Seattle’s Best “Panorama”

I picked this coffee up on a whim while at a Border’s book store. Why? Attractive packaging, of course. Beautiful lettering, a calming and tranquil color of green, the picture of a sail boat with the inset of someone doing the “I’m king of the world!” stance on the bow.

Obviously this coffee must be something special.

I am happy to tell you that it is not bad at all. Rich medium bold flavor, with high smoky-wood notes and a very pleasant banana bread aftertaste, I’d have to say this is some of the best coffee I’ve had in over a month. The folks at Seattle’s best found some good Tanzanian beans and toasted them to a dark city roast perfection. It’s just right for an early morning coffee, especially if you’re in a happy relaxed mood, and don’t want the top of your head blown off by a harsh French roast caffeine bomb. This carries just enough of a buzz on its river of rich flavor, and the quality definitely justifies the marketing money they spent on the fancy packaging.

Cheers to you, Seattle’s Best. You did this one very right.

I hereby proclaim this to be a Groovy Brew.

Costa Rican Naranjo Caracol Peaberry

This is my last home roasted coffee for a while.
I think I may have saved the best for last.  If not the best, then tied with the best.  It doesn’t surprise me, because there’s something about Costa Rican beans that always sends a low and groovy pulse directly into the pleasure center of my brain.
I roasted this up to a deep, beautiful dark dark brown, what they call a City + roast, and have waited until it’s nearly gone to write about it.  That is because I’m starting to burn out on having to report on the coffee — I just want to enjoy it.
And my coffee loving friends, I have enjoyed this one immensely.  It has a medium bold flavor, well balanced in acidity — just enough to give it a little bite, but not enough to burn a hole in your colon — and features a sweet, wood-smoke flavor with berry and walnut highlights.
And with that, I’m out of green beans to roast, and also my roaster — that air popcorn popper I bought off of eBay — it’s starting to sound like it’s going implode and die.  So, I think I’ll be buying myself a proper roaster, and in the meantime I’ll drink and review pre-roasted beans.

Sweet Maria’s Kenya Kirinyaga-Thimu Peaberry

SweetMariasLogoI blazed these peaberries to a awesome Full City roast amid a glorious storm of flying chaff, floating and drifting off my second story balcony and all over my neighbor’s porch and parked cars.

It’s a bit of a mess.  But good coffee is worth it.

And this is good coffee, though I’m not as impressed with it as I have been with others I’ve gotten from Sweet Maria’s.

The good:  Nice and fresh (of course!) and featuring a natural rustic sweetness.  Rich and tasty.

The bad:  The winey-berry notes are awfully subtle, to the point where after the first blush of flavor this coffee comes off as bland.  No complexity and no character.  My guess is that this bean would best be used in blending, to tone down another coffee, rather than be used as a single-bean brew.

A good thing to remember if you’re into blending.  Which I’m not.  I just want to grind, brew, and drink it. 

Oh, and roast it occasionally.

Sweet Maria’s Brazil Coromandel-Fazenda Sao Joao

SweetMariasLogo"Coromandel-Fazenda Sao Joao?"

I dare you to say that three times, fast.

Yet another home roast, I cooked these up to what they call a "full city" or very dark brown, but not black.  Once again, my $7 eBay air popper turned coffee-roaster did a great job, producing yet another brew that is so good it’s blowing the bell curve for the rest of my non-home-roasted reviews.

Home roasting is the way to go, people.  Seriously.  Buying green beans is much cheaper, they keep for a long long time without you having to worry about them going stale.  It takes less than 15 minutes to roast enough to last you a week.  It tastes better than you can possibly imagine — assuming you’ve never had uber-fresh roasted coffee before.

If you just can’t be bothered with the zen task of home roasting, then I highly recommend you buy from a micro-roaster such as some of the ones I’ve featured here.

Sermon over.  I’m climbing down from the fresh-coffee-smelling podium.

I kind of blew the ending, didn’t I?  I already stated this coffee is awesome.  Well, let me also say that it has a strong, full body without being overwhelming, a very rich taste, with overtones of walnut and dark chocolate.  There’s a good, active zing without being overly acidic.  The aftertaste fades to a warm, comfy wood-smoke glow, leaving you with a sense of peace and well-being.

Or at least it does me, because I’ve got enough to last me a while and I’m so happy I do!  This, my friends, is a bona fide groovy brew.

Sweet Maria’s Colombia Choco


At first sip, I got why they call it "choco."  The taste carries a very strong chocolate current — sweeping, really.  It couldn’t taste more chocolate without actually adding chocolate to it.

And, no, this is not a "flavored" coffee.  It’s pure coffee beans, bought green, roasted by me on my apartment patio in a air popcorn popper yesterday afternoon.

This coffee is so freaking delicious it’s blowing my socks off.

There’s a raisin touch to it, too, a winey fruity note singing sweetly in tune with the chocolate-coffee combo.  This is serious Sunday afternoon jazz coffee.  This is happy wedding reception on the beach coffee.

Forget Jamaican Blue Mountain.  Forget all those Costa Rican coffees that I love.  This one has them beat.

This coffee is seriously rocking my world.

I roasted the beans to a very dark, shiny brown, but not black.  I’m not an experienced coffee roaster — this is maybe my fourth batch in my life — but I’m doing something really right, and the beans that I’m getting from Sweet Maria’s are unbelievably wonderful.

Conclusion:  This coffee is totally groovy.  To the extreme.

California Coffee Roaster’s Guatemala Antigua

I have yet to have a brew made from any of California Coffee Roaster‘s beans that I didn’t love, and this is no exception.
Sharp and bold, it rides high on the palate, dancing a tangy tango across your tongue. It has that Antigua smokiness that I love, with a touch of spiciness. It’s muy bueno.
Like other Guatemala Antiguas I’ve reviewed here, this is a perfect afternoon coffee. Bright, lively, and flavorful, it picks up your PM hours and carries you along until dinnertime.
But for those with tender tummies, be warned: this coffee features a challenging acidity that might set things ablaze, if you are prone to that sort of thing. Even I and my cast iron stomach are feeling it a bit, so I wouldn’t drink more than one. After this I’m switching to tea, and then later … beer.

Sweet Maria’s Cameroon Caplami Java

image This is going to be hard.  I drank my entire mug of coffee already.  Before I actually do the review I’m going to have to go make another.

You’ll be seeing a lot of Sweet Maria coffees reviewed here because I have a big selection of them, all green beans, and as it turns out my popcorn popper / coffee roaster does a wonderful job roasting them to exactly the darkness I like:  deep rich brown with a gleam of oil, but not black.

If you have never tried coffee that has been roasted within a few days of you drinking it, my friends … you have never had coffee.

I’m serious.  I am spoiled.  And you know, I can see a future where you can buy green beans anywhere, and everyone has a home roaster.  It makes sense, because green beans are less expensive, keep a long time without going stale, are easier than you’d think to roast, and taste 5000% better than something that’s been sitting on a store’s shelf for months or years.

Okay.  End of sermon, beginning of review.  I have a freshly brewed mug of this Cameroon Caplami Java in my hand.  The beans were roasted yesterday afternoon.

There’s nothing outstanding or special about the smell.  It smells like fresh coffee, which is good.  But there is no hint to the surprise that awaits.

