• Rating: [rating:4.5/5]

40 Sardines. The American Restaurant. Blue Bird Bistro. The Classic Cup, Le Fou Frog, Yaya’s EuroBistro… great Kansas City restaurants, all. Each offers a wonderful dining experience. And each serves coffee from The Roasterie. Not the same coffee, mind you… each restaurant has its own custom blend.

These days you may be hard-pressed to find an eatery of note in Kansas City that doesn’t serve coffee from The Roasterie. And why not? Danny O’Neill’s coffee company is a true Kansas City success story. More, O’Neill crafts a custom blend for virtually everybody who wants one, vividly illustrating one of Danny’s essential principles: “Give your customer what he wants, stupid.”1

The Roasterie: Super Tuscan Espresso

Super Tuscan

After years of air-roasting coffee for Kansas City restaurants and retailers and markets, The Roasterie has opened its own flagship cafe in Brookside, the very neighborhood where O’Neill started his coffee roasting business (in his basement, no less… which should encourage home-roasters, everywhere.) Given a spanking new cafe — where O’Neill himself is the customer and can do exactly what he wants — what direction might he go in crafting a signature espresso blend?

This is no small thing. A signature espresso just might define your brand — your essential style — as much as anything else you might do as a roaster. So what is The Roasterie’s style? Smooth. Very, very smooth.

The Roasterie’s Super Tuscan is a nod to the North of Italy. The beans are a medium chestnut hue with virtually no oil on the surface… a very good sign.

The cup is marked by persistent red-caramel crema, and aromas of cocoa, burnt sugar and a hint of orange zest. Exceptionally round and smooth, its flavors range from a cocoa base note through a sweet milk-chocolate top note, with hazelnut woven in-between. The result is a complex, major chord, with no sharp notes, no bitterness at all.

Prepared as a cappuccino, or espresso macchiato, the chocolate flavors come sweetly through, while the nutty flavors add just enough tartness to balance the dairy.

While still a very smooth cup prepared as drip coffee, much of the chocolate is lost, as is much of its definition and dimension. With cream is better than black, but overall I vastly prefer this as espresso.

In the end, this blend could be seen by some as, well… a little pedestrian. It’s not edgy. It doesn’t have any zingy fruit surprises, or the punchy, in your face attitude that a number coffee roasters are experimenting with. But that’s okay — what may be pedestrian for the urban hipster is a smooth classic to me.

Highly recommended.

Technical Notes —

Espresso reviews can be tricky. A blend that performs flawlessly in the cafe can perform poorly at home, where equipment is rarely on a par with the performance or sheer capability of commercial machines. To get the complete picture of an espresso blend, I now test three ways — on a commercial machine (an Astoria, or a La Marzocco, or both, if I have time and coffee enough) on a home machine (a Rancilio Silvia) and brewed via manual drip.

This blend offered excellent pours with a minimum of fuss, and ample red-caramel crema with very little blonding.2 It actually fared as well — or better — on the Silvia than the Astoria, which suggests to me this is a very forgiving and supple blend, well-suited to at-home use.

  1. I have a list of 100 or so of Danny O’Neill’s operating principles around here somewhere… he has lots of them. They’re all good. []
  2. The paling that did occur was more likely due to temperature instability of the machine than the coffee. []

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