These days it seems I rarely find a commercial roaster that roasts coffee like I do — just to the peak [hopefully] of its flavor, rather than far, far into second crack. But I found just such a roaster, so I wanted to share. I’d come upon Black Bear Micro Roastery after hearing that they were being sued by Starbucks. Everybody loves an underdog, so I placed an order to help out in my own small way.

The happy news is that the coffee blends I sampled –Kenya Safari, Country French and Florentine Espresso– were each quite good. And *very* fresh. Black Bear publishes their roast schedule, and the week I ordered the infamous Charbucks blend wasn’t on the list… drat.

The Kenya Safari is a very mild blend of African and Central American coffees that is predominately Kenya AA, but the Kenya’s brightness is rounded off a bit with the milder Centrals, I’d guess some Colombian and Brazilian hard beans.

The Country French blend is –for a dark-roast– pleasingly mild, and not all that dark… more a deep Full City roast. Given the Central origins, I’d have hoped for more aroma in the cup, but still not bad.

The greatest surprise was the Florentine Espresso, which is absolutely true to its claim of being a Northern Italian style espresso roast. The beans are roasted quite light — there is no sign of oil on the beans. None at all. While that helps contribute to crema production [if all the oil is still in the bean, it’s all there to be extracted when you pull the shot] the significantly different roast style requires some serious recalibration of your grinder to find the sweet spot for these beans.

Of these blends, I like the Kenya Safari most… it’s a sneaky way to introduce those “strictly Colombian” coffee drinkers to the world of African coffees. Not that I’d do that, of course.

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