At first sip, this coffee is light and tangy, the taste crisp and crystalline.  Then unexpectedly the flavor blooms like the swelling music of an orchestra — strings, wind instruments, brass, drums, all exploding into an intense and dramatic aria that makes you tingle and your head swim from pure joy.  Then the flavor fades down in a comfortable warm hug, with nutty tones and a lingering tartness that feels cozy and relaxed.

I could drink this all day long.

If the Queen of England were visiting my house I’d proudly brew her a cup of it.

It’s that good.

Black Mountain Gold’s French Roast

image A good flavor, but alas, also stale.

Let’s ignore the staleness for a moment, though.  It’s pre-ground coffee.  Staleness is the rule, not an exception.

It’s smooth and mild for a French Roast.  Smooth, well-balanced acidity, with a dark velvety texture and a touch of chocolate undertones.

Putting it in perspective, this is a really good coffee for it being pre-ground.

If this is what Black Mountain Gold Coffee tastes like stale, I would love to try it when it’s actually fresh.  Sadly, in combing through their website, I can’t find anywhere that you can order the beans unground.

And, their big thing seems to be flavored coffee.


California Coffee Roaster’s Sumatra Mandehling

I am happy to say that I’ve successfully reset my palate. 
I have spent the last few weeks drinking office coffee (sparingly, only when I’m desperate), McDonald’s coffee, 7-Eleven coffee, and the occasional Starbucks.  At the office, though, for the most part I actually avoided coffee and drank various teas.
I keep thinking, Should I start up a GroovyBrew Tea site?  Hmm.  Maybe.  But that’s off the subject.  Anyway…
This morning I decided it’s time for some really good coffee, and I have been saving this because I knew it would be, and I was not disappointed.
California Coffee Roaster‘s Sumatra Mandehling is smooth and smoky rich without being overpowering.  I ground some up and made my single cup, and sat here and savored it for about 11 minutes before I finally started typing.  It has a full, deep flavor, with wonderful pecan and chocolate notes, and only a hint of acidity.
Did I mention that it’s smooth?
It’s very smooth.
This was a perfect brew to welcome me back to the world of gourmet coffee.  Ah yes.  It’s good to be home.

When Is Coffee Not Really Coffee?

xPICT6714I feel bad for what I’m about to say about this coffee, because it was a gift.
Oh well.  I have to be honest.
If you like Southern Comfort liquor in your coffee, then this stuff is for you.  After you brew it up, it tastes EXACTLY like you’d just dumped two jiggers of the stuff into your coffee.
The flavor emulation is perfect, but alas, without the payoff of an alcoholic kick.
Don’t get me wrong.  I like Southern Comfort.  I just don’t like it in my coffee.
Why?  Because I like the taste of coffee.  No, more than like.  I love it.  I love the taste of coffee.
When you trash mess up destroy change the taste of coffee so much that you really can’t taste a coffee flavor anymore, is it really coffee?
Seriously, I want to know.  Because I don’t think it is.  It may have been once, but like a mad scientist changing an animal’s DNA, what you end up with is a mutant.  Something different.
Even as flavored coffees go, this one makes me … ill.

Berres Brothers Papua New Guinea

This coffee features a very sneaky stealth flavor.
The first third of this cup I was thinking, “Eh. Not very impressive.” It’s smooth, subdued, and pleasant, but not outstanding.
Then I took a long distracted sip, let it blossom on my tongue, and realized an outstanding flavor had snuck right up on me.
This falls into a rare class of coffees which taste better the more you drink it. The flavor builds on itself. Powerfully complex, it simmers out a very loving, rich coffee undertone with sweet fruity notes, tinged with the subtlest hint of pecan.
This is an all-day-long coffee, morning straight through afternoon. This is a coffee that could singlehandedly make a Monday at the office much more pleasant.
From the package: “Papua New Guinea. Deliciously captivating, powerfully flavorful. A dark-roasted aromatic with a hint of wine-like apple flavor.”
Now that they mention it, I can kind of detect a green apple nuance in the flavor.
It’s good. In fact I would go so far to say … it’s Groovy.

Berres Brothers Kenya AA

It’s the first word that popped into my mind upon the first sip of this coffee.
It’s a warm December day here in Texas. The windows are all open and the wind is blowing. My kids and I are all finally recovering from a bug I brought back with me from an airline on Thanksgiving day. And here I am, sitting back and enjoying a bright coffee on a brilliant morning.
Life is good. So is this coffee. The taste is so tangy and alive that it sparkles on the tongue.
The Berres Brothers package reads: “Kenya AA. Refreshingly aromatic, delectably smooth. African beans create a crisp, powerful balance with swirls of sharp.”
Sharp what? I don’t know. That’s literally how it ends. But this coffee is smooth, and the taste is very crisp. The highlights dominate the flavor. It’s sharply sweet with a citrus punch that glides high over the warm roasted nutty flavor of the more umber coffee notes, like a masterful saxophone playing with an aggressive and jazzy base guitar.
This is not morning coffee. This is afternoon coffee, or early-evening-before-the-party coffee.
And, my friends, it is most definitely a very Groovy Brew.

Java Juice

This arrived unexpectedly in the mail. I remember contacting them back when I was writing a two part article called “The Triumphant Return of Instant Coffee?”
Months later, surprise! And a pleasant surprise it is.
I’ve always thought that packaging coffee extract in single serving packets would be a good idea. Especially if you’re backpacking or in some remote location where brewing a cup of coffee is difficult or a bad idea, it’s nice to know you can get something like this Java Juice to take along because … no matter what, coffee is an imperative. Even at the top of a mountain, or in a submarine. Or on the International Space Station.
The coffee must flow.

They sent me four flavors to try:

  • Original
  • French Vanilla
  • Black Gold
  • Swiss Water Decaf

A few minutes ago I opened one of the Original packets and dribbled the uber-black concentrate into 10 ounces of hot filtered water.
Right up front let me tell you it’s good. It has a strong flavor and tastes very fresh. That being said, the flavor of coffee is surprisingly delicate and easy to damage. I’ve tried several top of the line extracts over the years and none of them could be considered a replacement for regular coffee, mainly because of what I call “dilution tang.” Something about adding water to an already brewed suspension of coffee slightly damages the flavor. I mean, you get this even with regular coffee after you add an ice cube to it. So I’m not putting Java Juice down when I say the taste suffers from this dilution tang — it’s just a fact of life. I took a (albeit unnaturally strong) brew of coffee — the extract itself — and added water to it. What I ended up with is a very robust, fresh, flavorful cup of coffee with that tell-tale tang of dilution.
That being said, it tastes VASTLY better than ANY freeze-dried instant coffee, and much better than most pre-ground stale tinned coffees. The dilution tang can be masked by adding a sweetener, and the trade off is that you now have a good coffee that is completely portable. You don’t have to mix it with hot water — cold water works just fine, if you’re into drinking iced coffees — or you could add it to milk to make an instant cappuccino.
On the fly.
That is where Java Juice really shines. Out camping, hiking, fishing or hunting, anywhere away from home — it’s far better than horrid office or hotel coffee.
I’m now drinking the “Black Gold” and it, too, is very tasty and especially fresh. It’s rich, full bodied, and exceptionally smooth.
I hereby make it official. Java Juice is Groovy. Not to mention very portable.

