Both Ken and Willem liked this blend, but Willem really liked it: "Floral aroma, buttery, smooth body, sweet flavor with berry and prune notes. Lingering aftertaste with resonant sweetness. Fantastic and complete as milk drink, with chocolate and caramel notes." (93) Ken honored and enjoyed the fruit notes, which he found complex but rather tart once past the aroma ("tart berry and pineapple, dry chocolate" in the small cup, "tart fruit with a floral finish" in milk). In the end Ken found the cup just a bit short on sweetness and depth of sensation, both with milk and without (87).
The Aficionado's Pacific Northwest Espressos
By Kenneth Davids
February 16th, 2004
Willem: "Blossom-like, peppery aroma, just like the roses from my 50+year-old rose tree! Mild sweet flavor with lingering floral aftertaste. Excellent caramel complexity with milk. I loved it." (92) What for Willem was peppery and blossom-like, for Ken was spicy and fruity in the aroma and smokily fruity in the small cup. Ken wanted more sweetness in the demitasse but in milk praised this blend as "sweet, crisp and cherry-like edging toward chocolate." (89).
For Ken this naturally low-acid, lighter roasted blend was "Sweetly musty, cherry and apple in the aroma, heavy body with a tingle in the mouthfeel, crisp and toasty rather than sharp in the small cup, with excellent dimension and range."(91) Willem was less excited: "Bubbly and rich body. Chocolate, caramel notes with mildly woody then fruit notes in the aftertaste." (87) For both Ken and Willem, this blend came most distinctly into its own in milk. "Wonderful mastery of milk" according to Ken, "rich, complete, with a sort of carnal, earth-toned fruity chocolate." Willem: "Fantastic with milk: sweet, rich, lingering chocolate."
Both Willem and Ken found this blend satisfying, though not exciting. Willem: "elegant floral aroma. Overall: smooth and soft with pleasantly lingering aftertaste. Rich caramel notes in milk." (87) Ken: "Complex in a narrow range: smoky, sweet fruit in the aroma, smoky and spicy in the demitasse. Caramelly and sweet though a bit shallow in milk." (86)
Ken and Willem were eight points apart on this one. Ken liked the aromatic excitement of the "floral and fruit notes with complex smoky undertones" that he followed with pleasure from aroma through finish to milk. Although he found the small cup a bit sharp and thin-bodied, he forgave all in return for the floral and fruit complexity. (89) Willem, on the other hand, tasted nothing but imbalance and too much acidity: "Somewhat dull aroma with minor earthy notes" and in the small cup "mildly sharp and some uncontrolled acidity." He was a bit more forgiving with performance in milk: "sweet, bright, with caramel aftertaste." (81)
Both Ken and Willem admired the aroma of this rather darkly roasted blend, but the ambiguous flavor notes in the cup provoked ambivalence. For Willem the aroma was "excellent & fine and deep at the same time, with delicious floral notes," for Ken it was "sweet with a round, roasty chocolate and peach and floral notes." In the cup Willem found an "interesting flavor with an overpowering berry, almost musty, fruit aftertaste" (86) and Ken "dominating pungent, smoky tones, with a dry edge of chocolate; rather sharp and thin in the finish." (83)
Ken admired this blend (86) more than Willem (83), who was ambivalent about the aroma ("chocolate with a hint of tobacco"), critical of the small cup ("lacks sweetness and balance") though mildly approving of performance in milk ("pleasant caramel aftertaste"). For Ken, the aroma also was a bit feeble and musty in its chocolate and papaya suggestions, the cup a bit too dominated by musty and slightly fermented fruit notes, but he felt the finish "smoothed out nicely toward dry prune and chocolate," and the blend showed excellent presence in milk. He got so carried away he decided he found marzipan and mint notes in the milk finish.
Willem found this sample of the Starbucks staple blend "balanced throughout with no major high [positive] or low [negative] notes in aroma, flavor and aftertaste. [In the demitasse] some sweetness with a bitter end note. With milk, sweet, spicy, [with] a mild, pungent aftertaste." (85) Ken was less impressed. For him the aroma was "smoky, sweet and subdued," the body lean, the small cup "smoky and simple." He was most taken with this ubiquitous blend's impact in milk: "sweetens and rounds, prune fruit softens toward chocolate in the finish." (83)
This well-known blend, which attracted high ratings in previous Coffee Review tastings, mildly disappointed in this incarnation (Willem 84, Ken 84). Aroma fared well enough. For Willem it was "elegant, complex[ly] floral," for Ken "sweet, rich, with papaya and perhaps mint." Both found the small cup imbalanced, however. Willem described it as "acidy [and] spicy," Ken as "heavily pungent with aromatic wood notes." This imbalance predictably softened in milk: "Much better with milk than without" Willem concluded, although Ken felt the presence in milk was substantial but "rather ponderous with a woody finish."
Neither Ken nor Willem developed much enthusiasm for this beautifully packaged coffee. Willem apparently liked the "mild floral notes" in the aroma, but in the cup found both body and flavor "lacked balance and temperature stability," meaning they changed for the worse as the coffee cooled. (82) Ken found the smoky, low-toned fruity aroma attractive, but the cup bitterly pungent and smoky without resonance or resilience. The coffee failed to "blossom" for him in milk and remained smoky and flat. (82)
Ken found this espresso matched its name: A straightforwardly roasty, simple espresso of the kind pumped out of roadside espresso carts and kiosks all over the Northwest: "Dark-roasted with a smoky bite and a low-toned papaya-like fruit that turns vaguely chocolate in the finish. Smoky and a little flat in milk." (84) Willem, however, acknowledges only the negative side of the aggressive roast with its limited range: "Burned, dull aroma with unpleasant carbony and cardboard flavor." (78)
Lots of complaints and caveats here. For Willem the aroma was "slightly musty, chocolaty," for Ken "heavy, bittersweet." In the demitasse Willem found "bitter, sharp flavor notes" and Ken "sharpish, ponderously sour tones" although he did detect "some incongruous floral topnotes." "Definitely lacked sweetness with and without milk," Willem concluded. (80) "Powerful but oddly sourish in milk" for Ken. (81)