Let’s face it. Right now the folks at Square Mile — Stephen Morrissey, James Hoffmann and Annette Moldvaer1 — could phone it in. They could source dubious coffees, call them edgy, describe them cryptically while lavishing them with praise… and they would sell. A lot. At least until the hype subsided.
Happily, our world champion baristas and coffee tasters are doing no such thing. They’re sourcing coffees of great character — juried award winners and coffees from small, family-run farms — roasting them light to remain faithful to the beans’ origins, and letting the coffee speak for itself. Well done.
Costa Rica El Portillo C.O.E.
I admit to having a love / hate affair with Costa Rican coffee the last year or two. From where I sit, Costas have lurched in one of two directions, each at opposite ends of my bell curve of happiness: at the one end, bright, shrill, efferfrickinvescant acidity at the expense of all other character; at the other extreme, big, beefy and dumb-as-a-cow bullion flavors with no dynamic to the cup at all. The exceptions to these extremes can be found far from the big coffee estates on small, family farms… and — happily enough — the Square Mile El Portillo is just such an exception.
Balanced and round, with flavors of honeysuckle and buttery caramel. I find a burst of citrus on the front, and a dark cocoa surprise as the cup cools, and that honeyed sweetness and syrupy body throughout. This is a complex, many-layered cup, and immensely rewarding.
Kenya Muchoki Peaberry
Tremendously bright, crisp, and dry with flavors of tart cherry, and strawberries with fresh-ground black pepper. Its finish is dry, somewhat distilled and yet — somehow — suggests a candied sweetness. I’m reminded of a top-quality Muscato D’Asti.
The very light roast on this coffee makes for a cup that’s faithful to its origins, but the roaster in me can’t help but wonder if a bit more fire wouldn’t further develop the sweetness that dwells in this bean.
Both of these coffees are highly recommended, and available now, at Square Mile Coffee Roasters.
P.S. It’s worth noting… this is two coffees down, and two to go. More soon.
P.P.S. Sorry about the marginal photography. It was a bit of a rush job.
- Note that each name is described by double double letters… Coincidence? Or conspiracy? [↩]