Kansas City is a bit of a coffee enigma. My first round of coffee research in anticipation of heading here turned up several potentially good spots. This initial scan surprised me. After all, the fact that Calvin Trillin has turned this city into a heart-stopper culinary tour has little bearing on the coffee, and I generally don’t have high hopes for coffee in Midwestern cities.* As I began to dig a little deeper, however, I discovered that much of that good coffee promised appeared to be an illusion. The PT’s cafe out in Overland Park that I was so excited about? Closed. Espresso dell’Anatra which I read so much about? Also, closed. It seems there’s a decent amount of desire to provide good coffee in Kansas City, but something lacking when it comes to the population’s actual demand.
Fortunately, I remembered that Kansas City is home to The Roasterie, whose coffees have scored well in the past on sites like Coffee Review and include many Cup of Excellence selections. The cafe, located in Kansas City’s cute, and well-off Brookside neighborhood, also has a Clover machine. These indicators are all tell-tale signs of promising coffee. The Roasterie Cafe quickly made the top of my list.
Situated adjacent to a business district strip, the Roasterie offers ample seating situated throughout various sections of the cafe. On one end, sit some black leather chairs while the other end has wooden benches. In the middle are various wooden tables and chairs, some seated next to garage doors that presumably open when the weather is nicer. This expansive seating sits under exposed duct work and ceiling fans that resemble airplane propellers. You’ll notice pretty quickly that aviation history has been adopted as this roaster’s theme from the deco font and prop plane artwork used on the packaging to the enormous DC-3 mural staring at you as you walk in the front door.
The coffee menu immediately impressed me. In addition to shots of their Super Tuscan espresso blend pulled on (one of two) three group La Marzocco GB/5s, the Roasterie offers several filter coffee options with a variety of blends and single origin coffies. You have a choice of a rotating, Fetco-brewed coffee or your choice of bean brewed via French Press or on the Clover. In a real bit of menu genius, the Roasterie brews multiple sizes of Clover brewed coffee, including 8, 12, 16 and 20 oz cups. I could do without the larger sizes, but being able to order a smaller 8 oz cup for $2 is terrific and creates a financially viable way to create do-it-yourself Clover-brewed flights of different coffees.
Over several visits, I gave the menu a good run through.
- I started off with a Decaf Colombia Pitalito on the Clover, which was decent darker decaf with some nice brighter notes. Nothing special, but good for a decaf (3).
- I found the Honduras COE Finca El Triunfo, also on the Clover, less exciting than I would have liked given its COE credentials. It was dark and spicy with some notes of bark and savory, woody herbs. I cant say I loved it and even picked up on some soapy notes in a couple of sips, but overall found it above average and full of complexity that just didn’t come together. (3-)
- I finished my Clover trifecta (a confusing phrase these days) with a cup of the Bali Tri Hita Karana, a naturally processed coffee. This coffee was a nice, not too overpowering natural with notes of chocolate and blueberry as well as some fragrant pear. This full-bodied coffee was dark, heavy and sweet. (3+)
- I liked the Tuscan espresso best. It was sweet and sour with notes of caramel and sugar and a solid burst of lemon. It leaned slightly towards roasty, but in a good way. (4-)
In the end, I wasn’t wowed by The Roasterie’s coffees like I wanted to be, especially given the range of choice. They seemed like good quality beans with lots of potential, but were generally too dark for my preference. The culprit, I suspect, is The Roasterie’s approach – air-roasting – which I’ve found can produce some really stellar espresso, but which I tend to think falls short as a roasting method for filter coffees. I’ll readily admit that my experience with different roasting methods is limited so this may not be the culprit – after all, most of the coffees are also either a Vienna or French roast. Either way, I think the coffee could be roasted in a way to more fully bring out the character of the bean. That said, the Roasterie is well worth a detour if you find yourself in Kansas City.
*As a former Midwesterner, I’m entitled to make such disparaging remarks.