Artisan Café Muchagara – AA—sweet rhubarb pie, just like mom made it

Wow. Just wow. Here’s another winner from the great Artisan Café, Helsinki.

Muchagara – AA.

This is what the roaster says about it:

In my estimation Muchagara – AA is roasted medium light, around 2/5. It also says ”Filter” on the label. Since I’m not a pour-over guy, really, I decided to brew it in my AeroPress. (Of course, I had to try it in my Moka pot, too!)

When I got this bag, I had high expectations, and for a good reason: the last product I got from Artisan Café – Red Guji – was probably one of the greatest coffees I had ever tasted.

As I opened the blue bag, I went: ”Berries, just like Red Guji. Oh wait, not berries. I’m smelling rhubarb. Rhubarb and baking spices.” This is pretty much the picture I had in my head as I was enjoying this coffee. The mouthfeel was very juicy. The taste was very fruity, in the rhubarb way. On the other hand, the spiciness made me think of cinnamon. These two aspects worked extremely well together. The whole thing reminded me of the traditional Scandinavian style sweet rhubarb pie my mom used to make when I was a kid.

I absolutely loved this coffee. I found myself brewing a cup after another.

Artisan Café produces some of the best coffees I have known. Granted, their products are not cheap. But they are worth every dime. So, if you happen to be in Helsinki, do yourself a favor and pay them a visit. You will not be disappointed.

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Kahwe Guatemala Bella Elisabeth Dark Roast—truly excellent!

A couple of days ago, I received an exciting package: Mr. Joel Marttala, the master coffee roaster of Kahwe roastery (Tampere, Finland) was kind enough to send me some of their Guatemala Bella Elizabeth to try. Thank you so much!

Bella Elizabeth is a blend of washed Typica, Bourbon, Caturra and Pache from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. According to the company website, the blend is available in several different roasts. Mine was roasted dark (4/5). As it says on the label (my translation), this version has soft and lightly toasted flavors, with hints of caramel and dried fruits. They also tell us that the mouthfeel is ”thick.”

Now that sounds amazing.

And yes, that’s exactly what Guatemala Bella Elizabeth is like, too. I brewed it in my Moka pot and tried the AeroPress as well. Both gave me excellent results. The mouthfeel was slightly ”thick” and syrupy. Yummy. The sweet flavors of caramel and dried (or stewed?) fruits were quite prominent. But then there was also a cigar-like quality which was both sour and bitter. It balanced out the flavor profile nicely. When I say ”bitter,” I don’t mean that the blend tasted harsh. Oh no, not at all. The whole experience was very smooth. These three aspects—the caramel, the fruits, and the cigar—were present in equal proportion, and they worked extremely well together.

Let me put it like this: If Guatemala Bella Elizabeth was the only coffee I could have for the rest of my life, I would be a happy man indeed. I will have to head to the Kahwe website and get the lighter roasted versions as well.

If you haven’t already, you should check out Kahwe. Mr. Marttala really knows his craft. Thanks again!

Revisited: Arvid Nordquist Reko—I still like it a lot!

Recently, someone asked me: ”If you had to buy one pack of coffee at the supermarket, what would you get?” I immediately replied: ”Arvid Nordquist Reko.”

This is a blend that has gained massive popularity among Finnish coffee drinkers. I have also enjoyed it many, many times over the years.

As I thought about it, I suddenly realized: While I had gone through several packs of the pre-ground version of this blend, I had never bought it in beans. I just had to go to the supermarket and get it.

So, without further ado:

Revisited: Reko from the big Swedish coffee company Arvid Nordquist.

As the company tells us, Reko is a ”Dark, powerful & spicy” blend (my translation), made from ”100% quality Arabica beans.” On the bag, they also provide the following information: ”A clean, nutty aroma. A full-bodied flavour with a wide acidity. A spicy aftertaste with a hint of liquorice.” They also say:

  • Roasting: Dark (8/10)
  • Acidity: Wide (7/10)
  • Spiciness: Licorice (6/10)
  • Body: Rich (8/10)
  • Fruitiness: Black currant (6/10)
  • Nut chocolate: Dark chocolat (sic) (6/10)

All of this is pretty accurate, I would say.

Flavorwise, Reko is not the easiest blend to describe. On the one hand, it’s quite simple and ”one note.” On the other hand, though, it’s pretty complex. There’s a lot going on. I can detect the following flavors:

  • dark chocolate
  • vanilla
  • nuttiness
  • (baking?) spices
  • rootiness
  • licorice
  • creosote
  • leather
  • smokiness

On the whole, Reko is not particularly sweet. There are no dried fruit flavors (figs or raisins) to speak of. (If that’s what you are looking for, check out Pascucci Guatemala!) But Reko is not particularly dry, either. It never feels as if something is missing. It’s a very solid and full flavored blend.

