Beans: See Below
Roaster: Victrola Coffee Roasters (Seattle, WA)
Rating: See Below
In these days of mail order coffee, it’s easy enough for a coffee hound such as myself to get top quality coffee delivered from specialty roasters around the country in a matter of days. Still, like a good hand written letter is to email (or dare I say, like an email is to texting – yuck, that analogy felt wrong and made me feel old) there’s something special about having your coffee hand delivered to your door by someone you know has personally picked it up from a cafe with his or her very hands. Thus I have my friend to thank for returning to the Bay Area from a recent trip to Seattle with 5 (!!) bags of coffee in hand. He apparently has adopted a Man Seeking Coffee way of life on the road – taking wife and kid around town on coffee seeking adventures.
We had a great time trying out each of these coffees even if my fellow consumer in crime did get a bit overly buzzed. (Note to self about future tasting endeavors: emphasize to fellow coffee tasters that spitting is OK). We cupped them and fired off each as an espresso. Then over the next week or so I ran each through the wringer of French Press, siphon and pour over drip. The Stumptown Panama Carmen Estate that I wrote about a couple of weeks back was by far our top pick, but we agreed more or less on the order of these next three from Victrola, all of them strong contenders and all of which took the next three spots. I’ll post about our fifth place contender soon.
Kenya Ruiru Mchana Peaberry (3+): This coffee was our second favorite of the five although not much better than it’s fellow Victrola counterparts. The beans were typical peaberry, round and smallish, and fairly lightly roasted. I got notes of light, smoky red wine, cranberry, and a very lightly floral, perfume-like quality – the kind that makes your head spin. It was clean and bright, but somewhat tame in its brightness compared to a typical Kenyan coffee. It wasn’t good as an espresso, but it was interesting. The magnified floral side of its persona nearly knocked me out. It worked fine enough in my siphon, but I preferred this one as a French Press. (I’m also realizing that cloth filters for my siphon just aren’t cutting it – funny filter flavor. It may be time to try out the cory glass rod substition.)
Guatemala Huehuetenango Finca Vista Hermosa (3+): Having met Edwin Martinez of Finca Vista Hermosa at Slow Food Nation 2008 (1,2) and having tried their coffees at Barefoot and home, it was exciting to have this particular coffee show up on my doorstep from a different roaster from a different part of the country. This medium sized bean worked well at what I’m guessing was a shade darker roast than one would find for this same coffee at Barefoot. It is a mellow, easy going, mildly fruity coffee – dried stone fruit – with notes of mint, some smokiness and semi-sweet chocolate. It worked well for me as both a French Press and pour over drip. I never did try this one on the siphon. It also worked surprisingly well as a SO espresso even though when magnified in this way, the flavors become more earthy and piney with just the right touch of sweetness.
Streamline Espresso (3+): On the cupping table, I was hit by a sweet blueberry blast that announced the presence of a naturally processed bean in this espresso blend. My friend found the blueberry a bit overwhelming, but I thought it mellowed out nicely as an espresso, falling into place alongside crisp pine and a bit of spice. The resulting shot evoked imagery of a mountainside of blueberry bushes. It also was tasty with milk. As with most espressos, I found this blend lacking when brewed (i.e. non-espresso), but perhaps because of those naturally processed beans, this one seems to have a bit more potential than most. Overall, this espresso’s intentions were clear and seemingly well executed but somehow lacked that certain wow factor needed to propel it into the 4’s.