• Rating: [rating:3/5]

I’m surprised as anyone to find myself reviewing two dark-roasted coffees back-to-back, and more surprised to find that they’re both African origins (the coffee immediately prior was Ancora’s Kenya AA Nyeri “Fine Cup”.) I guess it’s chaos theory in action: I ran out of coffee last week, and on a whim stopped at a local Starbucks to see what they might have to offer. I came away with a new coffee — Starbucks’ Rift Valley Blend.

This is a very, very dark roast. The coffee’s oils have freely migrated to the surface of the beans… they don’t merely gleam with coffee oils, they clump.

There is perhaps a hint of Dutch chocolate in this coffee’s fragrance; a smattering of caramel in its aroma. The roast itself, however, dominates its aromatics.

Like Ancora’s Nyeri, the roast level of this coffee has transformed the brightness of the bean. However, where Ancora artfully distilled the coffee’s acidity to a shimmering presence, Starbucks’ roast dominates, leaving the coffee’s acidity as little more than a savory dryness on the tongue. Its flavor is slightly pungent (that’s the roast talking) and quite herby… I taste notes of basil and thyme and warm notes of pepper. Its body is much less lush that I might expect given this degree of roast; its finish is dry and long.

In sum: if you like your roasts deep and your cup savory, you’ll appreciate this fairly heavy-handed take on an African staple.

1) The very oily beans may be difficult to grind — they bridge easily.
2) It would appear that Starbuck’s destoner is set to obliviate; there are a lot of broken beans in the bag.
3) Use this coffee quickly; with all those oils on the surface of the bean, this coffee will very quickly get stale and rancid.

Recommended… with reservations.

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