Arvid Nordquist Molto—big & bold!

If you like your coffee dark, big, bold, intense, pungent and full-bodied, ”Molto” from Arvid Nordquist would be a good choice.

Nordquist markets ”Molto” as an espresso in the Italian style. It is made of 100% organic Arabicas from South and Central America, Indonesia and Eastern Africa. The company describes the blend as ”balanced and gentle with notes of cacao.” They also say that it has a ”sweet aroma of almonds that develops into an intense dark flavour with discreet hints of licorice root.” On the bag, you can also find the usual ”Nordquist” categories:

  • Roasting: Espresso (10/10)
  • Acidity: Discrete (4,5/10)
  • Spiciness: Sweet (5/10)
  • Body: Rich (6,5/10)
  • Fruitiness: Berry Like (5,5/10)
  • Nut Chocolate: Roasted Almonds (5,5/10)

OK, what did I think of it?

Was it balanced? In my opinion, yes. Gentle? In a way, yes. There was no harshness whatsoever. Rich? Absolutely. Sweet? Maybe a little. At least it was not as earthy as some ”real” (read: Italian) espresso blends. That would be understanable: there is no Robusta in this. What about the licorice root or the ”Berry Like” quality? At least I didn’t detect them. Also, for me the ”Roasted Almonds” thing was almost nonexistent.

I kept saying to myself: ”Dark, bitter chocolate. That’s all I can think of.”

All things considered, I don’t think ”Molto” is very similar to most Italian espressos—there is no Robusta in it, and it is roasted a lot darker. Actually, in my opinion, the darkness of the roast covers up many of the nuances that the company talks about. This makes ”Molto” a pretty staightforward and ”one note” type of blend. But that’s fine. If that’s what you want in your cup, try it! You might like it!

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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.

Paulig Origins Blend Guatemala—very nice!

OK, here’s the last blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Guatemala.

As all of my readers must know by now, all the blends in this series are made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my recent review.

Obviously, Guatemala is made of Guatemalan coffee, but also—as the Paulig website tells us—”aromatic Colombian beans.” That’s all we get to know about the ingredients. The company calls the blend ”delicately fruity” and ”softly milk chocolatey.” Again, that sounds like something I would really enjoy!

And lo, that is exactly what you get. The body is kind of ”medium,” but also kind of juicy. The flavor profile is all about fresh cut ”yellow” fruits, mixed with semi sweet milk chocolate. Very pleasant, actually.

To me, Guatemala is a lot better than some of the other blends in the Origins Blend series. My only caveat is that the flavors are a little muted. Now, all of the flavors promised in the bag description are there, but the overall feel could be bolder, in my opinion. And I don’t mean ”bolder” in the way that ”dark roasted coffee” can be bold. I mean that I really like the flavors, and that’s why I would like to get more of them out of this. Having said that, with Guatemala this is not as big of a problem as in some of the other Origins Blends.

So, if you like a medium roasted, fruity and chocolatey coffee that is readily available (at least in Finland, that is), you might want to check this out!

Paulig Origins Blend Tanzania—Seriously?

This is the third blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Tanzania.

Like all the other blends in the series, Tanzania is made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my recent review.

It goes without saying that Tanzania is made of Tanzanian beans. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. In the bag description they call this coffee fresh, nuanced and berry-like. The Paulig website elaborates: there is plenty of flavor and aromas of red berries. OK, that sounds like something I would really like!

Uh oh.

The bag aroma was… well, it smelled like coffee. That all I could say about it, really.

If I was struggling to come up with a proper review of Paulig Colombia, writing this one was even harder. Even after several cups, I just couldn’t taste the things they promised. To me, this blend was not fresh or nuanced, but rather dull. Also, in my opinion, there was no berry flavor to it. Zero. It’s not like it tasted bad, really, but it wasn’t very good, either. Just… grocery store coffee—which this is, obviously.

Mind you, I don’t want to be hard on Paulig. I’d LOVE to support our local businesses. But I just don’t understand how even the biggest coffee company in a small country like Finland can afford to make blends like this, while the Swedish competition is cranking out far better products and selling them for similar prices. An historical blender like Paulig should know better. In my opinion.

Paulig Origins Blend Colombia—nothing to write home about

Here’s the second blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Colombia.

Like all the other Origins Blend offerings, Colombia is made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my last review.

As you would expect, Colombia is made of Colombian Arabicas. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. As far as the flavor is concerned, they call it ”balanced and nutty.”

The bag aroma was quite pleasant. When I opened the bag, I immediately got the familiar sweet nuttiness of Colombian coffee.

