Bellarom Colombia—mediocre at most

Here’s Bellarom Colombia, a 100% Arabica coffee from Lidl, the German supermarket chain.

On the bag, the company describes the product thus:

Cultivated exclusively at a high altitude in rich volcanic soils, these beans are harvested at their optimum ripeness. Medium roasted, with a rich, elegant aroma and a full-bodied finish.

They also tell us that the ”strength”—whatever that means—is 5 on the scale of 10.

Briefly, there is little positive I can say about this product.

Yes, the aroma of the beans—whole and ground—was quite OK. As you would expect from Colombian coffee, there were notes of nuts and chocolate.

In my humble opinion, however, Colombia did not taste good. Indeed, it was pretty full-bodied and flavorful. Curiously, though, I was unable to detect the actual flavors. Yes, the nuttiness and the chocolate might have been there in the background. Mostly, however, I got a harsh, mediocre Arabica flavor.

I will not buy this coffee again.

I’m not sure I can finish the bag.

If you want to enjoy good Colombian coffee, do not waste your money into this product. Get some Pascucci Colombia instead!

Bellarom Ethiopian Sidamo—Better than the others, but still…

QUESTION: What are the most read coffee reviews on this website?
ANSWER: The reviews on Bellarom and Italiamo coffees from Lidl, the German supermarket chain.

OK, I’ll give you some more! This review is on Bellarom Ethiopian Sidamo. On the bag it says:

This coffee comes mainly from the southern province of Sidamo in Ethiopia – from the origin of coffee. This coffee from high-altitudes convinces with its intensive flavour, low acidity and spicy, fruity and floral aroma.

They also describe the aroma and flavor thus: ”Fruity, Spicy Aroma with a Flowery Flavour”. Furthermore, the ”strength”—whatever that means (flavor? caffeine? darkness of roast?)—is said to be 6 on the scale of 10.

For an inexpensive coffee like this (9,98 € / kg), the bag note was surprisingly good. It was exactly what the company promised: fruity, spicy, and floral.

As I brewed the coffee in my Bialetti Moka pot, I noticed that in addition to the features mentioned above, the bouquet was dominated by a sweet, caramelly aroma. (Can an aroma be sweet? Well, you probably see what I mean.)

The flavor profile, however, was a little disappointing. The main notes were caramel, baking spices, and baking cocoa. There might have been a tiny hint of fruitiness as well, but it was really hard to detect. The floral notes were absent altogether. That said, the finish was nice. It reminded me of the rich nuttiness of American burley pipe tobacco. The mouthfeel was semi-creamy and pleasant as well.

Like other Bellarom blends, Ethiopian Sidamo left me with mixed feelings. Yes, it was relatively flavorful. At the same time, the flavors were kind of nondescript, resulting in a flavor profile that was a little… meh. I’m not saying it was bad, but in my opinion, it wasn’t particularly interesting, either. It really didn’t highlight the fruity and floral qualities of Sidamo beans. Maybe that’s the price you’ll have to pay for inexpensive coffee.

I will say one thing, though: Ethiopian Sidamo was better than the other Bellarom blends I’ve had in the past. But if your local Lidl happens to be carrying their Italiamo coffees (made in Italy!), I would opt for those instead. Their quality is considerably higher.

Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—Finnish grocery store coffee at its best

A while ago, I was asked to write reviews of two blends by Paulig, Presidentti kahvi and Presidentti Gold Label. As you can tell from my first review, I was positively surprised by the regular Presidentti. This time, I’ll say a couple of words about the Gold Label version.

First, the packaging is pretty classy. One gets the impression that Gold Label is the high-end version of the traditional Presidentti. Whether or not this is a correct interpretation, the coffee itself is pretty good.

On the package, it says that this is an ”aromatic coffee blend, finalized with best beans of the season [sic] from East Africa. Fruity flavoured Ethiopian beans together with lighter roast bring out the nuanced taste of this 100 % Arabica coffee in its full glory.” The company has also added the familiar graph, which can be interpreted as follows:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Flavor: 4/5

The bag note was rich and pleasant: dried fruits, medium dark milk chocolate, and some nuttiness. The aroma reminded me of the regular Presidentti, but it was a little darker. That said, it didn’t smell ”darker” in the way that a darker roast would. Granted, Gold Label is roasted slightly darker (2/5 on the Paulig scale) than the original Presidentti (1/5). Here, however, the ”darkness” made me think of dried fruits as opposed to fresh ones.

I decided to brew it in my AeroPress, using the inverted method I know best.

