SUMMERTIME WITH SOME AFRICANS


These are just some of the flavors you’ll find in today’s coffees, so read on.

Ok, so I know I’ve been a bit missing-in-action this past month when it comes to new posts but between the NBA finals and now the World Cup I’ve had my hands full cheering on the games, and add my day job to that and it makes for quite a busy 24 hours. But here I am again with some new material that I’m confident you’ll all enjoy when you try them.

So what does coffee have in common with the World Cup? Well, many things, like the fact that many of the teams participating in it are coffee producing countries and others have top-of-the-line specialty cafés and roasters. The host, Brazil, is the biggest coffee producer/exporter of coffee in the world, so much so that any disruption in production directly affects the price of coffee around the world, like recently experienced.

Now let’s get down to business and focus on today’s coffee experience. Today I’m changing it up a bit and will be presenting three coffees vs. the traditional one in an effort to make up for “lost” time. The focus is on Africans since they make great summer cups due to their floral and fruity characteristics. I had already given prelude to two of these in a previous post referring to them as star players in the NBA, these two being Coava’s Thurungi and Kilenso and the other is Misty Valley by Onyx. Any of these are great options with the Kilenso being my personal favorite. Below I break down their characteristics;

Roaster: Coava Coffee Roasters
Name: Thurungi
Bean Origin: Ndia Division, Kirinyaga District; Kenya, Africa
Roast Date: April 22, 2014
Sample Date: April 30, 2014

This cup is vibrant with flavors of blood orange, sweet maple and cane sugar. It’s a coffee with a mild character, fruity aroma and a thick syrupy mouthfeel. You may buy the coffee here

Roaster: Coava Coffee Roasters
Name: Kilenso
Bean Origin: Borena Hagermariam, Sidama; Ethiopia, Africa
Roast Date: April 22, 2014
Sample Date: April 30, 2014

This coffee is rich and creamy with a fruity aroma. It boasts flavors of lavender and grape jam and is very well balanced. I wish I could really describe how special this cup is but words in this case do it no justice. You’ll just have to take my word for it and try it. You may buy the coffee here

Roaster: Onyx Coffee Lab
Name: Misty Valley
Bean Origin: Misty Valley; Ethiopia, Africa
Roast Date: April 14, 2014
Sample Date: April 22, 2014

This Ethiopian Misty Valley is floral and sweet. Its flavors are those of cherry, coffee blossom and creamy condensed milk. You may buy the coffee here

My brew recommendation for these three would be drip or pour over which will enhance all its flavors and body best.

TODAYS SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON CULTIVAR

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Roaster: Cultivar Coffee Bar & Roaster
Name: Colombia La Sierra
Bean Origin: La Sierra, Cauca; Colombia, South America
Roast Date: May 13, 2014
Sample Date: May 20, 2014

Founded in 2009, Cultivar Coffee Bar & Roaster is a Dallas, TX based roaster which is “deeply committed to quality and sustainability”. Its founders have been involved in the appreciation of coffee since 2007, with experience in roasting, brewing and tasting and frequently volunteer with the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Their coffee can be found in multiple retail locations, online and at their coffee bars; they also provide additional services to wholesale partners. If you really end up enjoying Cultivar’s coffee, they offer three options of coffee subscriptions.

So far, from their coffee offerings, I’ve only sampled Colombia La Sierra, which I found to be rich with a balanced acidity. Its flavors are those of molasses and berry and it has a slight winey tone reminiscent of African coffees. Since we are now in the hotter side of the weather, besides brewing via the Clever Dripper and the French Press, I also tried it as a cold brew +16 hours. I enjoy my cold brew as a concentrate so I did not dilute with water, just served it cold and over ice. Whichever method you do decide on, just make sure and have fun with it and then take the time to enjoy the cup.

I’ll be keeping my eye on Cultivar and look forward to sampling some more of their coffees.

