My recent trip to New York was mostly business only. I had time to grab a quick cup of house blend from the Joe Kiosk in Grand Central right before rushing for the train. I also had a few minutes to wander down the street near my hotel, where I stumbled upon the Oren’s Daily Roast on 3rd between 30th and 31st. It was late in the day and couldn’t afford to consume much coffee so I’m holding off until I can do a more thorough review. But I will report that despite the demonstrated skill and sweet demeanor exhibited by my barista, the few sips of espresso I tasted of the Beowulf Blend pulled into my paper cup (before I spilled it), didn’t inspire me to return. Fortunately, the sense I’ve gathered is that Oren’s likes to pride itself on its selection of brewed coffees more than its espresso.
Rather than a full review then, I decided to give Oren’s a more detailed exploration at home, especially since they bag up their 30 or so beans in bags as small as a quarter pound – an excellent size for sampling. I picked up some of Oren’s Ethiopian Sidamo given my recent jag of Ethiopian coffee consumption which I hope well-anchored my palate. I also purchased a bag of Oren’s Brazil Daterra, based on my previous positive experiences with Ecco Caffe’s version of what is probably a slightly higher grade lot.
I suppose the first thing I noticed was that both coffees were slightly less expensive than stuff I might typically buy. Oren’s Ethiopian is $15/pound whereas the Daterra is $13/pound. (Oren’s also sells a $50/pound Jamaca Blue Mountain and a $30/pound Kona.) Ritual or Blue Bottle’s, least expensive coffees, by comparison, typically sell for about $15-18/pound (even if they are typically sold in 12 oz or 8 oz bags respectively). What this says to me is that I ought to expect similar, but slightly lower, quality coffee. Fair enough given Oren’s reputation as one of the few quality coffee providers in the city prior to New Yorks recent wave of new roasters and cafes.
Despite my doubts (based on less than positive past experiences with Oren’s) these coffees certainly looked and smelled good. The Ethiopian was a darkish medium while the Daterra was a bit ligher. Both were decent looking medium roasts with neither coffee exhibiting any oils as some of the coffees on Oren’s shelf very much did. While I assume they were reasonably fresh, neither of them – in the store or on the bag – posted roast dates and I forgot to ask. Overall, I’d say Oren’s offers delivers some decent coffee although it’s not a “superior bean.”
Ethiopian Sidamo (3-)
Grinding this coffee released a fruity explosion in my kitchen. If you have any doubts about what someone means when they refer to a coffee as a fruit bomb, you should try this coffee. It exhibited a syrupy mouthfeel and was chock full of blueberry along with some strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and a touch of cream. While it was a wild coffee to inhale, I quickly grew tired of drinking it, especially as a French Press. As espresso, it was also too much of a good thing and not particularly well-balanced. moderation is the key here. It’s not a bad coffee, but simply fruitfully overwhelming. A little further rest time and brewing it as a pour over yielded a much more subdued cup. I’d certainly recommend a pour over or something with paper or else this coffee will likely rate a notch or two lower.
Brazil Daterra (3+)
As expected, this was a pleasing, mellow, solid Brazilian coffee, exhibiting nuttiness and mild, crisp apple acidity and a slight viscosity in the mouthfeel. There were hints of chocolate and something a bit buttery. It was nothing earth-shattering, but produced a really smooth and straight-forward French Pressed cup of coffee. Shots of it as espresso had real potential. It had great buttery qualities with brown sugar and molasses, but lacked a complexity that spoke of base material for a blend rather than a shining single origin.