One of the great things about Reko is that it’s really predictable, in a good way. It does exactly what you expect. Even different brewing methods do not alter the flavor profile significantly. They do alter the strength, obviously, but even then you can always tell that it’s your trusty old Reko. And by the way—surprisingly, perhaps—, it really doesn’t matter whether you get it in beans so that you can change the grind size, or just go with the pre-ground version. It doesn’t make a big difference, if you ask me.

If you really want to find out what this blend is about, brew it in a moka pot. Beware, you will feel it. I just love it that way. I have to say, though, that since Reko is pretty bold and big, after your third cup you might want to have something lighter for a change. But then you can try it in the regular coffee maker. It just works every time. Also, it’s great with the AeroPress. Very enjoyable.

Granted, Reko is not gourmet coffee, but then that’s not what it was created for. In my opinion, it is one of the very best grocery store coffees out there. I just won’t let you down. No wonder everyone likes it so much.

Hannover 96 Kaffee ”Melange Alte Liebe”—a great morning blend!

Our dear friends came back from Hannover, Germany, and brought me this: Hannover 96 Kaffee ”Melange Alte Liebe” by Hannoversche Kaffeemanufaktur.

This is a special coffee blended for Hannover 96, the 2. Bundesliga soccer club.

On the Hannoversche Kaffeemanufaktur website it says that the blend is made from the best highland Arabicas on the planet. The company tells us it is velvety, highly aromatic and has a smooth, soft fullness. I would add that it’s roasted medium light (around 2,5/5).

I knew this blend was created mainly for the French press, pour over, AeroPress or coffee machine user in mind. However, I decided to try it (you knew it) in my Bialetti Moka.

This is just great. Initially, Hannover 96 Kaffee seems pretty ordinary, but that’s exactly why it is so good. It’s medium full in body. It’s not very sweet. Rather, it’s quite bitter (not unlike Gran Dia by Arvid Nordqvist) and acidic. And yet it’s not harsh at all, but—just as they say—smooth and soft. There’s some tobacco in the taste as well. Every now and then I also get a tiny hint of juiciness of some kind. In my opinion, this is a fantastic pick-me-up in the morning. A true no-nonsense blend, it would work perfectly with your bacon and eggs. I like it a lot.

By the way, this blend has one of the sweetest room notes I’ve known: very caramelly, and slightly tobaccoey. It brings back a fond memory from my childhood: Me and my best friend T, running around in his garden. T’s father, pruning his berry bushes, clenching his French zulu pipe, and smiling at us. The sweet, toffee-like aroma of Clan pipe tobacco. Just awesome.

Oh boy, Hannover 96 Kaffee is great. Get it if you can!

Drop Coffee Roasters Samaichacha—fresh fruits and milk chocolate

Our friends moved back from Stockholm, Sweden, and brought us this: Samaichacha from Drop Coffee Roasters. Thank you so much!

Samaichacha is all about washed Caturra from Bolivia. On the label, the roastery provides the following information: ”A medium bodied cup, notes of crunchy pink apple and milk chocolate, with a floral hint. A lasting aftertaste and mouthfeel reminding of mature red wine.” The roast is medium-light at around 2/5.

As I ground the beans, I got a mouthwatering aroma of milk chocolate and fresh fruits, which made me think of some of the fantastic products from Turun Kahvipaahtimo.

I tried brewing the coffee in both my AeroPress (inverted, steel filter) and moka pot. Either way, I got a beautiful combination of juicy fruitiness (not as in the chewing gum, but in real fresh cut fruits) and milk chocolate. The fruitiness was always there, but the chocolate thing balanced it out nicely, and brought some nice higher midrange body to the flavor. Honestly, I didn’t detect any actual wine-like flavor, but the long finish did remind me of the way a good Merlot feels in the mouth.

Samaichacha is definitely a high quality product, no doubt about it. I really enjoyed it, especially in the morning. I guess I’ll have to crash at my brother’s place in Stockholm, and get some more!

Joe Coffee Company ”The Daily”

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Here’s a coffee blend I got from the States: ”The Daily, House Coffee” from Joe Coffee Company, New York.

This is a blend of washed Caturra, Bourbon and Pacamara from Guatemala and Columbia. The label promises ”Chocolate, Caramel, Medium Body.” The roast is on the lighter side, somewhere around 2,5 on the scale of one to five.

As you open the bag and grind the beans, you get the familiar aroma of marzipan and chocolate that reminds you of many light roasted Finnish grocery store coffees (e.g. Paulig blends).

Figuring out the flavor profile was a bit of a challenge for me.

