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A Journey Into Darkness

April 26, 2012

This one's been long overdue.

I've had the good fortune to have tried three excellent coffees, both at home and at work--with my wife, with my coworkers, on my CafeSolo, my Softbrew, and on my Trifecta.  As I sampled and shared each coffee, I began to perceive a progression of sorts, a tantalizing journey into what might be possible around the next corner.





See, I've been searching for something I thought was unobtainable--the perfect balance between chocolate, fruit, acidity, dark caramel undertones, nuttiness, richness, and complexity.  But with most of the bright spirits to lately occupy my cup, I'd thought the time had passed before I'd taste something approaching my holy grail.



Now, please, hear me out.  The start of this journey will actually make sense to you, for you've been there like so many a hundred times before, happily sipping your Crappachinos and merrily socializing.  So sit and let me tell my tale.  Even if you have a sensitive or frail nature, I won't stop until I'm done and you must hear me out, for there was one who paid a high price for my folly.  But I am to blame and no one else...





There's Something About Nostromo

Whenever I read a review about Deep Cello's Nostromo, the reviewer almost never fails to mention that Nostromo roughly translated means "trusted friend" in Italian. I like to point out that it's the name of the ship in Alien!

Nostromo is a terrific example of what can be achieved in a dark roast without falling into burnt territory. It's like St*rbucks but without the burnt. Let me put it another way: it's like you were tasting the best dark chocolatey roast you could imagine St*rbucks never making.

As such, it's a gateway drug for dark roast burn ward addicts everywhere.  You want to wean your friend off of burnt coffee and onto something better, despite their preference for jet fuel? Let them try Nostromo. This is indeed what I did one day when I treated my boss, who roasts his own coffee and grew up on a Moka pot, to some lovely Nostromo. I poured him a cup and he immediately reached for it.

"Nah-ah! Let it sit for 2 minutes before you taste it!"

He reached for it anyway.

"Hey, what did I say!"

Eyeing each other suspiciously, I backed out of his office, then trotted off to my cube. Just as I was sitting down at my desk, the phone rang.

"That is possibly the best coffee I've ever tasted."

Oh, yeah. Start 'em on Nostromo.  Then when they're ready, start working your way into the light of day.




Roney Villela

You probably should see my previous post:



Trifecta MB - First Look

Roney Villela is the name of a Brazilian farmer who sold Portola Coffee Lab some beans. When I tried this coffee on both my CafeSolo and my Trifecta, I found it to have the boldest, most complex taste of any Brazilian SO coffee I've consumed. We're talking lots of cocoa, hazelnut, caramel, and a huge dose of plum fruitiness that makes this Brazil SO really stand out. It's definitely on my top two list of of favorite coffees.

When I served this coffee to my coworker Richard, who sits on the other side of the cube wall from me, he thought it was one of the best I'd served yet.  But he had previously sampled the Nostromo, and missed that dark roasted foundation. Well, if you find that your coffee disciple is holding out for something more full-bodied, my next pick is a sure thing. For most of you, it's no surprise.




There's Something About Velton's Bonsai Blend



I won't go into the score this coffee received at coffee review. Scores are for wusses. I won't even elaborate on how this one keeps making everyone's top coffee lists, like Seattle Coffee Gear--hey, the guy's shop is practically next door! No, I'm just going to speak for myself, for now.

Bonsai Blend is positioned as a coffee for espresso, but it does fine as a regular brew. What's important is that this one has a lot of the elements I like in a Brazil-centered blend or SO: chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, and fruitiness. In this case, you'll taste some orangey citrus on the tail end--but only if you let it sit long enough after roast. But what's really the clincher with this coffee is that Velton did what I have never seen anyone else do: he got a medium dark roast without sacrificing the complexity. You taste that bass note and it's satisfying. I would say the coffee will change character from one kind of good to another more than most I've tasted. Whereas many roasts will have a narrower sweet spot outside of which the results can be either too harsh or too earthy on the near-side to flat and lifeless on the far side, this blend holds up well, starting from about the 6th day on. The flavors cycle between chocolate and nuttiness and caramel depending on when you brew it.  And toward the half-way point in its lifespan, the orange starts to make a more prominent appearance.

I made this coffee for Richard at work and after my usual trolling for feedback (some people call it trolling for compliments but I like to think I'm more dedicated than that), he was his usual reserved self.

"It's a really good cup of coffee, Michael."

I served it again the next day. Strangely, Richard was silent that whole day. When I stopped by his cubicle, he was researching coffee equipment on-line.







"Your coffee has ruined me."



He was desperately searching for the right equipment to reproduce what he had tasted.



"What was that blend--Velton's?"



He owned a Keurig.  He already knew it would not do. He needed a grinder. He needed to find a brewing kit.



But most of all he needed time to think.



He went like one that hath been stunned,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man,

He rose the morrow morn.


...with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge






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