You may buy the coffee here 

*Thanks to Cultivar for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

STARTING LINEUP CENTRAL AMERICANS



 
Roaster: Coava Coffee Roasters
Name: Flor de Concepcion
Bean Origin: Huehuetenango; Guatemala, Central America
Roast Date: April 22
Sample Date: April 30
 
Name: Bella Aurora
Bean Origin: Dipilito, Nueva Segovia; Nicaragua, Central America
Roast Date: April 22
Sample Date: April 30

If Coava Coffee Roasters were a team in the NBA they would definitely be playing in this year’s nail biting playoffs with two of their starters being from Guatemala and Nicaragua. I could very easily see them advancing to the conference semifinals battling it out with some other top teams for the top spot this year. Their bench is stacked with talent including top league players from Ethiopia and Kenya which fill in the player rotation nicely – more on the latter two “players” to come in a future post. Coava is a well-managed organization which spends time scouting and drafting quality players to add to their successful lineup and further developing them to reach their optimal potential. You might have read my previous post for Coava’s El Gorrion, another clear example of a quality player.

The first review is for Coava’s, Flor de Concepcion from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. This coffee is clean and sweet with flavor notes of graham cracker, almond and fruity raspberries. This may be brewed as a Drip, Pour Over or French Press; all depends on your personal preference. My favorite was when I brewed with the Clever Dripper as I tend to favor clean and balanced cups.

Next on the list is Bella Aurora from the Dipilito region in Nicaragua which producer, Mr. Joaquin Augusto Lovo Lopez, has been winner of The Cup of Excellence in the past. This coffee is full bodied with deep complex flavors and finish. Its acidity is that of orange blossom flower with a sweet chocolate body. I recommend brewing with a Clever Dripper for reasons already noted but this bean works well if French Pressed too.

Coava will remain top in my bracket as their team lineup holds some of the strongest players in the league. Check out their stuff and make sure not to miss my upcoming review for the Africans.

 

You may buy the coffee here
*Thanks to Coava for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

ETHIOPIAN PRESENTED BY TWEED

Roaster: Tweed Coffee
Name: YIRGZ
Bean Origin: Kochere, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia; Africa
Roast Date: April 21
Sample Date: April 27

It is well known that Ethiopia produces some of the finest coffee available, all of which display a winey or fruity acidity, but depending on the region the range of variation of those characteristics differ. The better known coffees are Harrar, Ghimbi, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, the later having a strong following in the United States. Now, since I’m not here to give a coffee history lesson I’ll shift my focus to the roaster and the coffee.

The roaster, Tweed Coffee, is based out of Dallas, Texas, and has been “weaving moments” for about a year now. The production roaster for Tweed is Jonathan Aldrich who holds the 2013 South Central Brewers Cup Champion title under his belt and whose experience in the coffee world reflects in his quality roasting. Although this will be my first of hopefully many reviews for Tweed it is not the first time I’ve savored some of their production, in fact, it’s my sixth.

Tweed’s Ethiopian YIRGZ coffee has a fruity acidity reminiscent of sweet grapefruit with flavors of black tea and jasmine flower. It has a rich body with a very long, resonant finish. The flowery characteristic in the cup is soft and fragrant which is distinctive to Yirgacheffe coffees. My brewing recommendation would be by Clever Dripper or Hairo V60 as the flavors were present in both. I was feeling adventurous so pulled an espresso with this bean which resulted in a nice sweet shot.

The folks at Tweed are putting in the work and delivering some quality coffees.

 

You may buy the coffee here

*Thanks to Tweed for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

 

SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR WITH ONYX

Roaster: Onyx Coffee Lab
Names: Colombian Gustavo and Brazil Glaucio Carneiro
Bean Origins: South America; Villa Sofia, Colombia & Sul de Minas, Brazil
Roast Date: April 14
Sampled Date: April 22

I recently had the opportunity to experience several coffees from Onyx Coffee Lab located in Arkansas. The shipment I received included multiple single-origin offerings ranging from Central & South America to Africa so I was able to get a great overall feeling for their quality and roasting abilities. Eventually I will be writing about each and every one of these but today it’s all about the South Americans – no specific reason I chose these first. I think it is important to note that I try all the coffees no earlier than 5 days after they are roasted to prevent a “gassy” taste and no more than 2 weeks after roast to ensure the best possible experience. You’ll notice I have added a sample date on the information portion of the coffee so as to keep you best informed of my tasting process.

