without much discernible personality.

Chemex: I guessed wrong here too on the grind, and I only got 530 grams of water in at the 4:00 minute mark (instead of my usual 700 grams of water), so I halted the brewing at that point rather than letting the coffee get overextracted. This cup was a bit sour, but there was a marshmallow scent and flavor to this cup along with bright strawberry.

French press: Best of the lot, with a great balance of butter, berry, and toast. I would definitely drink this again.

After I finished this tasting and sat down to start this review, I found that this particular varietal scored a whopping 94 points on Coffee Review in 2013. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know that in advance, but now I’m extra mad that I didn’t get the grind settings right! I find it interesting that Craft Coffee’s tasting notes didn’t really match up with Kickapoo’s, but we all taste different things! Craft says: “Nutty cashew flavor complements the subtle acidity of dried apricot and rhubarb,” while Kickapoo talks about flowers, cherry, and lemon. I got toast, butter, and strawberry. Are we drinking the same coffee?

Summary: I liked this best in the french press, but I would need another go at brewing this to see what the full potential is like in the pourover methods. You may need to coarsen up your grind a bit when brewing African heirloom varietals as pourover coffees.

From the roaster: Classic aromatics of spring flowers and tart cherry give way to a round, honeyed body and a clean, sparkling finish. Notes of spring flowers, red cherry, and lemon zest.

Kickapoo Coffee Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido

Review: Heart Coffee Roasters Stereo Blend (Portland, Oregon)

I will be taking a hiatus from tasting coffees for the next couple of weeks, so I wanted my last coffee (for now) to be a great one. Luckily for me, I was able to snag this bag of Heart Coffee from Oak Lawn Coffee in Dallas. Pro tip: They receive shipments from Heart on Fridays, so if you want a bag, you had best pick one up on the weekend. When I stopped in early Sunday afternoon, I got the penultimate bag in the store.

First impressions: The whole beans smelled creamy, with strawberry and milk chocolate notes. Once I ground them, the chocolate became fudgy, with a pinenut and red berry aroma.

V60: Bright, delicate, with white tea and raspberry flavors. This was a sweet cup with a light flavor. It spoke in a whisper, not a shout. If this coffee was a person, it would probably be a young woman wearing polka dots and holding a bunch of daisies. Sunny and optimistic, but not cloying.

AeroPress: Whoa. This cup shouted. There was more raspberry flavor and a more assertive personality overall. Thick and punchy, not too sweet. A bit of lime crept in and it reminded me most of a raspberry-lime gin rickey, oddly. Refreshing in its way, because it had a lot of tart/sweet on the finish.

Chemex: Compared to the V60, it was fruitier and more acidic. Brighter and drier – more treble notes. If the V60 was a moderately sweet Riesling, this was a dry Pinot Gris.

French Press: This brought out more bass notes – bittersweet cocoa dominated with a tartness throughout.

Summary: The V60 cup was really striking. It was demure and didn’t try too hard to capture your attention – you just wanted to be around its energy because it makes you feel good. Lovely balance of flavors! I didn’t taste caramel while drinking the coffee but once the coffee cooled, I definitely smelled caramel. I can’t wait to try some of Heart’s single-origin coffee if the blend is this interesting.

From the roaster: Raspberry, caramel, cocoa

Heart Stereo Blend

I will resume posting on June 11!