Other coffee extracts I’ve reviewed: X Cafe & CoolBrew

Nine Month Recap

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken a break from reviewing. It involves a long business trip and catching a bug. While I’m home now, I’m still not well, and my sense of taste is thoroughly misaligned.
So instead I’m going to make some lists. I mean, why not? Lists are fun … and they might even be useful.
Going back over the last 9 months of reviews, these were my favorite coffees:

I heartily recommend every one of them. These are the crème de la crème, the coffees that have spoiled me rotten for most of this year.
Now that we’ve covered the best, let’s take a look at the worst…

Some of my readers may remember I had challenged a dozen leading coffee maker manufacturers to prove to me their machines could make a better cup of coffee than my little 49¢ cup top filter. These companies were:

  • Black & Decker
  • Braun
  • Bunn
  • Cuisinart
  • DeLonghi
  • Farberware
  • Hamilton Beach
  • KitchenAid
  • Krups
  • Mr. Coffee
  • Sunbeam
  • West Bend

Not a single one of them wanted to answer the challenge. None. Why? Because none wanted their machines to be showed up by a dime store piece of plastic. None of them wanted to admit it’s the coffee, not the coffee maker, that makes good coffee.
That being said, there is one amazing little device I did discover this year: The Java Wand. If there is one coffee maker that could make a better tasting cup of coffee that my little 49¢ wonder, it would be a coffee press. The Java Wand is a coffee press at the end of a straw. And, no, it does not burn your lips off. Check it out.
So my coffee loving friends, that’s my recap. After I get to feeling better, and can taste properly again, I’ve got several yummy looking coffees all lined up and ready to be reviewed.
Thanks for reading! And thanks for coming back!

Country Morning Coffee: Columbia

This is an actual scan of the package. Country Morning Coffee – Colombia Roast. It’s such a fresh, small batch roast that each bag is hand labeled with a Sharpie.
Right up front, let me tell you this: It’s wonderful! This is a light-hearted, lovingly roasted bean with a sparkling pure flavor, sprite and sweet, with just enough dark undertones to give it some depth. The aftertaste is pure magic. It’s the most consummate example I have had of a Colombia roast.
I could quite easily drink this coffee all day long, everyday, for 11 days straight.
The woman behind Country Morning Coffee is Elizabeth Wolf. From her website: “I roast my coffees in small 20 lb batches with a gas powered, drum coffee roaster. Small batch roasting and straightforward technology give me more control over the roasting process. Many variables, including the weather can affect how a batch of beans will roast. Small batch roasting allows me to give every roast the meticulous attention they require. After every batch is completed I taste it, guaranteeing our customers the delicious coffee they have come to love.”
Her company motto: “Fresh Coffee is Happy Coffee.”
All I can add to that is: Groovy!

Hello Boss Iced Coffee

Oh my God this is horrible.
It’s so horrible it’s like watching a disaster movie. You can’t tear your eyes away. It’s like watching a boulder crushing cars and houses.
I’m having problems controlling my gag reflex.  Seriously.  I can’t drink it.
Yes, it’s that vile.  That is my opinion.  That’s my review, short and sweet.
I cannot finish drinking it.  I’m throwing it away.
Avoid this swill. It’s not groovy, not at all.

California Coffee Roasters Espresso Blend

A quandary. How should I judge an espresso roast against other coffees? By making an espresso?
No. That’s apples to oranges.
So I brewed it up like any coffee, using my cup top filter maker. After all you can use just about any coffee you want in an espresso maker. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an espresso blend.
So that is what I did, and wow, it was good. Really good. California Coffee Roasters Espresso Blend is as smooth as it is aggressive, with a rich smoky taste edged with a touch of coco and hint of nutmeg. It makes a good strong cup of regular coffee.
I wanted to establish that up front, because the next thing I did with it was fire up my machine and made myself a cappuccino of hot frothy goodness.
And now I’m wired up like a house with 10,000 Christmas lights and ready to go take a really long fast walk around the neighborhood. Which is a good thing. I need the exercise.
I am zinging right now. Really. Zinging.
And this Espresso Roast? Rich, fresh, outstanding, and definitely a groovy brew.

Berres Brothers Highlander Grogg

Berres Brothers touts this flavored blend as “Indulgently sweet, richly enticing. Our top seller… an explosion of caramel, butterscotch and hazelnut.”

I’m going to have to come up with a new category on this website, and call it “Candy Coffee” because a lot of the brews I’ve sampled this month fall directly into that niche.

This one is no exception.

I have a sweet tooth. I freely admit that. It’s caused me some problems in the past, too, and I admit that as well.

But this coffee and a bit of non-sugar sweetener will quell any coffee lover’s sweet tooth for about one calorie per cup.

Let’s go through Berres Brothers claims for this coffee one by one:

  • Indulgently sweet? Yes.
  • Richly enticing? I’d say so, as long as you have a sweet tooth.
  • An explosion of caramel? Not quite an explosion but it’s undeniably present.
  • Butterscotch? Present.
  • Hazelnut? Accounted for.

I have no doubt that it’s one of their top sellers. As far as a flavored coffee goes, I’d say it makes it to my top three favorites. It’s smooth, with a creamy texture for the tongue, the flavors riding atop of (but overwhelming) a mild, probably Kona-based blend.

So to the above list I must add:

  • Groovy? Most definitely.


California Coffee Roasters Irish Cream

I think you might consider this is a biased review.
Up front, let me just say that I do not like Irish Cream flavored coffee. Irish Cream itself, yum, and some Irish Cream coffee creamers, yum, but as a flavored coffee, no. Yuck.
So I am not a good one to judge California Coffee Roasters Irish Cream. Just to say I don’t care for it means nothing, really, because it’s not the coffee itself, nor the quality of the roast, that I am putting down.
Some of you out there must love Irish Cream flavored coffee. This has to be a fact. Otherwise no one would make it, because no one would buy it.
To me, the Irish Cream flavoring masks the coffee taste with this unnatural pseudo-cream ick that hints of turned milk and cheap whiskey. But for those whose palates are fond of it, I will say that California Coffee Roasters’ version is strong in flavor, fresh, and very smooth.

Super Coffee Mix Blue Mountain Blend

Another one of the cans of coffee my daughters picked up for me at the Asian market, the actual full name of this is Super Coffee Mix (brand) Blue Mountain Blend Premium Super Gold Coffee.
Made in Malaysia.
Man, you know this has got to be wonderful stuff, just by reading the product title. Not only is it a super coffee mix, and not only have they used the term “blue mountain,” but they have proclaimed it Premium Super Gold Coffee.
They used “super” twice. It’s Super Super Coffee.
I can only thank God it’s a tiny little can. I know this is going to be awful.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t have antifreeze in it.
I pop the top. I take a sniff. It’s amazing.
Yes, amazing. Amazing how stale a tinned coffee can smell. It takes staleness to a new height. It must be super super premium goldenly stale.
I have to admit I’m a little frightened of drinking it. I hope you guys out there appreciate me putting my life on the line like this for your amusement. Here goes nothing.
Okay, I’m surprised, it wasn’t half bad. It was in fact just as good as Godiva’s bottled coffee (yuck) and it went down smooth enough. It was much better than Hello Boss Cappuccino.
But, one thing I really did not like about it, was finding a piece of rice in my mouth afterward.
I hope it was a piece of rice. I looked at it closely under a bright light, and it didn’t appear to be a bug.
Not groovy.