The flavor profile was predictable but pleasant. It was a harmonious mélange of both fresh and dried fruits, medium dark milk chocolate, and nuttiness. It was full flavored, but medium-mild in strength. It had a rich, natural sweetness to it, and yet it was robust enough to work in any situation. Moreover, there was a substantial amount of acidity. Even so, it did not feel sharp or harsh in the mouth. Instead, the acidity was quite soft and pleasant.

Presidentti Gold Label might be one of the best Finnish coffees I’ve purchased in a supermarket. In my opinion, it encapsulates everything that most Finns seem to like about their coffee, and makes it even better. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it became one of my favorite blends, it certainly was enjoyable. If you want to experience Finnish grocery store coffee at its best, get some Presidentti Gold Label from Paulig!

Jacobs Krönung—the middle-of-the-road grocery store blend

The other day, I had to get some coffee to brew in my hotel room. I only had my AeroPress with me, so it had to be a pre-ground blend. Jacobs products seemed to be available in every supermarket. Since I’d never had their coffees (!), I decided to get a pack of Krönung.

On the bag, there was virtually no information on the ingredients.

At first, I didn’t think much of this blend. It was… just coffee. After a couple of cups, however, I started to detect different nuances. The flavor profile was dominated by a nice nuttiness and accompanied by a pleasant bitterness. There was some acidity as well, but not much. Overall, the coffee was pretty well-rounded. It was on the dry side, but it had just enough natural sweetness to make it work in any situation.

Just as I expected, Jacobs Krönung was little more than a middle-of-the-road grocery store blend. But if you only need a pick-me-up in the morning, it does the trick reasonably well. I probably will not buy it again, but I’m happy I tried it!

Paulig Classic—a nice morning cup

How to make better coffee when traveling? My suggestion: Try to avoid the coffee makers you find in hotel rooms. Instead, throw your AeroPress in the bag, and you’re good to go!

On my trips, I like to buy whatever coffee is available in supermarkets. It’s kind of fun to see what the locals drink.

Last week, I spent some time in the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia. At one supermarket, the shelves were filled with regular Swedish and Finnish blends—you know, brands like Löfbergs and Paulig. Especially, Paulig Classic seemed to be everywhere in Latvia. I could be wrong, but I’m assuming this blend is not available in Finland (?), the home country of Paulig. At least I had never even seen it before. So, I immediately wanted to try it!

The bag description was quite short:

Paulig Classic is a sophisticated coffee blend, roasted from the finest Latin American coffee qualities. The taste is long and harmonious and you can find a round and nutty aroma from it.

This seems like a pretty accurate description!

While there was no further information on the ingredients (other than ”100% Arabica”), Classic felt like a blend of (mostly?) Colombian coffees. It was very nutty and slightly bitter. I don’t mean that it was harsh in any way. Quite the contrary, the acidity was low, and the flavor profile was well-balanced. In my opinion, the combination of nuttiness and bitterness made Classic a good choice for the morning cup. In this sense, it reminded me of another Scandinavian grocery store blend that I’ve liked in the past, Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist.

I liked Classic more than many other Paulig products. Obviously, it is not a super high quality blend, but perfectly enjoyable nonetheless!

Italiamo Espresso Magnifico—an honest Italian espresso

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Like Caffè Tradizionale 100% Arabica, which I reviewed (and enjoyed) last year, Espresso Magnifico is part of the Italiamo line of Italian products marketed by Lidl, the German grocery store chain.

On the bag it says ”Arabica & Robusta”, ”Produced in Italy”. Other than that, there is little information on the contents. But that’s fine. Let the product speak for itself.

As you open the bag, you can instantly tell that there is Robusta in it: the bag aroma is  sweet, but earthy and pungent at the same time. The roast seems to be medium dark, around 3/5.

The aroma of the ground beans is naturally sweet and very chocolatey. Many of the classic Robusta elements are there as well—earth, flowers, and vanilla. However, dark chocolate is definitely the main feature. You get the impression that this is going to be a very full-flavored blend.

How does it taste, then? Well, it is quite flavorful indeed. Surprisingly, though, the dry earthiness takes center stage, while the chocolatey sweetness takes the supporting role. Overall, the flavor is not as full-bodied as one might expect. But then, this is not a high-end espresso blend anyway—it costs one third of the price of my beloved Pascucci Golden Sack.

So, is Espresso Magnifico ”magnifico”? Well, not exactly, but it’s definitely not bad, either. In my opinion, it is a reasonably fine grocery store espresso blend, made the Italian way. Quality-wise, it doesn’t seem to be far from classic espressos by companies like Lavazza or Segafredo Zanetti. I actually liked it better than many Scandinavian made ”espresso” blends. For me, it worked well as a dessert coffee after a big and spicy meal.