The moka pot brought out a nice, fruity acidity, a ”high,” citrusy note. There was also some midrange chocolateyness, but not much—the midrange was not very strong in this blend, which made it seem slightly hollower than some similar blends. On the very bottom of the flavor spectrum there was a small amount of dark chocolate. This added a hint of nice bitterness to the overall taste.

Brewing this with my AeroPress (inverted, steel filter) sometimes brought out more fruity flavors. I say ”sometimes,” because even if I tried to follow the same exact method of brewing, the fruityness wasn’t always as apparent. When it was there, it was not citrusy, but sweeter and ”softer.” In other cups, however, the fruityness was replaced by a certain bitterness. This was not the same bitterness of dark chocolate that I detected earlier. Rather, it was a nutty bitterness, which reminded me of another ”daily” blend, Grand Dia from Arvid Nordqvist.

By the way, ”The Daily” had a nice room note. The other day I was enjoying it while working. For some reason I had to leave my study for a moment, and left my cup on my desk. When I got back, the room was filled with a citrusy, slightly chocolatey scent. Quite pleasant.

Summa summarum—In my opinion, there were three main aspects to the flavor profile: acidity, fruityness and nutty bitterness. For some reason, the proportions seemed to change quite a bit. The acidity was always there, but sometimes the overall flavor felt fruitier, sometimes more bitter. Whether this was due to small changes in the water temperature, I couldn’t tell. Be that as it may, the blend seemed slightly inconsistent and unpredictable. On top of the three main aspects mentioned above, there was some chocolate as well, but not much. I wasn’t able to detect the caramel at all.

Perhaps the overall flavor profile was not the most unique or mind-blowing. But just as its name would suggest, ”The Daily” seemed to work well enough as an all day every day blend. I found it to be a good choice for my morning cup. I might not book a flight to the States just to get it, but I’d be happy to enjoy it if I got it again.

Kahiwa Galeh—light roasted excellence

I’ve been traveling a lot this week. Every time I’ve come back home, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a cup or two of this: Galeh from Kahiwa Coffee Roasters. Oh, what a treat.

Galeh is all about natural Heirloom from the Limu Kossa farm in Ethiopia. The roast is light at 2/5. As for tasting notes, the company provides the following description: rowanberry, rosehip and nougat.

I couldn’t agree more. As I’ve said before, I generally don’t eat berries, let alone rowanberries or rosehip. But I remember trying to taste those as a kid. If I remember correctly, this is exactly what rowanberry and rosehip tasted like. Be that as it may, I can say this: Galeh has two different aspects to it. On the one hand, there is this ”soft,” slightly nutty and sweet nougat flavor (yes, it’s definitely nougat, not milk chocolate). On the other hand, there is the acidic flavor of some kind of red berries. These two aspects work together perfectly. The finish is medium long and nougaty. Absolutely delicious.

As far as the strength and body are concerned, Galeh is on the lighter side. At the same time, though, there is nothing weak about it. It is light enough to be a good breakfast coffee (macchinetta or even AeroPress), but full-bodied enough to satisfy the hard core espresso man after a big meal (macchinetta/espresso).

That’s it, really. Galeh is probably not the most complex or multifaceted coffee I’ve had, but it certainly is an excellent product that I think every light roast enthusiast should try. I enjoyed every sip of it. Highly recommended!

Lehmus Roastery Lauritsala—an amazing mélange of flavors

During the past week, I’ve been having some really amazing coffee. After I finished my bag of Sammonlahti from Lehmus Roastery, I opened this: Lauritsala from the same company.

Lauritsala is a blend of Monsooned Malabar, S-795/Kent Arabica natural from India, and wet hulled Tim-Tim/Caturra Arabica from Sumatra, Indonesia. The roast level is 4/5, and is called ”French Roast.” Lehmus describes this as a pretty full-flavored blend at 4,5/5.

Let’s get this straight: I liked it very much.

At first, however, this blend really made me think. The bag aroma was pleasant, and yet it took me several days to put my finger on what it was reminding me of.

On the label it was suggested that Lauritsala would be especially suitable for filter and French press. So I tried it in my new drip coffee maker. The result was perfectly OK: a cup of high quality, dark roasted Arabica coffee. However, I still couldn’t quite figure out what this blend was about. After that I brewed it in my AeroPress (one of the inverted methods), with the same result. (Lately, I have not been a big fan of French press coffee, so I decided to leave that contraption on the shelf.)

After a little hesitation, I decided to put the blend into my trusty Bialetti moka pot, with a finer grind size. It was like a light bulb went on. Suddenly all the different aromas and flavors appeared.

Just. Amazing.

Picture yourself standing in the beginning of a beautiful forest path in mid-September. After the rain, you can smell wood, roots, turning leaves, some delicious mushrooms. Next, try to imagine mixing all that with a generous helping of molasses.

