Review: La Colombe Panama Ironman VI Geisha (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Earlier this summer, I visited the District of Columbia and while there, visited a La Colombe coffee shop for the first time. I’ve reviewed La Colombe coffees before (their Nizza espresso and their single-origin Colombia San Roque), and while neither were exactly to my personal taste, both were exactly what they said they were; their tasting notes don’t lie. So, at the cafe, when I saw this bag of Panama Ironman VI Geisha, I was curious to see if the tasting notes matched up as well as it has in the past with this brand. Plus, I hadn’t had much if any craft coffee for almost two weeks prior to this so it didn’t feel like too much of a splurge to pay the premium that I did for these Geisha beans.

Whole bean: Bright, sweet, fresh aromas. It reminded me of a light, refreshing white wine, like a pinot grigio.

V60: Strong notes of grapefruit in this with a nice (but sweet) complexity.

AeroPress: I had this as a concentrate – no need to dilute with additional water if you like the tart taste of grapefruit and nectarines. This was the most tart of the four cups.

Chemex: Creamy and complex cup that tasted of nectarine and citrus, but sweeter than the AeroPress result.

French press: By far, this was my favorite method for these beans. Layers upon layers of rich flavor here — creamy vanilla and sweet floral notes with nectarine and sugar. Very enjoyable!!

Summary: I really like Panamanian geisha coffee, and this bag is no exception. Try it in a french press and experience a vibrant, multi-layered flavor bomb.

From the roaster: White peach, blood orange, apricot

This coffee is not currently available on La Colombe’s website, but here is a link to their online store:

La Colombe Coffee Roasters Store

Review conducted 10-11 days post-roast.

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: Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu (Austin, Texas)

Cuvée Coffee is regularly featured at my local Whole Foods market, but I don’t buy it very often because the beans aren’t often on the shelf within two weeks of the roast date (which is a common situation when you buy coffee at retail outlets like markets). However, I lucked out recently when I spotted this bag of their Guatemala Hunapu, and I realized it had been a LONG time since I had reviewed any Cuvée (the last time was their Decaf Spicewood 71, back in May 2015!). So, into my basket went this bag.

Whole bean: White sugar, cherries.

V60: Strong and nutty. There was a bit of flavor like almond skin. A tad overwhelming taken black – I expected more sweetness, given the sweet aroma of the beans.

AeroPress: Very thick and smooth brew with a bit of floral character. Not very sweet.

Chemex: Much better in my view vs. the V60 cup. Something about this method took away the strong bite. Sugary and light-bodied coffee but very smooth flavor like marzipan. Bit of cherry on the finish.

French press: Best of the four in my view. Fudgy, sweet, floral, nutty. Tasted like almond butter with some complexity, and it only got better as it cooled.

Espresso: On a hunch, I tried these beans as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled four shots or so, but it produced a really promising result that convinced me that these beans would be great in this method. Even over 2 weeks post-roast, there was an outrageous amount of crema, and the espresso tasted sweet and smooth. Delicious stuff.

Summary: Taken as a coffee, I like this brewed in a French press best, with the Chemex a close second. Works arguably even better as a single-origin espresso!

From the roaster: Nutty, orange zest, dried cherry

Cuvée Coffee Guatemala Hunapu

Review conducted 12 days post-roast (coffee), 16 days post-roast (espresso).

Review: Roseline Coffee Colombia El Ventilador (Portland, Oregon)

I ordered this bag at the same time I ordered the Roseline Ecuador Rosa Encarnacion, and I knew that as bright and divisive as the Rosa Encarnacion was, this Colombian coffee was likely to be completely different. I tend to gravitate toward Colombian coffees when I want something tasty and interesting but not too outside the box. I am used to tasting citrus and honey flavors in my Colombians, so I hoped this roast would fit the bill.

Whole bean: Sugar. Butter cookie. Marzipan. Delicious tangy scent like clover honey. Wow!

French press: This was sweet and rich with an undeniable note of citrus (tangelo).

Chemex: All I wrote in my notes here was the word “bright.” I had a little difficulty with the grind size and had to make this coffee twice (I guessed too coarse of a grind). I’m going to guess that this was not my favorite brew method.

AeroPress: Really thick and tangy brew that tasted strongly of both citrus and honey. I tried adding water but it immediately became bland, even with just a touch of it. Stick to drinking this as a concentrate.

V60: With an extraction time of 3:30, this had the least amount of citrus flavor, which is good if you’re not into that. It spoke mostly of brown sugar and had a pleasant bitterness to the finish, which would go extremely well with a sweet treat.

Summary: If you like citrus and honey, this is the coffee for you. It was lively and delicious with varying levels of those two flavors depending on the brew method.

From the roaster: Panela, butter cookie, and citrus

I am behind on posting reviews, so again, this coffee is no longer available on the Roseline website, but here’s a link to their online store: Roseline Coffee Roasters Online Store

Review conducted at 4-6 days post-roast.

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: Cartel Coffee Lab Ethiopia Kochere (Phoenix, Arizona)

When you think of airport coffee, you probably think of Starbucks, right? Well, if you ever find yourself in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, make your way over to Terminal 4 to visit Cartel Coffee Lab’s PHX location. As is typical when I travel somewhere new, when I arrived in Phoenix, I Googled “best coffee roasters in Phoenix” and Cartel was a name I saw come up more than once. It being the holidays, family time was the priority so I didn’t have time to run around all over town to seek out roasters, but I was thrilled to see that Cartel had this airport location and I was hopeful that their beans would be fresh. Happily, they were!