To be sure, I would prefer a full-bodied Pascucci blend over this, something like Mono Origine GuatemalaCaffè Bio, or (you guessed it!) Golden Sack. But considering the low price, Espresso Magnifico is definitely worth checking out.

Paulig Juhla Mokka—The Finnish classic

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This is the coffee review that many of my readers have been waiting for.

This is also the review that will make others roll their eyes.

What is it about? Juhla mokka, blended and roasted by the Finnish coffee giant Paulig.

This is the blend that has been considered THE Finnish coffee for decades. Every Finn knows it. Many also think that it is the best coffee around. You can read about the history of the blend on the company website (in Finnish).

On the package, Paulig tells us that this coffee is (my translation) a ”fine and full-bodied” blend of 100% Arabicas from Central America, South America, and Africa. Nowadays, the blend is available in several different forms and roasts, but the classic version of Juhla mokka is roasted light (1/5), and comes in these 500 g ”bricks”, pre-ground for filter use. The company describes the flavor profile thus:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Aroma: 4/5

As I opened the bag, the coffee smelled like a basic grocery store Arabica. The aroma was somewhat fruity, and there might have been a hint of chocolateyness as well. Quite pleasant, actually.

While the blend was pre-ground with the filter machine user in mind, the grind size seemed to be suitable for AeroPress as well. That’s why I decided to brew it using the latter.

Regardless of the AeroPress recipe, the flavor was dominated by a ”high”, sharp acidity. It was not reminiscent of fruits, berries, or anything else I could think of. It just tasted acidic. Now, normally I’m OK with some acidity, especially if the body is full enough to balance out the flavor profile. Here, however, the midrange was pretty weak. There might have been some nutty and chocolatey notes here and there, but they seemed muted and hard to detect. Overall, the coffee felt kind of weak (diluted, even?) and sharp at the same time.

Many Juhla mokka fans have asked me whether I like this blend or not. Well, let me put it this way: I do not actually hate it. That said, it’s kind of hard for me to understand why so many Finns love this coffee so much. Of course, to each their own, right? Right. In my humble opinion, however, there are better options out there. If you want to get a good, light roasted coffee that’s readily available in the local supermarket, I would suggest you try Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist.

Segafredo Zanetti Espresso Casa—the Italian powerhouse

I love Italian coffee. I’ve always had a special affinity for Segafredo Zanetti products. In 2010, as I was just starting to get into coffee, their classic Intermezzo was the first espresso blend I truly fell in love with. Soon after that, I tried their Espresso Casa. I remember liking it a lot, but the huge caffeine kick was the one thing that really stuck in my mind.

Recently, I noticed Espresso Casa was available at my local supermarket. I wanted to find out whether I would still feel the same way about it. I was kind of suspecting that now, after all these years of drinking coffee, it would feel like any regular espresso blend.

Man, was I wrong.

First, it was delicious. Of course, Espresso Casa is not gourmet coffee. But it was really good. The Arabicas were nutty and slightly sweet. The Robustas were earthy and bitter, but not overly so. They were slighlty floral and vanilla-like, but not so much as in, say, Lavazza Crema e Gusto. The whole thing was reminiscent of Intermezzo, but it was not as earthy and dry. It was full flavored, but very creamy and smooth. All the different flavors were in perfect balance.

Man, it was almost as good as my beloved Pascucci Golden Sack.

Secondly, the caffeine. Oh boy, the caffeine. I’d like to think that I have a pretty high tolerance for caffeine. Even then, two moka pots of this after a big breakfast made my head spin like no other blend.

If you want some hair on your chest, this is the deal.

I really like Espresso Casa. In my opinion, it is one of the best Italian espresso blends you can find in your local supermarket. That said, I don’t think I could have it every day. It is just too strong in the caffeine department. But if you need a quick pick-me-up in the morning, or if you want to feel like Marlon Brando, this is the perfect choice.

Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—a good introduction to Greek coffee

I usually wake up pretty early in the morning. I love the quiet moments when everyone else is sleeping. I get to prepare my breakfast in complete silence. I get to read a good book and enjoy a cup of great coffee, maybe even two.

But waking up early can also be a challenge for the coffee enthusiast. I mean, especially on days off, when the other people in your house want to sleep late, you don’t want to wake them up by using the coffee grinder. That’s why I try to have some pre-ground coffee around at all times.

