A Citizen of Many Beans

Since moving to a new location, my sister, Kae of Team Stripey Socks, decided that it was somewhat unconscionable that I was without a constant influx of novelty espresso beans coursing through my highly-caffeinated veins. The solution was simple: have the beans come to me. And so, she signed me up to Citizen Bean.

It’s a great idea, really. Citizen Bean curates various roasters from around the country and ships them out in a monthly subscription service to their customers. While losing the dimension of ambiance that comes with visiting cafés, one gains the variety of different roasting preferences/styles inherent to different regions around the country. Is there such a diversity? Would a Midwestern roaster emphasize the same qualities and flavors as one from the East or West Coast? How different could they be?

Better to let the products speak for themselves, I suppose.

Intelligentsia – Black Cat Espresso

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“This syrupy and sweet espresso blend has been the staple of our lineup since the very beginning… The Black Cat Classic Espresso’s hallmark is its supreme balance and wonderful sweetness.”

Somewhat ironically, the first of the espressos to arrive from Intelligentsia Coffee, whom I’ve talked about a little bit in the past. Their Black Cat Espresso blend is super popular in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and for very good reason – their careful blending and highly calibrated roasting conditions have resulted in a highly consistent cup of espresso that holds its own both alone, and mixed into lattes and the like. For the January 2016 batch, a combination of Brazilian and Costa Rican beans were employed, evoking a suite of dark chocolate and dried fruit flavor notes.

This espresso arrived with an awesome chocolate florentine cookie, which was a great decision. The dark, cherry-like flavors of the espresso paired beautifully with the nutty richness of the cookie, both in pure espresso form and mixed with steamed milk as a cortado.

Supersonic – Concorde Espresso

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“Concorde is our seasonal blend designed for espresso, but also makes a delicious and balanced filter coffee… This blend makes a sweet and luscious espresso with dark chocolate and blood orange notes.”

Supersonic Coffee, a relative newcomer to the field compared to Intelligentsia and other Third Wave roasters, provided the February 2016 batch of beans with their Concorde Seasonal Blend. Based out of Berkeley, CA, Supersonic emphasizes forward thinking and unconventional thinking in their processes. This mindset really comes through in this blend of Colombian and Ethiopian coffees, which creates a super bright, almost juicy consistency in its extractions. I got a lot of citrus flavors, as well – like an aftertaste of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange after every sip.

Playing somewhat adjacent to that comparison, the Concorde shipped with a very rich and soft chocolate truffle cookie. While it paired well with steamed milk, I personally found that this particular espresso tasted best either on its own or with a dash of condensed milk – both of which allow its interesting flavor profile to really shine.

Four Barrel Coffee – Friendo Blendo Espresso

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“Citrus flavors swan dive into fresh berry full forward, which jumps or walks back down into down fog, then toffee sweetness sun saturation. Swan Dive.”

The March 2016 shipment came from Four Barrel Coffee, a roaster from San Francisco. The Friendo Blendo Espresso has a similar citrus brightness to Supersonic’s Concorde blend, probably due to having Ethiopian-origin beans in its formulation as well. The March formulation of the Friendo Blendo had a Nicaraguan component as well (which has since been replaced with a Guatemalan one), though both add a certain degree of apple-ish or cranberry-like qualities to the mix. Interestingly, this coffee also stipulates that some of its flavors will mellow out over time as a feature rather than as a staling problem – so far everything I’ve tried has still been pretty bright, but perhaps it has some aging in it yet.

While the descriptive text this particular blend is somewhat confusing (and comes off as a bit of a word salad), I do agree with the general assertion that there is a deftness to this espresso that allows a great deal of flavor to come through without being overbearing at any given point. The Friendo Blendo came with a “Oatmeal Cranberry Surprise,” which consisted of a mixture nuts and dried berries. I didn’t find this one as much of a combination home-run as the previous months’ cookies, but I appreciate the intent of juxtaposing the mellower flavors of the nuts with the sharper notes from the espresso, when paired.


After all is said and done, I wound up signing up for another full year of subscription to this service. Besides having a continuously rolling series of wonderful coffee beans coming into my house, the Citizen Bean service has added a level of intrigue to my morning routine. The beans come with explicit technical preparation notes – temperatures, dose amounts, and extraction times. What this means is that I can attempt to emulate or replicate what the roasters believe are the ideal conditions to experience their beans; whether or not I can successfully capture that vision, however, is another question entirely.

In either case, though, I’m left thinking just a little bit more about the coffee that I’m tasting. And in the end, that’s more than I could have ever wished for in a subscription service like this. So, thank you, Citizen Bean. Thank you for keeping the beans flowing.

And until next time, take care. 😀

 

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