Berres Brothers Kona Blend

Jaded? Me? No way.

But I’m sorry, Kona coffee is boring. There’s not much going on with it. It’s not bad, it’s… well, it’s just not spectacular. And there are a lot of spectacular coffees out there.

But if you like Kona, then Berres Brothers is a good choice.

It’s smooth, has a delicate flavor, and the edge of boredom worn is off by mixing in some excellent Costa Rican beans. It features a lightweight coffee flavor that is far more laid back than aggressive, with low acidity and a slight nutty aftertaste that hints of pecan.

It’s pretty good. In fact, I would even say it’s groovy, though not as groovy as their other blends.

I think of coffee as a sort of intense, in your face type of drink. Kona, on the other hand, is a lot like the place it comes from. Hawaii is a lazy, balmy paradise, where the weather is eternally nice, and you can always count on a beautiful day to relax in the shade — in a hammock, no doubt, strung between two palm trees.

If that is what you want in a coffee, then Kona is for you.

California Coffee Roasters Costa Rican Tres Rios

I love coffee. Obviously. The fact is, I’m obsessed with it.
Even though I’m so obsessed with it, it’s rare that I taste one and, upon first sip, I’m startled and exclaim, “Oh my God, that’s good!”
This Costa Rican Tres Rios is one of those rare coffees. It is silky smooth, featuring a warm and embracing medium roast flavor, naturally sweet, with delicious berry and wood-smoke notes. It is so good that it makes my tongue happy.
I really shouldn’t be surprised, because looking back over this growing collection of reviews, I find there’s a pattern of enjoying Costa Rican beans. But the truth is, you can take the best beans in the world and ruin them by not knowing what you’re doing. They have to be roasted just right, they have to be delivered immediately, and they have to be enjoyed soon thereafter.
That is what small batch roasters are all about, and that’s why (according to Business Week) large coffee manufacturers are steadily losing market share to these much smaller gourmet coffee companies. It’s literally a case of “Wake up and smell the coffee!”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … once you’ve had truly fresh, lovingly roasted coffee produced by people passionate about what they do, you will NEVER GO BACK.
California Coffee Roasters is a family run business, and every employee — from bookkeeper to customer service rep — is taught to roast coffee, cup coffee, and how to select beans.
That, my friends, is passion for coffee.
I am so happy to have a whole selection of their coffees to try that I’m literally like a kid facing a pile of Christmas presents. This Costa Rican Tres Rios, which I pulled out at random, is just one of a number of incredible coffees they offer.
Check back later, because I’ll be featuring more of these coffees soon.

Berres Brothers Organic Peruvian Decaf

I know some of you would rather go without, than to drink decaf.

I don’t go without. I can’t. The coffee must flow.

There are good decaf coffees available if you look for them. They’re perfectly drinkable and they don’t keep you awake all night.

So, when you want coffee at 10:54 PM, you can have it.

Berres Brothers Organic Peruvian Decaf is one of these good decafs. I’m drinking it now, straight up black. It’s got a medium acidity, with hints of toasted nut, bittersweet chocolate, and a mellow finish.

The flavor stands up well even when cold, so it works as an iced coffee too. What I like to do at night is brew up a good decaf like this one, let it cool, add some sweetener and ice, and occasionally a flavored creamer.

In fact … I think that’s what I’ll go do right now.

California Coffee Roasters French Vanilla

I’m delving once again into the world of flavored coffees, and today I’m sampling California Coffee Roasters French Vanilla. Let me tell you, when these guys say “French Vanilla,” they mean it. When I opened the package the vanilla scent was so strong you could almost see it.

I brewed myself up a cup, drank it down so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to take notes, and then brewed another one. This is quite an admission for me, but I’m starting to change my mind about flavored coffees. Once a big fan of them, they fell out of favor with me for a while, but now I’m learning to like them again.

You see, you can’t really put them in the same category as a pure coffee. This is more in realm of a desert, bordering on the neighborhood of cappuccinos and lattes. When you’re in the mood for a pure roast coffee, don’t reach for a flavored one. When you’re in the mood for something sweeter, shun a soda pop in favor of one of these.

As far as this brew goes, actually taking a sip, it’s the vanilla — not the coffee — that you taste. You have to let the vanilla fade before the coffee flavor comes to the fore.

I am a huge vanilla fan so this is not a problem to me. Especially if I’m in the mood for it. Which, lately, I have been.

The coffee underneath is very smooth and mellow, with a subdued gentle base that allows the flavoring to shine. There’s a warm toastiness, with slight winey notes. Nothing really outstanding about it, but that makes sense.

You don’t drink this for the coffee flavor. You drink it for the vanilla.

And that is what this blend delivers, in abundance.


Hello Boss Cappuccino

A long time ago, in a town far, far away, deep within the strange recesses of a damaged food warehouse, I discovered my first canned coffee drink.

It was “Hello Boss” coffee, a product of Taiwan. I had to buy it out of pure curiosity. I remember liking it more for the novelty than the taste.

Now you’ll find canned and bottled coffee everywhere, most of it pretty awfulbut occasionally excellent — and there is no novelty involved.

Still, deep within the recesses of an Asian market, my daughters found for me cans of coffee they’d never seen before. And, thus, Hello Boss coffee reentered my life.

Let’s not mince words, here. It’s awful. Hello Boss Cappuccino tastes of cold instant coffee left overnight, mixed with the cheapest powdered creamer available to man, and leaves you with a taste that warns of the coffee itself having dissolved part of the can it came in … and you just drank it.

Not groovy. Not in the least.

Café Brazil Holiday Blend

Candy is what immediately came to mind after my first sip.

Café Brazil’s Holiday Blend is a jumble of well mixed flavors, all of them good, and so swirled together it’s hard to sort them out. Mint is one of them, with maybe a pumpkin spice thrown in, as well as caramel or vanilla (or both). After that my ability to dissect them into their component parts fails me.

Especially considering it’s a flavored brew, the underlying coffee itself is excellent. It’s a good base to build the flavors on — it would be delicious even without them. Rich and bold without being aggressive, it’s smooth with sweet Kona-esq highlights.

I have to say this is perfect for a Christmas coffee, and it’s definitely a groovy brew.

California Coffee Roasters Caramel Nut

The wonderful folks at California Coffee Roasters provided me with a very wide range of samples, and today I picked one at random.

Caramel Nut. I like caramel, I like nuts, and I love coffee. This has potential. I’m going to go brew a cup of it now.

(time passes)

I’m back, coffee mug in hand. It smells like candy, which to me is not bad because I’m notorious for my sweet tooth. The taste … is flavored coffee. Well, yes. Of course. What did I expect, it to be magically not-flavored?

I’ll not judge a flavored coffee against non-flavored coffees, just like I wouldn’t compare a flavored malt beverage to a beer. They are two different animals. So…

This Caramel Nut is very good. The caramel taste rides high on the palate, surfing over the top of a smooth, well balanced coffee blend. As the taste fades, the last thing to bloom is a toasty harvest grain flavor, with maybe a hint of almond. So the coffee itself is sandwiched in a way, between caramel on one side and the nut on the other.

