“Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear” (3.2.15, Julius Caesar, Shakespeare) – it is time, once again, for a coffee review. Welcome back to my table here in the corner of Chicago’s own Star Lounge Coffee Bar. It seems as though Dark Matter Coffee Company is trying something new, that I am really loving so far, with offering a Blend of the Month. December brought us Old Dank Nick, January had SPUN/DMC, and February had Intellectual Curiosity. March is now upon us, and Dark Matter is currently offering The Ides of Starch.
“Shall we now contaminate our fingers with base bribes?” (4.3.23). Wait, no – that doesn’t seem right. Regardless, feel free to pull up a chair.
The Ides of Starch is inspired by a couple things: first of all, obviously, the month of March; and, secondly, the Shakespearean tragedy, The Ides of March (as is evident by the tremendous packaging design – done by Booker Youngblutt (who is also, apparently, a semi-professional dog walker based in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village)). (See also: “ides;” the word Ides comes from the Latin word “Idus” and means “half division,” especially in relation to a month.)
But how does the “starch” aspect fit in?
If you’re unfamiliar with the roasting process (this applies to all of the coffee novices and newcomers that sit here at the Table), green coffee beans are filled with sugars, fats, and starches. In this case, The Ides of Starch is a blend of 20% Papua New Guinea and 80% Mexico green beans that is roasted somewhere around the arbitrary roast term, City+ – about halfway between first and second crack (“idus“). It’s at this point in the roasting process that all of the sugars, fats, and starches that are stored within the beans get emulsified, caramelized, and released. This process creates the delicate coffee oil that you see coated on the roasted beans. That oil is what gives coffee its distinctive aroma and taste – its personality.
Typically, lighter roasts (i.e., < American, City, etc. > ,…) are more flavorful and have higher acidity, and darker roasts (i.e., City, Full City < French, Italian, Spanish) have fuller bodies and more defined texture (or, mouthfeel). Medium roasts, those beans that come right between first and second crack (or are pulled immediately after second crack) – City+ and Full City roasts – are, generally, the best of both worlds.
The Ides of Starch is meant to be that “best of both worlds” – a highly approachable and accessible cup of coffee.
Origins: Wahgi River Valley, Papua New Guinea & Veracruz, Mexico
Farms: PNG Estate – Kimel Plantation & N/A
Elevation: 1400-1600 & N/A
Varietal: JBM & Typica
Process: washed, sun-dried
The Ides of Starch has a perfumy, delicate, pleasant aroma that is actually quite soothing. Very nice aromatic notes of jasmine and light cocoa powder. I even detect a small trace of buttery creaminess.
Those same notes carry over into the flavor of this coffee. Particularly while it’s hot, the most notable feature is a tasty caramelly, buttery cocoa flavor. This medium-bodied cup has an earthy texture, but that doesn’t implicitly give it a gritty mouthfeel; on the contrary, this coffee is very smooth, very drinkable – I actually drank it a few times before I was able to get a good enough taste of it for a review because the cup was empty in a matter of no time every time I drank it. As the cup cools, fruitier flavors start to come into play – raspberry, black currant, and sweet strawberry dance across the palate.
Combined with its mellow citrus acidity, this coffee’s flavor, texture, and mouthfeel made The Ides of Starch a really well-rounded, well-balanced, pleasant cup of coffee.
the bottom line:
After Jesse Diaz, the founder and owner of Dark Matter Coffee Company, told me the inspiration for The Ides of Starch, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from it. As a coffee reviewer, I don’t get very excited about coffees that are designed to be straightforward, approachable, and accessible; just like any other medium, I try to veer away from the middle of the road. That being said, this blend actually took me by surprise.
While I agree that this coffee is accessible and could be well-liked by anybody, I think it would be unfair for coffee connoisseurs to dismiss it just because it’s roasted to match a profile. It has a really nice, smooth body with flavorful notes of cocoa, raspberry, and herbs, plus it has a clean finish, and a balanced acidity and finish.
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