Now, about these South Americans by way of Onyx. First up to bat is Colombia Gustavo, a Castillo varietal bean which packs quite a citric punch. Its flavors are that of Concord grape, roasted nuts and chocolate but in my opinion are overshadowed by the deep lemon drop acidity. It is medium in body and I found works best when brewed via the Clever.

The Brazil Glaucio Carnerio I enjoyed best out of these two. This is a well-balanced cup with flavors of stone fruit (peach to be specific), cocoa and almonds and a nice spiced aftertaste which develops in the finish. Brewed via the Clever I was able to notice all its flavors without one overshadowing the other.
I was very impressed with this micro-lot batch and equally impressed with Onyx’s roasting ability.

You may buy the coffee here

*Thanks to Onyx for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

A HANDSOME COLOMBIAN

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Roaster: Handsome Coffee Roasters
Name: San Adolfo
Bean Origin: South America; Colombia; Huila
Roast Date: April 7

While sipping on this Colombian grown coffee I imagined myself sitting on a local, half wooden half steel, colorful Chiva enjoying the rural mountainous views on a crisp early morning. I could hear the locals talk about their previous evening, work ideas, the latest news and just any subject on hand. The commute would lead to a coffee plantation where we would all get off and start the day by sampling the current crop which was freshly roasted a few days before in their own rustic café. We would then all make our way into the fields, each to their own specific job function ensuring the next crop would be as good or better than the one just had.

San Adolfo is a distinctly sweet cup, rich and complex. I best enjoyed it when brewed with the Clever Dripper as it provided a nice balance between tastes and body. Its acidity is that of green apple and the flavors produced in the body are reminiscent of sweet blackberry, rose and perhaps a hint of basil. Subtle notes of vanilla bean provide a deep lingering finish. It all came together nicely resulting in a nice balanced cup.

You may buy the coffee here

*Thanks to Handsome for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

On The Approved Café / Coffee Bar List: Once Over Coffee Bar – Austin

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Once Over Coffee Bar
2009 S. 1st Street, Austin, TX 78704

Nestled in between two commercial plazas on south 1st street sits an interesting coffee bar serving up good specialty coffee. If you live in the area, surely you’ve been there or at least heard of it, but for those not familiar with what the south has to offer, Once Over Coffee Bar is a great excuse to venture over. The outside doesn’t scream “third-wave coffee shop” one bit, in fact, quite the opposite. The investment in this place is definitely not its façade so I’m guessing it was allocated towards quality equipment and its large wooden backside deck which faces a creek.

They too have in their repertoire coffees from more than one coffee roaster and variety frequently changes. The selection is mainly from local Cuvee and Durham NC’s Counter Culture Coffee. Their brew methods include French Press and Aeropress on manual and espresso shots are pulled from a La Marzocco GB/5. They also offer cold brew which is made in house. While there, they were offering two different espresso blends, Dead Fingers (blend of Brazil, Costa Rica & El Salvador) and CC’s Rustico (blend of Peru and Ethiopia). The French Press selection was Cuvee’s Fazenda Pantano of Brazil and CC’s Blend 46 (Peru with Uganda) on Aeropress.

While at Once Over I tried the aforementioned Blend 46 on Aeropress, which was just OK for me, not to exciting. The taste was a bit too “roasty” for my palate but then again, everyone’s experience with coffee is personal. On the upside, they rotate their offerings every other day so their next chosen beans might be winners. All in all, the coffee selection is good as are the brew methods, making this coffee bar a great choice for those in the area.

Here’s the spoiler alert, after five years in business, Once Over has decided to enter the world of roasting. The what will be their flagship roaster is set to open this summer out of Round Rock, TX under the name Wild Gift. I look forward on sampling some of their batches once they fire up that roaster and wish them the best of luck on this new venture.

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AN AWARD WINNING KENYAN

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Roaster: De La Paz Coffee
Name: Kenya Gichathaini
Bean Origin: Gichatha-Ini, Kenya; Central East Africa
Roast Date: April 3

I admit it, although hitched, this week I woke up with a sweet Kenyan! The experience was so gratifying the first time that I had to repeat again the next day. I tried it slow, then fast then slow again until no more was left to try. She was a beautiful light brown color with a very balanced body whose curves I held in my hands. Worst part about it is that I don’t feel a bit remorse, I mean, why should I if my wife gave me permission, she even watched. That’s right, she watched me brew, savor and enjoy my morning Kenyan coffee that I recently received courtesy of De La Paz Coffee Roasters based out of San Francisco, CA.