When I first tasted Colombia, I thought it would be a tough blend to review. I really had to strain myself to tease out the flavors. After several cups, I had to conclude that there was not a lot of flavor to find. Yes, there was some nuttiness. You could tell that it was Colombian coffee. But that was about it. Yes, it was balanced, too, at least in the sense that nothing really stood out. Was it bad? No, no. It’s just that, in my opinion, there was nothing to write home about, either.

If you want to get good Colombian coffee, get yourself some Pascucci Colombia. Now that is a great, flavorful and medium bodied blend. In Finland, you can get it from your local Ciao! Caffé shop.

Paulig Origins Blend Indonesia—a decent blend from the supermarket

I went to the local supermarket and found these: The Origins Blend series from Paulig, sold in these little 75 g (2.64 oz) ”Trial size” bags.

All of the blends in the Origins series are 100% Arabicas. Each one is named after the country of origin of the primary ingredient: Indonesia, Colombia, Tanzania and Guatemala. Also, each blend is roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

That being the case, I decided to let my Moka pot rest for a while (sob), and use my French press instead. I also decided to brew all of these blends following the same method. It’s very simple:

  • boil some water
  • add 14 g (0.49 oz) of ground coffee in the preheated FP glass carafe
  • after the water has cooled down for one minute, pour 200 g (7.05 oz) of it on top of the grounds
  • place the plunger on top, but don’t press just yet
  • let stand for 3 min 45 sec
  • remove the plunger
  • take a spoon and remove excess coffee grounds from the surface
  • insert the plunger and press
  • pour the coffee in a cup and enjoy

I tried Indonesia first. Obviously, it’s made of Indonesian beans, but has some South American in it too. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. They call it ”intense & spicy,” with flavors of wild berries, rich fruityness and hints of spices.

In my opinion, the overall flavor was on the darker side. The berries were definitely there. I detected some spice as well. On the other hand—just as promised—there was also a fruity aspect to it. While all of these aspects were apparent in the flavor profile, none of them was particularly pronounced. Take the berriness, for instance: With some other coffees you can say something like ”This tastes like raspberries.” But with Indonesia it was actually quite hard to say what the ”berries” were like. Similarly, the fruitiness did remind me of fresh cut fruits, but whether they tasted like stonefruits or something else, it was hard to tell. It’s like all the flavors were there, but the whole thing tasted kind of muted. Only the spiciness was a bit easier to understand. It didn’t taste peppery per se, but closer to that than, say, cinnamon or other baking spices.

The blend was pretty low in acidity, which was nice. The body was medium at most.

My final verdict? Paulig Indonesia may not be a gourmet coffee blend, but it is better than many other Finnish grocery store coffees. However, if I had to get a solid medium dark Arabica from the supermarket, I would certainly opt for a Swedish blend, say Reko from Arvid Nordquist, or Jubileum or Kharisma from Löfbergs.

Paulig Espresso Originale—an ”Italian” espresso made in Finland

Here’s another one from the supermarket: Espresso Originale by Paulig, the Finnish coffee giant.

The bag description reads as follows: ”Paulig Espresso Originale is our most traditional espresso blend, inspired by Rome. Carefully crafted from top Brazilian and Central American Arabica beans and spiced up with a pinch of Asian Robusta. This classic espresso offers a rich but rounded flavor and a long-lasting finish.”

There is also the following information on the bag:

”Body: 5/5

Acidity: 3/5

Flavor: 4/5

Roast level: 4/5″

The coffee was pre-ground for moka or espresso use.

First off, the bouquet: I definitely got a lot of dark and bitter chocolate—very dark, actually. But then there was that same peculiar, piercing smell that Paulig’s Parisien had. Sometimes this smell seemed less pleasant to me, but at other times it felt almost floral. I think I even got a tiny hint of vanilla here and there. OK, that’s what Robusta seems to smell like in Paulig blends.

The flavor was quite monochromatic or ”one-note”. From the first sip I pretty much knew what I was going to get. Mind you, this is not a bad thing by any means. Sometimes simplicity is exactly what you want. First and foremost, Espresso Originale tasted very dark and strong. There was some of that dark and bitter chocolate in the taste as well. In the finish I could detect a faint hint of vanilla, too.

So tastewise, Espresso Originale was not unlike some Arabica-forward Italian espressos. There was one difference, though: Considering the sheer strength—or the oomph, if you will—the blend was surprisingly ”medium” in body. I couldn’t quite agree with the bag description that promised a 5/5 body and 4/5 flavor. In my opinion, the body was not more than 3/5, while the flavor was closer to 5/5. If you ask me, I’d rather have an espresso with less strength or ”edge,” and a fuller body, something like Guatemala Mono Origine from Pascucci. But I guess this is just a matter of personal preference. Someone else might enjoy the flavor/body profile that Paulig offers in this blend. If you’re that person, Espresso Originale might be worth checking out.

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.

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.