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!

Lidl Perfetto—not bad, but not ”perfetto,” either

One of my friends suggested that I try this: Perfetto from Lidl, the German supermarket chain. OK, I did it! Here’s what I have to say.

Like most European grocery store coffees, Perfetto comes in these 500g/17.6oz ”bricks.” There is no real description on the package. Only the Danish translation of the ingredients tells us this is about ”robusta-bønner.” Whether there is something else in this, we don’t know. They say the strength—whatever that means—is 9/10.

When I opened the package I instantly got the familiar arom of robusta. Not bad! I was reminded of some Italian grocery store espressos, like Lavazza Crema e Gusto.

The bouquet was pleasant as well: Dark chocolate and vanilla. There was also some of that earthiness and sharpness that you associate with Italian style robusta.

I have to say the taste disappointed me a bit. Granted, all of the things I was expecting based on the smell were there. However, the whole experience was kind of hollow. Let’s put it like this: If the taste had a shape, it would be spherical. The edges would be medium thick, that is to say, full bodied and flavorful. But then, in the middle: nothing. In this sense, Perfetto was very similar to some other Lidl blends, such as Bellarom Java Sumatra.

So, is it ”perfetto”? No. Obviously not.

Is it bad? No, it’s quite OK for the (very low) price.

Would I buy it again? I don’t think so. But if I had to choose between this and the regular Finnish grocery store coffees that cost three times more, this would be my choice.

There’s one more thing, though. On the packaging there’s a mark that says ”UTZ Certified.” They explain: ”This coffee was grown by UTZ farmers who implement better farming practices, with respect for people and the planet.” OK, that’s all very good. However, I’d like to know this: How are you going to make coffee production sustainable and thus give ”respect for people and the planet” if the end product costs 1.43 euros per 500 g? That’s less than the tenth of what you pay for good Italian coffee! I hope they can do it!

The cheapest coffees—are they any good?

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It’s no secret. I love good coffee. The higher the quality, the better. At the same time, however, I have no time for coffee elitism—you know, the way some people frown at the idea of drinking the same stuff as the hoi polloi. I personally want to learn as much about coffee as I possibly can, whether you’re talking about top quality beans hand roasted by the local master, or the mass produced blends you can find in bulk on supermarket shelves.

So, I wanted to try this: get some of the cheapest coffee beans you can possibly find, and see what they are about. The most inexpensive ones I found were the following three products from Lidl, the German supermarket chain:

Bellarom Bio Organic 100% Arabica

Bellarom Crema

Italiamo Caffè Tradizionale 100% Arabica

All of these blends are really cheap. When I got them, the Italiamo was the most expensive at around 6 euros/kilogram, and the Crema went for 4 e/kg (!). Usually the prices seem to be a little bit higher, but even then you can get these blends for less than 10 e/kg. In 2019 Finland, that’s really cheap.

Also, all of these blends are straight Arabicas, roasted medium (around 3–4/10 in my estimation). There is no further description on any of the bags.

So what were these three blends like? Let’s look at them, one by one.

Bellarom Bio Organic 100% Arabica

As I ground this, I got a sharp and sweet, marzipan-like smell that made me think of many Paulig blends. After a minute or two, however, the sharp smell dissipated a bit, and I was left with a very basic Arabica aroma.

The bouquet was very similar. It was sweet, with a tiny hint of vanilla in the background. Pleasant enough, but nothing stunning. There were no obvious nuances to speak of, just your regular grocery store Arabica smell.

The blend tasted a lot drier than expected, somewhat bitter and acidic even. Nothing to write home about, really.

While I understand that taste is highly subjective, I don’t see why anyone would want to buy Bio Organic for anything other than the low price. In case you just want to ”get a cup of coffee” in the morning but don’t really care about what it tastes like, this could probably work for you. Is it bad? Not really. It’s just not very delicious, either. I don’t think I’ll buy it again.

Bellarom Crema

In the bag Crema smelled almost exactly like Bio Organic, with the Paulig-ish Arabica smell, only a little ”higher” or sharper. As I ground the beans, the basic aroma stayed the same, but I also got a faint hint of something that could be described as ”high” grassiness, with a citrusy feel. Sounds strange, perhaps, but it was quite pleasant, actually. A lot more interesting than Bio Organic.

In the cup, the aroma was sweet, with hints of vanilla and something almost floral here and there.

The mouthfeel was not particularly full, but rather kind of hollow, yet a little rough around the edges. After a couple of seconds, though, the taste came together nicely, and I got this familiar straight Arabica taste, with a nice vanilla-like sweetness.

While Crema is not a top quality coffee blend, I found it quite enjoyable for what it is. If this had been a blindfold test, I would never had imagined that this cost 4 e/kg. Would I buy it again? Maybe not. But if Crema was all I had, I could certainly live with it.

Italiamo Caffè Tradizionale 100% Arabica

This blend is made for Lidl in Italy. While the company doesn’t offer any further information about its origin, you can easily tell Caffè Tradizionale is different than the blends under the Bellarom brand name.

As you open the bag, you are greeted by the familiar aroma of an Italian espresso blend: dark, bitter chocolate, some almonds, even an amaretto-like aroma in the background. Very nice.

The bouquet feels pretty much the same. Only the dark chocolate has turned into milk chocolate by now.

The taste is much more uniform than in Crema, yet not super full by any means. Caffè Tradizionale is very much a medium blend, both in terms of body and strength. It’s not too sweet, but not too bitter either. You get a nice flavor of milk chocolate and almonds.

Caffè Tradizionale does exactly what you expect from it. It may not be top-notch artesan coffee, but a perfectly enjoyable Italian medium espresso, right up there with your Lavazzas of Segafredos. Only the price is cheaper.

The conclusion?

So, what do you make of all this? Here’s what I think: Even if you prefer really good coffee, hand blended and roasted by your local master, you should not underestimate the cheaper blends you can find in a supermarket. Granted, some of them are not very good, but others can be worth every cent.

Bellarom Java Sumatra

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Today's morning coffee comes courtesy of my friend @juices_juices : Bellarom Java Sumatra, from Lidl, the big German supermarket chain. This seems to belong to their line of high(er) end coffees. 100% Arabica, roasted so dark the bag aroma is almost sweet ("Strength No. 5"). They say it's "[r]ich and intense with a dark, chocolatey flavour." Brewed in the French press, you pretty much get what you would expect from a basic straight, dark roasted Arabica. It is dark OK, but not necessarily what the espresso man would call "rich and intense." Maybe a bit "hollow," if you will. But then, made in the Bialetti Moka, the chocolate starts to come through, which is nice. The intensity is obviously higher, too. In my opinion, though, the richness is not quite there. All in all, you might picture this as a budget version of Starbucks Verona, without the "Starbucks note." It is not gourmet coffee, nor is it trying to be, but a nice everyday blend that gets you started in the morning. Thanks man! #lidl #Bellarom #javasumatra #bialettimoka #coffeereviews

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Italiamo Caffè Tradizionale 100% Arabica