Feb 26, 2013

West Java Indonesia Starbucks Reserve Coffee, reviewed

Starbucks Reserve Tasting

Starbucks released two new reserve coffees from Indonesia at the same time, and when I saw them both pop up on the menu board at my local store, I immediately wondered what the difference was. Fortunately, I was able to set up a little taste test so I could do a side by side comparison of Isla Flores Indonesia and West Java Indonesia.

West Java Indonesia delivered a big contrast to the Isla Flores Indonesia coffee, but since it comes from a completely different part of Indonesia and there is actually quite a bit of diversity between the various islands (and microclimates within the islands), I should have expected it. I knew that Iwould like it as soon as I smelled it. The coffee had unexpected sweetness to it that reminded me bit of hibiscus. When I tasted it, I found that the sweetness was tempered with herbal notes – but the coffee still had a rich earthiness and a very low acidity that made for a very smooth cup of coffee (in contrast to bright, high acidity coffees that I am more likely to associate with distinct herbal and grassy flavors). The sweetness came through again at the end and left me with a very clean finish. Definitely a fun, easy to drink coffee that I’ll have again.

Feb 25, 2013

Isla Flores Indonesia Starbucks Reserve Coffee, reviewed

Starbucks Reserve Tasting

Starbucks released two new reserve coffees from Indonesia at the same time, and when I saw them both pop up on the menu board at my local store, I immediately wondered what the difference was. Fortunately, I was able to set up a little taste test so I could do a side by side comparison of Isla Flores Indonesia and West Java Indonesia.

Isla Flores is a very smooth coffee that has a really nice balance of sweetness and earthiness. You can definitely taste some of the butterscotch and caramel notes in the coffee, though they are balanced out by a moist, earth flavor that grounds the coffee. It is quite dark, but extremely easy to drink – even if you don’t usually take your coffee back. The beans are processed using a washed method, different from the semi-washed processing that is more common to the area. Apparently, the method brings out a unique color in the coffee beans (before they are roasted, of course), as well.

This coffee would pair well with just about anything (seriously), from banana bread to those little caramel candies that Starbucks sells at the register (and were sampled to me by a barista who was 100% right in saying they were a delicious pairing). This coffee is only available in very small batches, so this is one to taste first if it shows up at your local store, since it isn’t likely to last.

Feb 22, 2013

ManaTea Infuser

Manitea

Manatees might not get the adoration that dolphins and some other sea creatures get, but the plump marine mammals are adorable in their own right, too. They’re even more adorable when they’re miniaturized – and that is exactly what the ManaTea Infuser delivers. These nearly irresistible tea infusers are shaped like manatees and hang gently from the side of your mug as you steep your tea. The infuser is molded from food-safe silicone and the tale slides off to allow you to fill or empty the infuser. The expression on the face of the ManaTea is one of bliss – as though he is happy as a clam to be relaxing in a warm cup of delicious tea. I suspect that it will make me want to drink a lot more tea, because I just can’t say no to a face like that.

Feb 18, 2013

Cook’s Illustrated Rates Medium-Roast Supermarket Coffees

MEdium Roast Coffees

Most people who brew coffee at home pick up a pound or two at their local market, rather than at a specialty coffee shop or by mail-order. Just like picking out wine, it can be difficult to pick out a coffee that will turn out a solid cup of coffee when all you have to go on is the packaging. Medium roast coffees fall in the middle of the coffee roasting spectrum and are likely to appeal to the broadest range of coffee-drinking consumers, and Cook’s Illustrated set out to put them to a taste test in a recent issue (March/Apr 2013).

This taste test sounds like a great idea, because it is always nice to know what a good all-purpose coffee is. Your average consumer (which could be you or me) will see the words “medium roast”  on a package and assume that coffee is a medium roast – with a few degrees of variation from brand to brand. Cook’s Illustrated, however, decided to color-test the coffee beans and decide what an acceptable range of color was for coffees to be designated as “medium roast” and use that as the standard. The problem with this is that (1) you can’t tell what color the beans are until you open the package, which means that if you’re not choosing a coffee from their list, you are back to square one and (2) more than one coffee in the test was labeled a “light roast.”

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