This post isn’t a Ritual vs. Stumptown taste test even though it does compare one coffee from each of these two roasters. What I’m hoping to illustrate with this comparison are the varied extremes that two very good coffees can imbue.
Ritual’s Kenya Muburi Kirinyaga, an understated, delicate, yet highly complicated coffee. The barista at Ritual’s Flora Grubb branch recommended it to me – it was her personal pick at the time. After just one taste of this coffee as brewed for me on the Clover, I was ready to take some home. I was certainly hoping for a redemption for Ritual following my last run in with their perfectly good, yet seemingly overrated, COE Finca Matalapa.
Ritual’s Muburi is much less intense than your typical Kenyan; it lacks that bright punch. Instead, I tasted a mellow pastiche of lemon and strawberry, sweetened with white sugar and blended with just a touch of mint and milk chocolate. It worked wonderfully brewed via my French Press and in my Siphon. Given the lighter roast, it understandably didn’t work that well as an espresso – far too sour and bright. Overall, the clean, crisp cup reminded me of bright, cool Winter sunshine.
What stands out most to me about the Muburi is how subtle it is. I like to think that this coffee represents Ritual’s recent shift away from bolder, more braggadocio-style roasting to one that’s more refined. Of course, I very well may be falsely attributing a trend to Ritual’s roasting based on (relatively) recent staffing changes. Even if I am mistaken, however, I doubt there is little harm done in proclaiming that several of Ritual’s more recent coffees share some of the more positive attributes I typically ascribe to coffees by Ecco Caffe.
Completely opposite of Rituals’ Muburi is Stumptown’s Finca Semillero, which I picked up at Four Barrel Coffee based purely on its description and my particular mood at the time. This coffee is brash, bold and no-holds barred although oddly enough that isn’t what I thought I was getting. The sign for the Semillero made it sound sweet and fruity. For better – at least I think not for worse – I never found that particular flavor profile.
Stumptown, oddly, seems not (or possibly no longer – anyone know what’s going on here?) to sell this particular coffee so I suppose you’ll have to take me at my word for what it’s like. I found the Semillero to be a thick and savory coffee that conjures up images of a heavy, hearty breakfast, with notes of maple bacon, pepper and just a dash of sea salt sprinkled over roasted tomatoes. The mouthfeel is slightly viscous with the overall effect one of satisfying umami. The coffee works particularly well as a French Press with some potential when pulled as espresso. My shots tended to be just a tad bright and touch bitter – lots of lime – but still successfully carried off that savory and just barely sweet quality of the brewed coffee.
Overall, this is a remarkable coffee to try for its intense boldness that stands in stark contrast to the delicate qualities of the Muburi. The Semillero’s only drawback might be that it’s simply too much coffee; the intense flavors, I found, actually tired me out and tended to distract me from my work.