At a Glance: blend (Malabar, Sumatra); full body; intense, smoky, earthy, spicy, bittersweet, herbal; low acidity; semi-washed

Greetings coffee lovers, and welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. I took the liberty of grabbing you a mug of coffee—Dark Matter Coffee Company’s latest blend, A Warm November Rain.

Feel free to pull up a chair.

Once again, we’re just a few short days away from Thanksgiving—is it just me, or do the holidays seem to creep up from out of nowhere more quickly the older you get? This is that special time of year when families and friends and loved ones gather together around the dinner table, and gorge themselves on exorbitant amounts of turkey, stuffing, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pie. In my experience, the one ingredient to the perfect Thanksgiving meal that is most commonly overlooked, though, is coffee! It seems like the holidays provide a main stage for beverages like eggnog, Bailey’s Irish Cream, wine, champagne, or (if your family is anything like mine) Diet Coke, but coffee is all too often simply taken for granted.

That’s why here at the Table, for the next handful of weeks, we are going to be dedicated to reviewing coffees that will be great for the holidays. So we’ll probably be drinking a lot different “holiday blends,” but we’ll also review some coffees that I think just go well with the season. And this will all come starting….

Now.

Thanksgiving is kind of a tricky holiday to pair with coffee, because there aren’t a whole lot of flavors that are distinctly “Thanksgiving-ish.” Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving doesn’t have the traditional tastes that lend themselves well to coffee flavors, like cinnamon, gingerbread, or peppermint. No, the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving are more akin to bread, starch, and gravy. So you kind of have to pair the two up by going for the “essence of Thanksgiving” and the season leading up to it.

Take into consideration the weather, activities, the atmosphere—burning leaves, preparing the Thanksgiving dinner, bundling up in your winter clothes, settling into an easy chair by the fireplace for a long winter’s nap, and, of course, football. So the coffee you drink for your meal should have elements of all these things—smoky, smooth, fully bodied, spicy, dried fruit (like cranberry), nutty, etc.

These are the sorts of flavors that Dark Matter Coffee Company in Chicago are specialists in accentuating, and their latest blend offering—A Warm November Rain—is a perfect example of what a Thanksgiving dinner or dessert coffee should taste like.

A Warm November Rain is a dual coffee blend from the Pacific region—equal parts Sumatra and monsooned Malabar. If you’ve been to the table before, you’ll recall my earlier review about Dark Matter’s Monsoon Malabar roast; this type is one of the world’s more interesting coffees, from the processing stage to its final flavor profile. When the cherries are picked, they are packed away in warehouses that have removable walls. Then, when India’s monsoon season rolls around, the cherries are spread out on the floor, the walls of the warehouse are removed to expose the cherries to the sea-salty winds, and they are raked around every so often so that all of them can absorb an equal amount of the monsoon wind and rain kicking up from the Indian Ocean. This process lasts for about 12-16 weeks.

All of this results in a coffee with a super intense flavor—if I remember correctly, I described it as being a coffee that dropkicks the palate. It’s full-bodied and really smoky, woody, spicy, earthy, with small hints of chocolate.

Coffees from Sumatra, on the other hand, are kind of like a lesser version of the Malabar. Sumatran coffees are almost always full-bodied, bold, hearty cups of coffee, but not nearly as intensely flavored as the Malabar. They’re not intensely smoky, or spicy, or herbal; rather, they possess more earthiness or woodiness, with more distinct bittersweet flavors like chocolate, caramel, or toffee.

Sometimes, anyway.

When you put the two together, like Dark Matter did with their Warm November Rain blend, you get a deep, full-bodied, full-flavored mixture of all those flavors without any compromises.

The aroma of this coffee leaned pretty heavily toward the Malabar side of things. It was pipe-tobacco smoky and a bit charred, like the scent that comes out of your grandpa’s den when you open the door. There was also a scent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Everything about it is warm and inviting.

The flavor, though slightly more intense, was also warm and inviting. Again, the Malabar, because it is such a strong and formidable coffee, came to the forefront. The pipe tobacco smokiness was still there, along with some, for lack of better terms, “outdoorsy” tastes—it was earthy and had the woodiness of cedar—and a lot of subtleties that I didn’t taste the first time around (when I had the Malabar as a single origin) like herbs and spices. Since I didn’t taste those notes the first time, I have to assume that they were more Sumatra-prevalent. As the cup cools, the earthiness of the Sumatra bean becomes more dominant, as do notes of bittersweet dark chocolate and burnt caramel. At room temperature, the coffee ends with a very slight grapefruit taste.

The Bottom Line

Dark Matter Coffee Company’s A Warm November Rain really lives up to its name—the perfect beverage to enjoy while sitting in a cozy easy chair and listening to a gentle rain pitter-patter against the window. It is a warm and inviting full-bodied coffee with notes of pipe-tobacco, cedar, spices, herbs, and burnt caramel. This unique blend will go great with Thanksgiving dinner, or coupled with some of grandma’s delicious pumpkin pie after the meal.

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