10/16/15 – The start of a new passion
Over this past Summer I began moving away from major chain coffee shop coffees (cough..cough Starbucks aka “Charbucks” to some coffee geeks) and started visiting local specialty coffee roasters; the first of which is located right in my neighborhood. Buunni Coffee is a relatively small roaster of Etheopean and other African coffees, each of which is sold at various roast levels. Their Washington Heights cafe is always busy and the staff are just as passionate about brewing high quality coffee as their customers are about drinking it. After trying the majority of their coffees I was inspired to venture out of Washington Heights and try coffees from as many different roasters as possible and boy have I had a great start to my coffee adventure.
I should note that I’ve always loved the flavor of coffee and never been one to add more than a touch of skim milk and 1 tsp of sugar or packet of Splenda to my cup. But it took until 2015 for me to take hold of the opportunity to utilize my palate, which I’ve spent years developing, to begin to fully experience the wide range of flavors that specialty coffees have to offer. Below is a “list” of the coffees that I’ve tried as of the above date (bolded coffees are the ones I liked the most, italicized coffee are ones that I wouldn’t recommend).
213 Pinehurst Avenue (at 187th Street), New York, NY 10033
Harrar, Sidama, Addis Abba, Limu
La Colombe Torrefaction
Visited their Soho location 270 Lafayette Street New York, NY 10012
Ethiopia Ardi (Sidama), Phocea, Corsica
La Perla De Oaxaca, Mexico, Tikur Anbessa Etheopia (my favorite of all the coffees that I’ve tried so far).
Porto Rico Importing Company
I usually go to their Bleacker Street location 201 BLEECKER ST.
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10012
Tanzanian Peaberry, India Monsoon Malabar (an acquired taste)
Visited their main NYC location location in Willaimsburg location. 160 Berry St.
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Kenya Muranga Gatubu (close in flavor profile to the Tikur Anbessa Etheopia), Bella Donovan, Three Africans.
10/19/15 – Sunday in Philly – My First Macchiato
Yesterday my wife and I took a day trip to Philadelphia to meet up with some of my fellow Brew Tubers club members. Since I knew we’d be arriving there before we’d be ready to drink any beer, I took the opportunity to do a Google search for local coffee roasters and found three that I’d try to visit. Though we only made it to two of them, I enjoyed my experience at both of them
As shown in the above picture we first went to Elixr Coffee Roasters (207 S. Sydenham St Philadelphia, PA 19102) and I ordered a pour over of their single origin Konga (Etheopia, Yirgacheffe) and a double shot of Bee Keeper, their house espresso. The Konga was bright and fruity with low to moderate acidity and had a light body. While I’ve found many Ethiopian coffees to be quite blueberry and blackberry forward in terms of their fruit flavor character, this one’s fruitiness came off as more semi-ripe melon, apricot, and strawberry, which as times was akin to a diluted fruit punch. With its low to moderate acidity this coffee didn’t have the acidic pop that I’m become used to in the finish of other fruit forward coffees. Therefore, I’m looking forward to brewing it in a french press in order to give it the body that I think it needs to make it more enjoyable on chilly Autumn mornings.
While enjoying my mug of pour over I slowly sipped my Bee Keeper espresso. I must admit that I’m quite new to drinking straight espresso and was therefore glad to be given a small glass of club soda to cleanse my palate between sips. Though it was on the bitter side for me, I enjoyed Bee Keeper’s rich body and flavor profile of cocoa, caramel, and black tea…To better explain my final thoughts I’ll give some background. This past Friday I went to the Starbucks in my neighborhood to pick up some of their Via instant coffee and ended up ordering my first ever straight dopio espresso. Without putting any milk or sugar in it I walked out of the shop and upon taking my first sip I was taken aback by the bitterness of the espresso. In order to save this first experience I went back inside, stirred in some milk and sugar, and was subsequently quite surprised at the transformation of my experience. In other words, I loved the resulting flavors and made sure to sip my small afternoon pick-me-up as slowly as possible…So while I enjoyed pushing myself to drink the Bee Keeper espresso straight, I’m hoping to try it again sometime as a macchiato.