One thing I have noticed, is that if you are going to drink a flavored coffee, enjoy it while it’s hot. As it cools the flavor deteriorates rapidly, much faster than a non-flavored coffee. The sweetness breaks down and a unpleasant bitterness begins to bloom. That’s not just for this Caramel Nut. I’m making a broad, generalized sweeping comment covering flavors A-Z from any coffee roaster you’d care to name.

As for this one in particular, I’d have to say for a flavored coffee, it’s pretty darn groovy.

Great Value 100% Arabica

I didn’t go into this one automatically thinking it’s crap.
Wal-Mart’s “Great Value” generic products are usually high quality. Their bottled water is perfectly good, and their cereals, breads, and canned goods sometimes equal or surpass the name brands. So I thought, let’s give one of their coffees a shot. Who knows, I may be surprised.
So early this morning, before the kids were awake, I brewed a cup.
Notice it says 100% Arabica? That should count for something, right? They also had a French Roast that said it was 100% Arabica, but then they had a can of “100% Columbian” that stated nothing of the sort. Which means, of course, it’s not 100% Arabica. Which means it’s cut with Robusta beans.
Robusta beans are evil. EVIL.
So I take my first sip of Great Value 100% Arabica and taste … what?
Um. Oh my. Um.
Flashback to childhood. I’m a little kid, and the bad girl next door has taught me a new word. “Fart.” I remember playing with my dog Pepper, and he let off a stink bomb, and I exclaimed, “Pepper let a fart!”
My mom was for some reason quite upset at the word fart coming out of her little boy’s mouth, and proceeded to drag me into the bathroom where she washed my mouth out with a blue bar of Zest soap.
That’s what this coffee tastes like to me. Soap. And, no I checked, my cup was not contaminated nor was my Hotshot water boiler, nor was my little cup-top filter.
This coffee, which is not really that bad in any other way, has a distinctly soapy tang to it.
And that, my friends, is not groovy.

Café Valet Columbian Supremo

Let’s be honest. I’m coming into this with low expectations.

Here I am at a hotel again, facing another in-room coffee maker. This one is different though. It brews directly into a little 8 ounce Sweetheart Styrofoam cup using a disposable “Filter Pack and Brew Basket” that, to me, looks like a tea bag in a little plastic coffin.

The device itself is kind of neat. It’s designed to make a single small cup of coffee with no mess. In that one aspect, it works flawlessly.

The coffee is not that bad. Notice I’m not saying it’s good. It’s weak, but it doesn’t seem overly stale. There is a hint of a good coffee flavor, but ruined by a unpleasant bitter aftertaste that I suspect comes from some Robusta beans cut into the blend.

In other words, this is a last resort coffee source. Better than nothing, but not much.

Jalima H&A Coffee

This is a story of some very groovy coffee mojo.
It starts in Mexico, where Marcela celebrated a special birthday along with her recovery from a battle with breast cancer. She and her two good friends, Janet and Libe, were savoring some exceptionally good locally grown coffee, and a conversation came up which planted the seed of an idea. Months later the seed blossomed to a business: to promote and sell the little known and underappreciated organic Arabica beans grown in the high altitude cloud forests of Mexico.
Thus was born Jalima Coffee, the “Jalima” made up from Janet, Libe, and Marcela.
I’m drinking some right now, their H&A blend. The taste is fruity and naturally sweet, with an aggressive and complex flavor. There’s some wonderful wood-smoke notes, and an aftertaste akin to … well, you know when you have a really good breakfast, and you finish off that last piece of yummy bacon with a satisfying cup of coffee? That’s the aftertaste I’m getting, even without having had the bacon. It’s unique and interesting. I’ve never had anything like it.
I wish they’d sent more. I could drink it all day long.
There’s a lot of love in this coffee. You can taste it. These women have a passion for it and they give it loving care all the way through. It doesn’t just stop there, though.
Even if they don’t realize it, Jalima coffee practices the wonderful game theory economic model discovered by John Nash: Do what is good for yourself and everyone else. They give back, they share. They partner with organic farmers who are giving back to the land and the ecology. They donate a portion of their proceeds to a biosphere reserve and conservation fund in the areas they farm. They specifically employ handicapped workers in both Mexico and the US, helping them to acquire skills and become autonomous.
And they bring to us, the coffee drinkers of the world, an amazing coffee you can’t get anywhere else.
So it’s official. Jalima H&A has a lot of good karma and is most definitely a Groovy Brew.

Berres Brothers Organic El Salvador

My love picked up this for me to review. “I know,” she said, “you’ll probably hate it.”

The outlook wasn’t good for two reasons. One, it was a pre-ground bag, and two, the bag reminded me of those horrid office and hotel coffees. Same size, same recommendation (good for 8 to 10 cups).

I knew nothing about Berres Brothers, except that the package read Organic. That doesn’t mean too much anymore. Marketing firms seem to be able to twist anything into an organic knot, and besides, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s not going to be stale as tomb dirt.

One morning before work we brewed up a pot. I took my first sip out of a small cup that was black without any sweetener, just to give it a chance to impress me.

Shock me, is what it did. Surprise me. It was good!

Since then I’ve visited their website and inquired about their other coffees. I also learned why the packaging looked so much like the dreaded office coffee packets — that’s how Barres Brothers started out. The company originated as a vending service by their father, and when the sons took over they expanded their services to include coffee. Not someone else’s old moldy discount coffee, but their own, roasted by them in small batches and delivered to stores and offices around Watertown, Wisconsin.

Imagine that. Quality coffee from a corporate coffee service. A sign that there is good in this world.

In 1997 they dumped the vending service and concentrated on coffee roasting.

Their Organic El Salvador brews up rich and smooth, with a nice chocolate nut nuance and a fruity overtone. I can imagine drinking it in an office all day long, and being happy and productive. I can also imagine drinking it on a beach with my feet up, with the early morning fog still swirling around the shore.

Thanks go out to my love for picking this up for me. It’s a groovy brew to be sure!

Coffeemaria’s Maragogype Guatemala

Elephant Beans!
Excuse me. I seem to be developing Tourette symptoms. The phrase has been stuck in my mind ever since I began studying Maragogype coffee beans. Some call them “elephant” beans because of their unnatural size.
They looked a little bit bigger to me, but not enough to refer to them as—
Elephant Beans!

Excuse me again. But, you know, I think I’ve discovered a new swear word. Or phrase, rather. Drop something on your toe, accidently hit a tree, fall over backwards because there’s a spider on your arm … what do you scream?
Elephant Beans!

It feels like a good swear, but yet, it won’t offend the local church lady.
The taste won’t offend her, either. A delicate citrus tang highlights Coffeemaria‘s Maragogype Guatemala. It’s light bodied yet rich in flavor, mixing a light chocolaty touch with a winey base. Exceptionally smooth, it goes down easy.
This is an all day drinking coffee, and would work nicely as a dessert coffee as well. It’s over the top delicious and hereby officially designated a Groovy Brew.
Even if they are Elephant Beans.