Quite a mélange of aromas and flavors.

In this sense, Lauritsala was not unlike Sammonlahti: there were several savory elements to it, and then also the sweeter, molasses-like aspect. In this blend, though, the rootiness was more prominent than the molasses. The mouthfeel was very similar in both blends: creamy and smooth, with no harshness at all.

What more can I say? Just like its darker sibling, Lauritsala is an extremely high quality blend, only more complex.

Get it from Lehmus Roastery. You owe it to yourself.

Arvid Nordquist Gran Dia—the breakfast blend

Lately, many of my international readers have been interested in what I have to say about cheaper coffees that are widely available in supermarkets. OK then, I’ll give you more grocery store coffee reviews!

Actually, just last week I had to find a basic coffee blend for our guests who prefer the familiar Scandinavian flavor profile to my Italian coffees. I decided to get this: Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist, the big Swedish coffee company.

According to Nordquist, Gran Dia is 100% Arabica from Brazil, East Africa, Central America and Columbia. They also provide the following information (my translation):

Roast: medium dark 6/10

Acidity: citrusy 6/10

Spiciness: caramelly 4/10

Body: round 7/10

Fruitiness: rosehip 4/10

Nuttiness/chocolate: hazel nuts 6/10

I would say the description is pretty accurate. Gran Dia is acidic enough to satisfy the Finnish coffee drinker, but well-rounded and smooth enough to make it stand out from the Finnish competition. The body is medium full.

In my opinion, the main thing about this blend is the nuttiness. It is a rather bitter and dry nuttiness, however, and not the kind of sweet and round nuttiness you get in some other blends. There is a very small hint of caramel, but not enough to make the overall flavor particularly sweet. When I say the blend tastes bitter and dry, I don’t mean that it’s acrid or harsh in any way. I actually found the bitterness to be quite pleasant.

Honestly, I couldn’t detect the rosehip flavor at all, but there was a small amount of some kind of fruitiness in the background to balance out the dryness.

Obviously, this is not a gourmet coffee blend. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but multifaceted enough to make it interesting. I think Nordquist is right in suggesting that it would be a good blend to have first thing in the morning, before your palate wakes up.

I don’t think Grand Dia will make it into my rotation, but it certainly is a good morning blend. In my opinion, it’s one of the better Scandinavian coffees you can find in your local supermarket.

Kahiwa Finca Bella Elizabeth—”Medium” is the word

A couple of days ago, I visited Kahvila Kariranta, the beautiful and famous cafe in the Lahti harbor. As I was waiting for the great espresso they made me from Kahiwa Coffee Roasters beans, I noticed this on the shelf: Finca Bella Elizabeth, another coffee from Kahiwa. I was told the company makes this exclusively for Kahvila Kariranta. Of course I had to get a bag and try it out.

Finca Bella Elizabeth is straight washed Catuai from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. The roast level is 3/5. The company tells us it tastes like milk chocolate and apricots. The beans are pre-ground for filter use.

Since I’m not a pour-over guy, I decided to try it with my AeroPress, one of the inverted methods. It seemed to work just fine.

To be honest, I was struggling a little to figure out what Finca Bella Elizabeth was all about. It seemed so… middle of the road. But then it dawned on me: that’s exactly what this coffee is about.

This is not to say that it is a poor product. Quite the contrary. It certainly is an excellent coffee. The quality is very good. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to have the same character that some other Kahiwa products have, you know, a quality that makes it stand out from the others. It is very ”medium” on all levels.

Having said that, there are many things going on, three, to be exact:

  • milk chocolate
  • nuttiness
  • fruityness (fresh yellow fruits?)

All of these flavors are there in equal proportion. None of them overpowers the others. And this is where it gets hard to explain: In my opinion, these three flavors do not really meld together to form a unified whole, but they are not separated far from each other, either. They just kind of are there, if that makes sense. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps it’s just that I would prefer one or the other: a simple, monochromatic flavor profile, or a complex one. For example, if I wanted to have something similar, a coffee that was fruity and chocolatey at the same time, I would probably opt for Kenya Mlima from Turun Kahvipaahtimo. In that particular coffee, the two different aspects are separated further apart, and thus feel more pronounced. In Finca Bella Elizabeth, however, all the different flavors seemed to be quite close to each other, and thus a little subdued, in a way.

The mouthfeel was nice and juicy, though, and yet there was enough nuttiness to make it feel more ”medium” than ”high.”

I think Finca Bella Elizabeth would be a good choice for those moments when you want to have a good cup of coffee, but do not have the time to think about all the different flavors in it. If that’s what you want in a coffee, get Finca Bella Elizabeth from Kahvila Kariranta!