After eating lunch, meeting up with some of my fellow Brew Tubers for a couple pints, and walking around the Penn Square area, my wife and I decided to grab a warm drink at La Colombe Torrefaction’s Dilworth Plaza café (1414 South Penn Square Philadelphia, PA 19102). After looking over the menu I decided to try their workshop series macchiato. Sadly I did not ask which of their workshop series coffees they were using for the macchiato. However, after admiring the star design made by the barista I took my first sip I was blown after by the fruity acidity of the espresso and knew I’d enjoy sipping it while my wife enjoyed her hot chocolate. We enjoyed our drinks so much that we both ordered a second round. As I finished my second macchiato I remarked to my wife that the acidity was beginning to overwhelm and dry out my palate. Therefore, in the future I’ll probably sample both espressos on the menu to switch up the flavor profiles and or drink some water in between “rounds”.
10/24/15 – Changing of the Roasters
Before I discuss specific coffees I’d like to discuss my current routine for trying out new coffees (blend and single origin) at home… A) Currently I am the sole caffeinated coffee drinker at home, and therefore despite my 20oz travel mug which I use 5-6 days a week for my coffee, it’s been taking me a bit longer than in the past to finish off a pound of beans. B) Due to my tendency to go all out when exploring a hobby that relates to my creative nature I’ve recently started buying two coffees at a time so I can alternate as I so desire. While this may prove to be at times a losing battle in terms of coffee freshness, I plan on continuing doing so as long as time and finances allow. C) Lastly I should note that I store my beans in Vacu Vin Coffee Saver tinted air tight containers that I store in a kitchen cabinet in order to maintain freshness as best as I can.
On to the title of this journal entry… After 10 days (minus 2 where I didn’t drink them) of alternating between Three Africans and Bella Donovan, two of Blue Bottle’s year round blends I brewed my first pour over cup of Elixr’s Kenya Kiambu this morning. While sipping from my travel mug during my morning commute via subway (NYC), I was surprised to not pick up on any particular fruit flavors beyond the general moderate to high acidity and balanced sweetness that African coffees are known for. However, once I got to work and was sitting in my office eating breakfast, I removed the lid of my travel mug and was surprised to pick up a prominent mandarin orange flavor. Next, while Elixr’s cupping notes describe this coffee’s underlying sweetness as cocoa nib and clove, I perceived it as bakers chocolate with a touch of added sweetness and some earthy undertones. In terms of body, despite the coffee’s acidity creaping up towards the high end of medium and my brewing it via my Hario V60 pourover cone, this coffee’s body was definitely medium and smooth…I’ll have to drink more of it and brew it via French press to form my final opinion on it, but from this first cup/mug I can definitely give Elixr’s Kenya Kiambu a thumbs up.
For those who are interested click here to check a discussion about people’s go to coffee regions on the ‘coffee’ subreddit.
11/9/15 – Changing of the Roasters – Stumptown
After finishing two great African coffees from Elixr Coffee Roasters it was time to return to my NYC coffee adventures and check out another local roaster’s café. Though they’re not based in NYC, I was excited to check out Stumptown Coffee Roaster’s West 8th Street location. On Thursday, 11/5 I took the A train to West 4th St. and walked a few blocks to the café. Having been to their smaller Ace Hotel location, I was quite impressed by the size and décor of this location. Converted into a café from a bookshop, the wood laden walls and furniture made it immediately clear that a lot of effort was put into creating a homey atmosphere for coffee lovers.