Coffeemaria’s Antigua Guatemala

This, the second in a trilogy of reviews featuring beans from Coffeemaria, comes at you from the sleepiness of an early afternoon.
Does that ever happen to you, too? You have a busy morning, there’s a lot to do, you rush off and have lunch and come back to dive in, pick up where you left off, and after about an hour or so you … you start to … lose focus, mind starts drifting, eyelids get heavy. A yawn or three erupt spontaneously from a suddenly dopey face.
Is this all too familiar? Well, my friends, what you’re suffering from is a common malady called Mid-Afternoon Low Caffeine Syndrome, or MALCS. There is an easy cure: brew up some coffee.
Afternoon coffee.
Coffeemaria’s Antigua Guatemala is a perfect afternoon coffee. Sharp, tangy and medium bodied, this brew rides high on the palate, founded on a delicate wood-smoke flavor tinged with a daring spiciness. If you’re especially well equipped, it’s also tasty as a light espresso.
That’s right, my coffee loving friends. It’s a perfect cure for MALCS.
It cured mine! I’m now wide awake. And so, it’s time to get back to work.
By the way, this coffee gets my official designation of Groovy Brew.

Coffeemaria’s Java Pancour

This coffee comes from one of my new top ten favorite roasters, Coffeemaria. Just by checking out their website you can see what they concentrate on : coffee. That’s it. They roast coffee.
Good coffee.
They’re so focused on what they do that they don’t even have a logo. At least, not on their website. For the art you see alongside this review, I actually scanned a gold foil sticker that was on the bag of beans.
This is the first of a trilogy of reviews of their coffee, all of which are excellent. Today’s subject … Java Pancour.
This coffee brews up tart, with an edgy, aggressive flavor featuring definite chocolaty notes. This is one of those lean back, close your eyes and smile coffees. It’s like riding your bike on a beautiful crisp fall morning, coming to the top of a long hill, and coasting all the way down with your feet out and the wind in your hair.
I’d classify this as a dessert coffee. The strong flavor and sweet finish lends itself to cookies, cake, ice cream, and pie.
Or be a rebel and drink it in the morning with your donuts.
Why not? Live on the edge!
It will probably not come as a surprise that I officially designate Coffeemaria’s Java Pancour as a Groovy Brew.

Big Black Java Monster

Monster is usually my energy drink of choice — based on effect instead of taste — as on long drives it seems better at keeping me alert. I wasn’t in a Monster mood this morning, though while standing in line at the store, the new can design caught my attention, as did the word “Java.”
My immediate reaction was a very intelligent and articulate, “Huh?”
I picked it up, saw the words “Coffee Energy” and knew I had to try it. My expectations were rather low, especially after some of my other less-than-spectacular run-ins with canned coffee.
I had intended on taking it home to drink and review, but I couldn’t help myself. I was too curious. I popped open the can in the car.
The entire can was gone in less than two miles.
The Big Black Java Monster is extremely smooth and very creamy. I was in shock. I loved it with first gulp, and have found my new favorite energy drink.
My friends, I have a sweet tooth, and this stuff is sweet as candy. It may be too sweet for some people. It’s just right for me.
What surprised me the most was the purity of the coffee flavor. I don’t know where they’re getting their coffee extract from, or if they’re making it themselves, but it suffers from no detectable dilution tang what-so-ever. It has a far better taste than even a Starbucks iced coffee, including those made in-store.
The can states that it has half the caffeine of ordinary coffee, but we all know it makes up for that with all their other infamous added stimulants.
This is the best canned coffee beverage I have ever had. It is hereby officially designated a Groovy Brew.

It’s A Grind: Tanzanian Peaberry

It’s so gentle.

It’s … sensuous.

I have to tell you, this is the last thing I would have expected from a coffee. The way it caresses the palate, it’s like the soft fingers of your lover giving you a slow, thorough body massage, eyes smiling every time you look. Brimming with love. Hot, steamy, and relaxing at the same time.

Okay, this is starting to sound perverted. Let me back up.

Tanzania, where the beans originated, is an African country formed when Tanganyika, its mainland part, joined with the Zanzibar islands off its east coast. After uniting they became the United Republic of Tanzania, who not only kicked Uganda’s invading butt in 1979, but within its borders hold the remains of the earliest humans to walk the Earth.

If that wasn’t enough to make this country cool, they grow the sexiest coffee I have ever tasted.

Smooth and velvety, this It’s A Grind‘s Tanzanian Peaberry is mild but rich in flavor. Naturally sweet tones lace through a touch of almond and warm woody notes. Drinking it is seriously like getting that lover’s massage.

This is excellent coffee and most definitely a groovy brew.

It’s A Grind: Blend 49

It’s ten at night and I’m drinking coffee.

Two reasons: 1) I haven’t posted anything on this side of GroovyBrew since August 10th and that is way too long, and 2) I love coffee. What can I say?

Besides, caffeine doesn’t keep me awake anymore. It just doesn’t. I’m immune.

I discovered It’s A Grind by chance. One of their stores is right across the street from the Chinese restaurant where my writers group meets. After the meetings I usually wander to the Starbucks next door, but one day I realized the place across the street was another coffee shop. I kept meaning to go there, yet, I kept not going.

Then, high on Valium and on my way back from an MRI, I directed my daughters to aim the car at the building and said, “I want to try their coffee!”

I picked up two of their blends, and tonight I’m trying the one they call “49.”

It’s bold and fruity, with warm chestnut notes, and a smooth but dusky aftertaste. Not fall-off-your-chair outstanding, but very decent and flavorful. I’d classify it as a morning coffee, or a coffee to have with ice cream on a Saturday afternoon. The acidity I’d say is low to medium.

And with that, I’m off to bed.

Coastal Bean’s Jamaican Blue Mountain

The last time I’d tried Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee I had been disappointed. This is infamous coffee, legendary, with a lot of hype behind it. So one day I bit the bullet and splurged, and remember thinking … this is it? This is the legend?

Of course, back then I thought Gevalia was the utopian source of gourmet coffee. I’ve learned a lot since then.

My new friends over at fixed me up with some real Jamaican Blue Mountain. At first sip, though, again I thought this is it? I really didn’t see why people considered it so special.

It wasn’t bad. Not at all — indeed, I found it very tasty. But did it live up to the hype? No.

At least, not at first.

This coffee has what I call “seriously delayed bloom.” You don’t get the full range of the flavor in the first sip. You can’t judge it in the first minute. I daresay you can’t really judge it with the first cup.

As it turns out, this is indeed a marvelous coffee. It starts out as a mild, flavorful brew that reminds me somewhat of Kona but with a hint of something else, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

It’s that “something else” that’s the foreshadowing of a far greater flavor. The more you savor it, the more that “something else” blooms, growing in intensity and enchantment. If this coffee were music it would be Ravel’s Boléro, starting as a simple lilting melody and building seductively to full orchestration.

The taste itself is hard to describe. You first get the initial warm, mild roast flavor, with only a low acidic tang, and as time passes it continues to caress your palate with a nuttiness that hints of macadamia and almond. Soft, smoky tendrils start working their way into the pleasure center of your brain — it’s at this point you realize something special is going on with the coffee. Suddenly it starts hinting of winey notes, some outstanding vintage that you’ve only tasted in your dreams. Your cup by now is empty, and you immediately have to have another one, because the flavor is still going, still pulling your forward. More, it tells you. There’s more to come. We’re not finished yet. So you have that second cup, and then the third, and still you’re discovering new nuances. Chocolaty tones emerge, and a fruity edge.

That’s where I am right now, and the flavor is still giving surprises.

I see what the big deal is. I understand.