Actually, in these past months, many Saturday mornings have been saved by the finely ground Turkish coffee (”Sade Dibek Kahvesi” from Artukbey) I got from my Iraqui friend. This fine product has also made me want to learn more about Turkish and Greek coffee.

Recently, I was delighted to discover Gran Delicato, the stylish Greek café, deli and restaurant in Helsinki. After enjoying a delicious panini and a big cup of their fantastic coffee, I noticed that they also sell Greek coffee. Since I’m still learning about these things, I wanted to buy a good, basic Greek coffee blend. As I was looking at the options, I noticed that on the Loumidis Papagalos bag it said Ο παραδοσιακός ελληνικός καφές (o paradosiakos ellenikos kafes). Now, I do not speak modern Greek, but in my work I do read 1700–2400 year old texts written in ancient Greek dialects. So I guessed that the bag said ”the traditional Greek coffee”. Brilliant! Exactly what I was looking for.

Then I got home and started looking for my scissors. I was expecting to smell that peculiar, funky aroma that seems to be common to some Greek and Turkish coffees. You know, the one that some people associate with raw licorice, others with the musty, moldy smell of an old wooden house. However, as I finally got the bag open, I was greeted with the familiar aroma of good Arabica-based grocery store coffee. It even reminded me of some of the better Paulig blends. There was a tiny hint of the ”Greek” funk in there as well, but it definitely stayed in the background. Quite delightful!

The coffee itself was very easy to work with. While the ground product looked almost identical to the Artukbey powder I’ve been enjoying, it was a lot easier to mix with water than it’s Turkish sister blend. It produced a nice, uniform crema, too.

The taste was very much like the bag aroma. Good, basic Arabicas were the star of the show. There was also a hint of that traditional Greek ”thing” that is so hard to describe. However, it never got as strong as in, say, ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΙΑΚΟΣ / Traditional Blend from Coffee Island—another Greek blend I like very much. All in all, it felt like I was having a good, basic grocery store Arabica with a Greek twist. Well, that’s exactly what this blend is about. I found it to be a very good pick-me-up in the morning.

Obviously, Loumidis Papagalos is not a high-end gourmet blend. But what it does, it does really well. Also, it is ”normal” enough to be enjoyed by anyone, and yet ”Greek” enough to give you a good picture of what traditional Greek coffee tastes like.

I’m definitely going to get some more from Gran Delicato! Maybe, as a consequence, my kids will get to sleep longer as well.

Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲) Blend 3 Original—the quintessential Japanese coffee

I recently received this coffee as a gift from a Japanese friend who lives in Kyoto: ”Blend 3 Original” from Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲).

On the bag, the Kyoto based company states this (my translation): ”A mild/mellow aroma and a light taste.” ”A blend that makes the best use of the characteristics of coffee beans from three areas, Central America, South America and Southeastern Asia.” In addition to this, the company indicates that the beans come from Brazil, Indonesia and ”other [places]”. They also provide a nice graph, which can be interpreted as follows (1 = weak, 5 = strong):

  • aroma: 3/5
  • bitterness: 3/5
  • acidity: 3/5
  • richness/body: 2/5

The coffee comes pre-ground.

In my estimation, the roast was dark, around 3,5/5. The grind size seemed perfect for the AeroPress, so I decided to use that particular device for brewing.

Now, this is coffee with a capital C. Blend 3 Original is nutty, chocolatey, bold and dark. At the same time, there’s nothing too pronounced or ”in your face” to it. Rather, it is an extremely smooth, mellow and well-balanced blend, and yet it is full-bodied enough to satisfy the black coffee enthusiast. Granted, it did not have all the different nuances to make me go wow. Instead, it gently woke me up in the morning, and helped me concentrate on my writing during the day. It was one the most comforting blends I’ve ever tried.

You know, it’s a little like those Japanese cars that are sold here in Europe. Take your regular Toyota Corolla, for example: It might not be like the most expensive, high-end Audi or BMW, but it does exactly what it was made for, and it does it really well. I actually think that’s kind of cool. (I’m a die hard Toyota fan.) In a similar fashion, Blend 3 Original is not like the most spectacular gourmet coffee out there, but it does the thing it’s trying to do really well. For me, it just hit the spot every single time.

In my opinion, Blend 3 Original is the quintessential Japanese coffee—exactly what you would expect from a great Japanese company like Ogawa Coffee. It is the perfect example of what an all-around, middle of the road coffee blend should taste and feel like. I only wish the big European coffee companies we able to create something as good.

If you happen to find it, try it out!