After choosing two coffees to try at home I made my way up the line of customers and ordered a pour over of their newest Ethiopian coffee (Ethiopia Kochere) and a macchiato. After a brief conversation, the barista who was taking my order gave me a card which I can bring back to get hole punched and eventually get a free 12oz bag of coffee and said the macchiato was on the house. As if my experience couldn’t get any better, the barista who brewed my chemex pour over did not take any short cuts. She used a timer to time the brewing process, a scale to weigh the beans and water, a hot plate to keep the water at the ideal temperature, and a glass stir stick to stir the coffee grounds during their initial bloom. As a budding coffee geek, her attention to detail only enhanced my experience and gave me a new level of respect for Stumptown.
The two coffees that I purchased to brew at home were Ethiopia Mordecofe and Guatemala Bella Vista. So far I’ve brewed them both with my Hario V60 pour over cone. Both of them were true to their cupping notes and packed a bunch with great body and flavors. I’m definitely excited to try more Guatemalan coffees in the coming months, but I’ll definitely make sure to always have an Ethiopian or Kenyan available to brew at home. In other words, I’ve come to prefer the flavor profile of coffees from those countries and want to keep exploring how various factors effect the differences in each coffee’s character (body, aroma, taste).
11/27/15 – Madman visits Irving Farm only to return to Stumptown
Since my last Coffee Journal entry I’ve had some palate please coffee experiences and as I sip my Friday morning coffee (emergency Starbucks Via – Italian Roast in my office at work) I’m writing this entry…On 11/12 (and again on 11/23) I had a dentist appointment on the lower east side of Manhattan and upon a friend’s recommendation checked out Madman Espresso (319 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003). Madman serves coffees from Caffe Vita both as pour over and espresso. When I first went there on the 12th I enjoyed a pour over of their Theo blend, which was quite straight forward tasting with hints of chocolate and an herbaceous quality woven into an otherwise generic darker roast coffee character. What saved my first visit was the macchiato that I got along with the Theo pour over. The espresso flavors were rich, chocolaty, and finished with a hint of fruity acidity and were blended quite well with just the right amount of steamed milk. Also, the barista was quite welcoming and open to chatting about specialty coffee and the rotation of single origin and blend coffees that come through this Madman location. Before leaving to head to work I ordered a second macchiato to go because I wanted to continue savoring my experience for just a bit longer…When I went back for my second visit I was happy to be told that the pour over coffee of the day was single origin Kenya AA and I quickly ordered it. Being that I’ve slowly become familiar with Kenyan coffees I was pleased to taste and smell notes of berries, candied citrus, and toffee. Before leaving I ordered a macchiato to go and for some reason it didn’t taste the same as the first two that I had in that it was nuttier and not as bold tasting. Next I go there I’ll have to ask if they also rotate which coffees they use for their espresso-based drinks.
On Sunday, 11/15 I went with my wife to check out yet another NY coffee roaster named Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. The upper west side location that we visit was quite busy which took away from my preferred quiet coffee drinking atmosphere, but I was able to grab seats and then get online to order my usual pourover and macchiato. For my pour over I chose El Molino, El Salvodor, which although it wasn’t as bold as some of the Ethiopian coffees that I’ve had, lived up to its cupping notes with flavors of dried Apricot and molasses along with a hint of almond in the finish. The macchiato was good, but not exceptional in that it didn’t have any flavors that made it unique…I’d like to visit either Irving Farm again at a time when this or one of their other locations isn’t as busy in order to get the full/quiet coffee shop experience I’ve come to enjoy.
Lastly on Thursday 11/19 I once again went to Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ West 8th Street location to buy some beans and have my usual pour over and macchiato…Instead of going for an African coffee I decided to try Marvin Robles, Costa Rica , a barista’s recommendation. True to its cupping notes it had a great aftertaste of rainier cherries. Since Stumptown always has a large variety of single origin coffees in stock I’ll definitely be continuing my efforts to venture out of my African coffee comfort zone and try coffees from Latin American countries such as Costa Rica and Guatemala.
Current coffees: Stumptown Ethiopia Duromina and my friend Merlin’s whisky barrel-aged coffee.