According to what I’ve read, what makes this coffee so special is the place where it’s grown. The Blue Mountains of Jamaica have a combination of soil, climate, and thick mountain mist which combine to create one of the most perfect places on Earth for the beans to flourish.

Because of the popularity and demand for this coffee, it’s one of the most expensive. Because it’s expensive, it draws the less scrupulous entrepreneurs, many who will blend a coffee to taste somewhat similar and sell it as the real thing — making a large profit at your expense. That’s why if you’re actually willing to shell out the money for these beans, you need to make sure they’re genuine.

Coastal Bean’s supplier is the Wallenford Estates of Jamaica, which is apparently the most sought-after source of Blue Mountain beans. They come with a certificate of authenticity, much like one you’d get with a signed lithograph from a famous artist.

While this coffee is … well, what it is, a coffee with a serious pedigree … I have to admit I’d hesitate buying it for myself. Maybe as a treat once a year, or to celebrate a special occasion. I mean, it’s freaking expensive. However, if I were looking for a gift for a coffee loving friend, then this is the first thing I’d buy.

Nothing says “I love you” like a diamond, or golden jewelry, or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

Dunn Bros 20th Anniversary Blend

I’ve gushed several times about the wonderfulness of Dunn Bros and how they roast their beans right there in the stores.
Yesterday morning I met my friend and fellow writer Bill at the Frisco location, something we usually do on weekends when he’s not busy and I’m not out of town for six weeks. We were talking about how remarkably good the Dunn Bros coffee always was, and he said, “I just had a cup at Starbucks before I came here, and this is … it’s far better!”
So it’s not just my imagination. I like Starbucks too, but you have a cup over there, and think to yourself how good it is … then go to a Dunn Bros and have a cup. It’s a shock to the palate when you think you’re drinking something really good and then have something that is another level of better.
Which brings me to the subject of their 20th Anniversary Blend. Just before leaving, I picked up a bit just so I could take it home and review it properly. So here I sit, sipping, smiling, happy, drinking a coffee so remarkably flavorful that I’m blown away.
In blending this coffee, they went for the Great Middle Way. Nice and strong but not too strong. Jump and shout flavorful but with a depth of subtleness, a complex flavor that you have to meditate on and sort out. Toasty nuttiness with chocolate notes, extremely smooth, and a wonderful aftertaste that holds you like a lingering, loving embrace. And yes, love is part of the flavor. They very lovingly crafted this coffee and you can taste that love, you can feel it. It’s part of the recipe.
The only proper word that comes to my mind to describe this coffee is exquisite. That, my coffee loving friends, is not a word I normally use.

Café Britt Tarrazu Montecielo

Standing up at the top of a mountain in the early morning, walking right up to the edge, and yelling out, “Hello!”

After several heartbeats it echoes distantly back. “Hello…”

You grin and take a sip of coffee. Ah, this is the life. After breakfast you might grab your fly rod and go down to the stream. But for now, you’ve got a coffee to finish, and Café Britt‘s Tarrazu Montecielo is its name.

All of this is going on in my mind. Feet up on my desk, leaning back, eyes closed. A mental vacation. The coffee is real, though.

This Costa Rican treasure is very bold and dusky, with delicious wood smoke notes. Bit of a sharp edge to it … it could be smoother. Still, the taste is outstanding, and a far cry better than other Tarrazu roasts I’ve had (including Gevalia’s).

I find it goes especially good with chocolate.

(Which I’m not supposed to be eating.)

Stone Creek French Roast

This isn’t just French Roast, this is amazing French Roast.

It’s amazing that they could take a coffee that is, by its very nature, a harsh kick-in-the-paints wake-up-and-go coffee, and make it taste so refined and elegant — and, at the same time, still retain its urgent zoom pow blam quality.

I mean, face it, one does not drink a French Roast when they want to relax. This is an action coffee. It’s like rocket fuel for the brain.

So, in essence, Stone Creek has managed to roast and blend an elegant rocket fuel. And that, my coffee loving friends, is amazing.

The flavor definitely features that dark, strong French Roast edge. Once brewed, it’s as black as deep space between stars. We’re talking devoid-of-all-color opaque black. It has the French Roast bitterness but somehow reined in and mellowed just enough. You can taste the buzz that you’re about to get. And when you get the buzz, you feel it.

I’m feeling it right now. Can you tell? Can you? Huh? Huh?

It’s just freaking amazing. I love it. It’s good as a drip, and it also makes a great espresso. It goes without saying it would be outstanding in a French press.

As far as a French Roast goes, Stone Creek’s is definitely one elegant strong black buzzing delicious Groovy Brew!

Café Britt Tres Rios Valdivia

Wake up and smell the coffee. Yes. That is one of the pleasures in life.

This is a sunrise coffee. Not a rushed, the alarm didn’t go off, I haven’t had enough sleep type of sunrise — this is more like, oh, I woke up early, it’s a beautiful morning, let’s make some coffee.

Let’s make some Tres Rios Valdivia.

Café Britt‘s Valdivia is plucked out of cool volcanic mountains of the Tres Rios region, and the coffees from this area are considered “the Bordeaux” of Costa Rica.

I found it to be fruity, medium bold, with a nice sweetness and edge. They suggest you might find hints of plum and allspice, but I didn’t get that. I did get a clear pure coffee flavor that could have been a bit fresher and more smooth, yet at the same time, it was satisfying enough.

I wouldn’t consider this an outstanding jump up and down oh my God this is incredible coffee, but it is very good, and especially makes a good choice for that relaxed sunrise breakfast.

Stone Creek Fair Trade Blend

Milwaukee has got to be a cool place to live for it to have such a cool coffee company. I have never been there, but I’ll get there eventually, and when I do I’m going to pay these people a visit and thank them personally.
They roast and blend some fantastic coffee. This one is no exception.
Stone Creek‘s Fair Trade Blend starts off with a nice strong bite, then settles into a toasty complex flavor that mixes a hint of fruitiness in with walnut and pecan notes. It finishes clean on the palate and leaves you wanting more. It’s not too bold and it’s not too mild. It’s perfect for a rainy weekend afternoon, when you’re kicking around relaxing, or working on some fun project.
Their company motto is, simply, “Sip slowly.” They know what they’re talking about. Coffee this good needs to be savored.
The fact that it’s Fair Trade and Organic is just icing on the cake.
At the heart of Stone Creek, their mission is to roast “Amazing Coffee.” That’s their actual, official term for it. They look for amazing beans, they roast them to amazing perfection, and they mix it into amazing blends. If it doesn’t have that quality of being amazing, they’re not interested in it.
I love companies like this. I love unpretentious people who actually commit to quality, and not just in business, but to life itself. I think I’ve said this before but it bears repeating … a good portion of our world runs on coffee, almost literally. Imagine how much better it would run if we all enjoyed better coffee.

Café Britt Organic Shade Grown

Orgasmic shade grown … oh, pardon me. Where’s my mind?

I meant organic.

But it’s a justified Freudian slip. I’ve sampled several of Café Britt‘s coffees lately and this is by far my favorite. It’s rich, full bodied, naturally sweet, dusky, with a hint of wood smoke and hints of nuttiness.

Costa Rican coffees are just plain yummy. The fact that this one is orgasmic … I mean, organic, is a bonus. Organic, Fair Trade, yadda yadda yadda…

It’s good.