The Kenya Gichathaini area is known for producing very high-quality coffees year over year in part by the incentives put in place by the government to encourage quality. Coffees of this region have been used in brewing competitions and taken several awards. This one from De La Paz is no exception to that as it is the winner of the Good Food award, quite an accomplishment considering the vast competition.

As custom to me, for brewing I tried it as an espresso, on clever and on french press. The espresso, which I pull using my Breville Dual Boiler was sweet and sharp while the french press produced a full bodied cup with sweet and citric characters. My favorite here was brewing via the clever which produced a bright, fruity and balanced cup with a citric acidity, a very juicy body with flavors of grapefruit plus sweet black grape and a finish that was long and berry filled.

De La Paz truly delivered with this Kenyan so expect more reviews from their production. To conclude, this is a great bean for the warming weather and one your spouse won’t mind you waking up with.

 

You may buy the coffee here

*Thanks to De La Paz for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

AN INTRIGUING COSTA RICAN

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Roaster: Flat Track Coffee Roasters
Name: Café Vida
Bean Origin: Central America; Costa Rica
Roast Date: March 20
As recently noted on my review of Flat Track the café, I have here now my experience with one of their coffee beans, precisely, the Café Vida from Costa Rica. If you’re not familiar with this country, it’s nestled between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and boasts incredible beaches as well as high altitude grounds, ideal for coffee growing. It is full of green vegetation as far as the eye can see and is never short of their rainy season which provides great nutrients to the soil. It is only to be expected that coffee production from Costa Rica will be consistently great given these factors and of course, the care that the farmers put into harvesting and drying the coffee beans.

With that established, it is then the roaster who is in command, it is their responsibility to enhance those natural flavors in the bean awaiting to be awaken. Flat Track, in my opinion, did a nice job roasting Café Vida. You can tell by the tastes in the cup that the homework was done on their end to ensure quality output in this medium roast.

I experienced this coffee on french press and clever and although both resulted in an enjoyable cup, my hands down favorite was the french press for this roast. On the clever, flavors of mildly smoked toffee took center stage so I would recommend this brew process to those looking to enjoy a cup with great taste and still get some of that smokiness you might miss from a darker roast. Now, brewed with the press, many more flavors came to life. The cup had a crisp red apple acidity, a chocolate body and a long finish of sweet caramel. Overall, Café Vida was a success and I truly enjoyed getting to know it. As always, I encourage you to try different brew methods, play with amounts and choose your personal favorite.

 

You may buy the coffee here

*Thanks to Flat Track for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.

 

A UNIQUE VARIETY

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Roaster: Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Name: Hair Bender
Bean Origin: Latin America, East Africa and Indonesia
Roast Date: April 1

I believe it was British poet, William Cowper, who said it best; “Variety’s the very spice of life”, and oh does this blend of specialty coffees pay ode to that saying. I’ll admit, when I saw it was a blend I was a bit skeptical at first, my mind took off on auto pilot to wrongfully judge the book by its cover. Boring, weak and bland were just some of the words that crossed my mind, after all, I’ve been disappointed with blends in the past. Boy oh boy was I wrong about that, Hair Bender is not only NOT boring, it’s complex and full of taste. It transitions nicely between flavors and depending on the brewing method used, different flavors stand out. This could very well be the Everlasting Gobstopper of coffee blends, minus the Violet turning violet.

I brewed this coffee three ways, clever, french press and espresso. Using the clever, I got a complex, well balanced cup with notes of savory spices, caramel and sweet pineapple. When french pressed, the body was rich and notes of chocolate and caramel took center stage. As an espresso, it’s top of the class with a lemony acidity and milk chocolate as well as stone fruit notes.

My personal favorite was using Hair Bender as an espresso but I strongly suggest you experiment all possible brew methods as each is an experience of its own. On the manual brew side, this is an excellent choice for someone looking for that hint of savory.

You may buy the coffee here

 

*Thanks to Stumptown for being a sponsor. All opinions written here are mine and sponsorship has no influence on my review.