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Thirteen years of coffee and commentary. Tridecaphobes, beware.

sq-mile-el-portillo

Tasting Square Mile Coffees

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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.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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.


Notes and Links

  1. Note that each name is described by double double letters… Coincidence? Or conspiracy?

Author: deCadmus

Doug Cadmus is a usability guy, writer and sometime dramatist who moved to Vermont for the coffee, where he's the Web Guy for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. When not writing, reading, or tapping out haiku-like Twitter posts, he roasts coffee in his garage.

3 Comments

  1. We’re really pleased you are enjoying the coffee and that the journey didn’t take too much out of them. Anette, Stephen and I really enjoyed reading your review.

    I get your point with the Muchoki, we really love that coffee and we did initially push it a touch darker but it very quickly developed a chocolate note that was very nice but didn’t feel like it belonged, and we really wanted a coffee that didn’t taste like “coffee”, if that makes sense. We’ll keep playing and developing it though – every bit of feedback is welcome.

    I hope you enjoy the other coffees as much!

  2. I might note, I was quite surprised at how I received the coffee. Very frequently coffee that I have shipped from far-flung places has been obviously subjected to pressure changes along the way… bags are frequently “vacuumed”. Not so yours, which arrived *very* quickly, and quite none the worse for wear.

    The Muchoki is a really expressive bean and I like it a lot. Don’t let my “wondering out loud” about roast levels push you off your marker: you’ve had opportunity to play with the bean and know what you want to do with it… good enough. ;)

  3. We have Square Mile Coffee in the UK and I can certainly vote for the quality. Enjoyed reading your review.

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