This is an all day drinking coffee. This is a coffee to serve at a party instead of alcohol. This is a coffee to drink in between dances with your sweetheart.

It’s lick the bottom of the coffee cup delicious. I mean it.

It’s truly organic … I mean orgasmic.

And legal to drink in public!

Toulouse Caffe

They started with some good beans.
It seems to me everything went downhill from there.
I did everything I could to brew this coffee so that the flavor would come out. I think I succeeded to some extent. You can taste underlying quality, and the ghost of a pleasant, full bodied roast.
Sadly this taste is veiled behind curtains of staleness. To me it tastes not only stale but somewhat sour. Not sour as in it’s gone bad and is going to kill me, but the taste itself has soured. It’s an aluminum can taste, mixed with shredded old socks and perhaps a pinch of vacuum bag dirt.
Seriously, this stuff is turning my stomach. I can’t even finish it. I’m dumping the rest down the sink.
You may see this in your hotel room. You may see it in on a bottom shelf at your supermarket. You may find it in the garbage.
If you do, leave it there.

Stone Creek Cream City Blend

This coffee is already gone.

From the very first sip, I completely lost interest in writing a review. I didn’t want the distraction. The taste is so smooth, so dramatic, that I wanted to simply enjoy it.

It struck me that so many coffee drinkers out there are happy with what they have. Ignorance is bliss. Because once you find out something is better, then what you have will no longer keep you happy.

That’s human nature.

If I were to take this coffee down to the corporate offices, make a fresh pot with some good water, at proper strength, I would ruin the sedated and complacent palates of a couple hundred people. Is this liberation or cruelty? To know something out there is so much better is good for the spirit, but then having to settle for something you now recognize as horrible would be … well, horrible.

A blend of Ethiopian, Guatemalan and French Roast coffees, this Cream City is the smoothest coffee I’ve ever had. The taste is rich and full bodied, and yet mellow. It would mix well with anything. Black, or sweetener, or with cream, or with ice cream, or as a cappuccino … this is the perfect all-around coffee.

I am so completely spoiled. I don’t think it’s a curse. I think the search for excellence is the high road and I recommend it to everyone. The answer is to not settle.

So here’s a shout out to the folks at Stone Creek. You people are awesome. This coffee is world class outstanding, and it is most definitely a Groovy Brew.

Café Britt Dark Roast

This is your basic black tie coffee.

You can tell just from the packaging. I mean, look at it. Especially compared to all Café Britt‘s other wild jungle-themed artistic splash, this one looks like a tuxedo. A black dress. Formal wear.

Someone wealthy has either gotten married, or died.

The coffee lives up to the packaging. It’s your standard high quality delicious gourmet dark roast blend. Nice and strong, full bodied, and with a sharp tangy acidity. It means business.

It demands respect.

If the leader of a country is coming over for dinner, serve this coffee. If your future in-laws own three yachts and their own jet aircraft, serve this coffee. If the CEO of a multinational corporation is due in your office for a one-on-one strategy meeting, serve this coffee.


If you want a good cappuccino with a lot of punch, use this coffee!

Hillside Coffee and their Hot Cans of Doom

At a local store I came across something I’d heard about but never seen. Canned coffee in self-heating cans.
Hillside Coffee, which comes in a coffee-mug shaped can with molded plastic lid and everything, has a chemical heating plant built right into the bottom. How cool is that? I had to pick up a couple just to try them.
Well, the next morning, I diligently read the instructions and proceeded to heat one up. It was a Mocha Latte. I had my reservations about the taste, but hey … I’m a guy, and it’s a gadget.
It felt like a new toy. I wanted to play.
How it works is you turn it over, and pull off a metal lid that’s much like popping the top off of canned pudding. Underneath is a plastic membrane with a button in the middle. You push the button down, which breaks an internal seal and mixes the chemicals. Six minutes later your coffee is hot.
Not warm. Hot!
After it’s hot, the directions say to shake it up to make sure the coffee, milk, sugar, etc., is all mixed, and then you pop the top like a soda can. So I shook it up, twisted the molded lid so it was aligned, and opened it. Sure enough the coffee-like substance was indeed hot. It was, I’d say, the perfect temperature.
The taste was far from perfect. The “milk” part of the latte tasted like powdered milk. The sugar was … well, there was too much of it. The coffee had the definite dilution tang that hinted of reconstituted instant. On top of that, you could taste the metal from the can.
I’m not really slamming Hillside, because you know it’s got to be hard to produce “coffee” in quantity and have it even taste somewhat like coffee. I mean, I tried one of the Godiva bottles of “coffee” the day before and it tasted just as bad.
[By the way, Godiva, stick to chocolate. M’kay?]
So, despite all this, it is drinkable after a fashion, especially because it’s in such a cool self-heating can. Not only do I finish this one, but I open the other one I bought, heating it up, etc.
This is where I ran into a problem.
After heating, remember, you’re supposed to shake it before opening the top. So it’s nice and hot, and I decide it’s ready, and I start shaking it. To my dismay I’m suddenly covered in liquid, and … it’s burning me!
That’s right. The bottom had sprung a leak! I was now covered in whatever chemical they were using to heat the can.
I made my way directly to the shower and rinsed myself off, clothes and all. Fortunately I hadn’t gotten any into my eyes — though it did come close — and I didn’t seem to have come to any harm. There were only a few spots — on my cheek, on my right index finger, and on the back of my left hand — that seemed red and irritated. But it was all very minor and at the time of this writing I’m completely fine.
It’s a good thing, though, I was at home and not on some fishing trip. I can see me jumping into a lake because of a chemical accident caused by a self-heating coffee can. You’d better believe the lawsuits would be flying. As it is, I’m willing to forgive but not forget. This article is a public warning, and a notice to Hillside Coffee that they have some quality control issues.

Jalima H&A Decaffeinated

Sometimes I crave coffee at 11:51 PM. Or 1:07 AM. And most of these times I have to sleep afterwards.
Needless to say, I can’t afford to get buzzed at 11:51 PM.
There are aficionados out there who would rather go without coffee rather than drinking decaffeinated. To each his own, I say. I’ve developed a taste for decaf and I don’t mind it at all.
Starbucks and Gevalia both manage a drinkable decaf, and now, so I’ve found, does Jalima. In fact I would be so bold as to state I find Jalima superior.
Smooth, rich, refined, with low acidity and a quiet, dignified presence, Jalima H&A Decaffeinated edges past every other decaf I’ve tried. Yes, I can still taste the difference, but the flavor is so pleasantly immersive that I don’t really notice unless I’m looking for it. One could even say I only imagine tasting it because I’m expecting it.
Tasting it side by side with the caffeinated version, it’s so close I could be imaging it.
Really, it doesn’t matter. The only reason to drink decaf is so that you don’t get buzzed. So that’s either late at night, or when you have to because your doctor said so. The sad fact is some people just can’t handle caffeine.
Lucky for them, dedicated people like those at Jalima make gourmet decaf. Otherwise life would suck.
I mean it. Life without coffee? The horror.
So to anyone who has been told to switch, I recommend this coffee. That is, only after getting a second opinion from a doctor who is actually up on the current health research about coffee. Also, anyone who thinks they hate all decaf, I urge them to try this one.
Because drinking coffee at 12:23 AM when you have to go to work at 7 AM is not a good idea unless you cut that caffeine.