What the heck is Roasters Club?
Roaster’s Club is a little like Heraclitus‘ river since you never get the same shipment twice. That’s the beauty of this coffee subscription service that I first reviewed last October. Unlike the coffee subscription services provided by most roasters, which offer different coffees by the same roaster, Roaster’s Club gives you coffees from three different roasters each month.
I noted a number of things in that previous review that more or less still hold true about this subscription service:
- You get all three coffees in one shipment. I personally can’t drink that much coffee before it goes stale, but you might consider freezing some of the excess beans in airtight containers for later consumption.
- The price for this service is very reasonable, especially when you consider the aeropress and time (and mental energy) you could save in selecting and ordering different coffees each month.
- The quality of the coffee is solidly good. Roasters Club has a very reputable list of partner roasters. The six coffees (two month’s shipments) I’ve now received have all been high quality even if I haven’t always loved them personally. They were all solidly good and one (the PT’s Limu I received previously) was fantastic.
Overall, I’d say Roasters Club would make a great gift to someone wanting to upgrade but doesn’t know how or someone in one of those parts of the country (quite frankly most of them) where quality coffee is a scarcity and you tend to rely on mail-order coffee for the good stuff anyway.
What beans were on the menu this month?
My last batch from Roasters Club had a clear rank ordering of quality and personal preference. The three bags I received this month were pretty much neck and neck. There was no clear stand-out winner and no clear looser. Overall, these were well above the norm without any being outstanding.*
What I enjoyed with this shipment was thinking about the similarities and differences with coffee from three vastly different locations – Timor, Mexico and Brazil – and three different roasting styles – dark-roasted from Metropolis, medium roast from Cuvee and a lighter roast from Dean’s Beans. It was intriguing how all three spoke of some potential without actually wowing me. I noted how none were particularly complex, especially true of the Brazilian and the Mexican, which inspired me to do a little blending. Combined, I think I hit upon at least one winning combination. Two-thirds of the Brazilian with one-third of the Dean’s Beans Mexican dosed at 16 grams made a very nice shot of espresso. Up the Mexican content for brewed coffee. Channeling Mark Bittman, I would say don’t be afraid to experiment with a few simple ingredients.
Cut to the chase. How was the coffee?
So, in no particular order, here are the coffees I tasted.
This bag of Timor had me just as confused as the coffee I received last time since the online descriptions indicates that this coffee is a medium roast, the photo online shows it as a light roast and this bag was marked dark roast. I believe my bag was marked correctly for what’s inside, but no matter. Regardless of what roast was, I believe it was the right roast for this coffee. This Timor is a really nice alternative to your typical Sumatra or Sulawesi, channeling the latter’s chocolate potential while picking up on the former’s more herbaceous, “sage”-like notes. I’m generally not one to favor darker roasts, but this one reawakened my interest in full-bodied, dark-roasted Indonesian coffees. In addition to the above tasting notes, I found raspberry, raisin and tobacco. It worked quite nicely as a single origin espresso, highlighting its more herbal qualities. For brewed coffee, I preferred it as a pour over drip. While I know many reputable people prefer darker roasts in a french press, I found the extra body and richness imparted by that method too over-powering.
I was probably most excited about trying this coffee since Cuvee not only hosted the 2009 South Central Regional Barista Competition (1,2), but one of its baristas, Clancy Rose, took the title. Even it it wasn’t this coffee that won, I figured some of that winning potential must have worked its way into this coffee. I got notes of mostly roasted nuts but also carrots, mint, and bark in this medium-bodied, slightly viscous non-acidic coffee. But all this came from trying pretty hard. Overall, this coffee was pretty flat and unidimentional. It had a very mildly fruity appeal – pomegranate molasses – as espresso, and had some more honey and banana like qualities brewed. This coffee seemed nicely done but simply better as a base to blend than anything worthy of standing on its own.
Dean’s Beans was exciting to try precisely because it isn’t a roaster I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards given my perceived image of them as do-gooder coffee hippies ala Ben & Jerry more concerned with social responsibility than with coffee quality. However, I would classify this coffee as the biggest surprise of the bunch. It wasn’t tremendous but their description of it as a “comfortable cup” of coffee at “any time of day” really does hit the nail on the head, and at just $7.25/pound it’s a bargain (if you’re buying it outside a subscription that is). This was the lightest roasted coffee of the bunch – a very tea like body – with a tad more grassy-brightness and the most prominent tasting note being vanilla. I liked it’s grape seed like oily mouthfeel – a viscous quality without any buttery, heaviness. It was too bright and lacked any sweetness as espresso, but as stated above, worked well to bring some edge in a blend. It was, however, pleasing and delicate as a pour over. Even if it lacked some of the mild red apple aroma imparted with a French Press, I didn’t care for the extra body, which overpowered this coffee’s refreshing qualities.
*I should add that my shipment, which was sent to me as a demo, arrived almost two weeks past the roast date. This may have affected my impressions of the coffees somewhat, especially in their capacity for producing good espresso.