When I took this bag of their Ethiopia Kochere to the register, I asked for a bag to carry the coffee in, because at that point I had my bags of Stumptown Sleigh Ride and Ritual’s Day Drinker seasonal espresso in my purse and I was running out of room. The barista asked what other beans I got and when I mentioned Ritual in particular, I got this reaction:

Nothing like meeting a complete stranger and feeling understood. #kindredspirits

Whole bean: Blackberry, butterscotch, nougat. Incredibly fragrant cofffee.

V60: The first wave of scent that hit me was of dog. Not wet dog, and it wasn’t unpleasant, but it definitely smelled like I was holding a wriggly puppy in my arms! As the coffee sat a bit, I got notes of floral stem, grass, and caramel. I did unintentionally brew this coffee a bit on the long side (3:50 extraction). This is a pretty dense bean – adjust your grinders accordingly.

AeroPress: Quite sweet and sugary! No dog here. I didn’t need to add any additional water to this cup – it had a complex, dry finish that was very enjoyable.

Chemex: Bright, dry, puckery coffee. Caramel and blackberry in this cup. Tart.

French press: Richer and sweeter flavor than the other coffee methods, but still bright in taste. Hard to pinpoint flavors in this cup. I will say though that compared to the AeroPress cup, the french press coffee tasted oddly watered down.

Espresso: Since I liked this coffee so much in the AeroPress, I opted to experiment with making it as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled a few shots, but I got a lovely flavor of lemon and lilac with a sugary aroma.

Summary: Loved these beans brewed in an AeroPress. Also makes a nice single-origin espresso if you’re into bright, floral flavor!

From the roaster: Black tea with subtle tropical fruit and floral qualities

Cartel Coffee Lab Ethiopia Kochere

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: Tweed Coffee Foxtrot Blend (Dallas, Texas)

I usually buy bags of Tweed from Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas (their home cafe), but I happened to come across fresh bags for sale while visiting Oak Lawn Coffee, so it was a win-win situation. For anyone not familiar with Tweed Coffee, they are a major player in the local craft coffee roasting scene here in Dallas; their roastery hosted the first annual Dallas Coffee Day that took place back in October 2015. I have reviewed a few of their other offerings and have been pretty pleased with their beans so far.

Whole bean: Smells like chocolate and candied oranges. Sweet and fresh!

French press: Perky, orange-flavor laden cup with the flavor and body of dark chocolate. As it cooled, the coffee became very smooth and creamy with a vibrant orange flavor – it was vaguely Creamsicle-esque.

Chemex: This had less chocolate flavor; it was a brighter and more acidic cup. The aftertaste was definitely more sugary.

AeroPress: This cup tasted like a combination of orange fruit and orange pith (the white stuff that tastes bitter). Rich body but the flavor was unbalanced. Adding water didn’t really help matters – it just watered down the flavor.

V60: This cup smelled like sugar and orange marmalade. Thin body but very fruity and enjoyable.

Espresso: I opted to experiment a bit with this as an espresso since it is a blend and I was curious if the chocolate/orange flavors would be intensified. Unfortunately, my initial testing was not that promising. The espresso wasn’t bad, but it lacked any notable flavor so I stopped after three rounds.

Summary: I enjoyed this coffee the most in the French press (for the chocolate + orange flavor combination) and the V60 (for the straight up sweet orange flavor).

From the roaster: Chocolate, citrus, balanced

Tweed Online Store

Review: Flat Track Coffee Roasters Guatemala La Libertad (Austin, Texas)

When I travel, I make a special effort to seek out microroasters. On my recent trip to Austin to see Ride perform at the Fun Fun Fun Festival, I didn’t think that I would have time to visit any Austin-area coffee shops, but to my delight, I spotted this sign on the festival grounds:

tn_IMG_1873

As I stated on my Instagram account, if anyone wants to lure me someplace, this is an effective way to do it.

The coffee tent at the festival was serving up coffee from Heart Roasters and Flat Track, a Austin-area operation. I initially was going to have a cup of coffee from Heart, but it turned out they were only pulling espresso-based drinks with Heart, and I really didn’t feel like a straight shot or a milk drink, so I went with drip from Flat Track (I believe it was an Ethiopian). I also bought a bag of this Guatemalan and they happily told me that I was the first person to buy a bag. Score!

Whole bean: Light scent, a little bit like vanilla wafers and nougat.

French press: Pleasantly tangy. Smells like graham crackers and has a bit of mango and orange flavor. I said out loud, “oh, that’s GOOD.” Yes, I was talking to myself in my kitchen.

Chemex: The scent was like roses and cream. Stunning! There was a bit of lemon on the finish. Less tangy/thick than the press pot version with a drier finish. Nice for those that prefer lighter-bodied cups of coffee.

AeroPress: The concentrate had a lemony bite that was perky but not bitter, and it had a great chocolaty finish. Adding just a bit of water made the finish more powdery.

V60: Clean cocoa flavors in this rather light-bodied cup.

Summary: Having now looked at Flat Track’s tasting notes, I really didn’t pick up on the same things, did I? Nevertheless, this is a very pleasant coffee to drink. My vote would be for brewing it either in a Chemex or a french press.

From the roaster: Sugary lemon, lime, and raisin flavors with a smooth mouthfeel.

Flat Track Coffee Roasters Online Store