At a Glance: blend (Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua); full bodied; fruity, earthy, gritty, citrus, nutty, bright; medium acidity; organic; washed

Happy holidays, my fellow coffee enthusiasts, and welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. I’m really excited about this week’s review, and have been since the folks of Dark Matter Coffee Company informed me that they were going to be doing a holiday blend almost a month ago. I’ve come to find that there’s nothing Dark Matter does that I don’t like, so I get really giddy with excitement whenever Jesse or one of the other guys informs me that they’re doing something new. With their Warm November Rain and, most recently, their holiday blend, Old Dank Nick, Dark Matter Coffee Company has given me reason to look forward to the holidays.

Now, on Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer, and Vixen, and Comet, and Cupid, and Donner, and Blitzkrieg, and Ralph, and Stanley, on Clyde, and Bernice! Old Dank Nick has come to town and he says it’s time to get down and boogie to the elf dance! Are you ready to go?

Feel free to pull up a chair.

What makes this roast even more exciting, besides the fact that it comes from Dark Matter Coffee Company, is that they use my favorite of their offerings as one of the blend components—their beans from Papua New Guinea. You may recall that their Papua New Guinea Peaberry is one of the very first reviews I wrote for this website, way back in the day; you may also recall that I raved about it. I still rave about it—Papua New Guinea is far and away my favorite region for coffee. While they still retain the full-bodiedness and earthy flavors of other Indonesian/Pacific coffees, Papua New Guineas are often brighter, more balanced, more complex, have more well-rounded acidity, and possess a lot of the flavor profiles of the best Central American coffees.

Accompanying this bean in the blend is a coffee that comes from one of my favorite American (and certainly most underrated) regions, Nicaragua. I’m not sure why, but Nicaraguan coffees seem to be commonly and tragically overlooked. When people think of Central and South Americans, their minds automatically default to countries like Brazil, Guatemala, or Costa Rica. Their second response may be Honduras, Argentina, or El Salvador. Almost always (at least in my experience), Nicaragua isn’t one of the first regions that comes to mind for fantastic coffee. This is a tremendous shame, because I, for one, think Nicaragua has some of the finest, most complex, most flavorful coffees in all of the Americas. They are truly classic cups of coffee—nice body, balanced, and clean flavor.

While these two organic coffees are superb on their own, when they are blended together and roasted at just above the city roast level, they make something really special. A real Christmas treat.

Benjamin Ezra, 2010

Now, before I go any further, I just wanted to make it a point to bring your attention to the artwork of this coffee bag, because I think it’s incredible. This illustration was done by Benjamin Ezra, a musician, singer/songwriter, artist, and barista extraordinaire at Star Lounge Coffee Bar, here in Chicago. Well done, Mr. Ezra. This bag is dank, indeed.

Okay, now let’s get back to the coffee.

I prepared this coffee with my Hario V60 and, let me just say this—the aroma was heavenly. It was very sweet, with a fruity pungency. It even had a bit of herbs and nuttiness emitting from the dripper as I poured the water out of the kettle. Subtleties of almond and coconut, with ever so slight hints of lavender and hibiscus.

Knowing what Papua New Guineas and Nicaraguas typically taste like, Old Dank Nick’s flavor was somewhat predictable, but oh so delicious. It had a nice, well-rounded, full-bodiedness to it, but it isn’t heavy. The mouth feel was pretty gritty, but it had a crisp, clean finish. The flavor was very fruity—slightly rustic, but tropical fruity, really. Cherry, apricot, plum, grape, citrus, and peach, all topped off with a grapefruit acidity. Beneath all of the brightness of the fruits, though, was an underbelly of earthiness and very slight spice that danced on the tip of my tongue. As the cup cooled, the coffee became more and more delicious—all of the flavors got more intense rather than dissipating. I could even imagine it being great served over ice.

The Bottom Line

Dark Matter Coffee Company’s latest holiday offering, Old Dank Nick, is one of the best I’ve had from them (which is a pretty big statement, considering how much I love all of their other coffees). Both their Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea are fantastically delicious coffees as single origins, but when they’re blended together… I don’t know—Christmas magic happens. The flavors become more intense, more well-rounded, deeper, fuller—like the belly of Old Dank Nick, himself. Everything about this fruity, earthy coffee is guaranteed to make spirits bright.

This Christmas, I really wouldn’t prefer any other Nick coming down my chimney than Dark Matter Coffee Company’s Old Dank Nick. But since I’m not a child and no longer believe in that kind of stuff, I’ll just leave a mug of this coffee out for Santa Claus when he delivers all of my toys—after all, he’s going to need all the caffeine he can get Christmas night!

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