At a Glance: single origin (Guatemala); light/medium body; spicy, sweet, caramel, cocoa, smoky, nutty, earthy, toasty, buttery; low acidity; washed

Most Chicago coffee connoisseurs know about what I call the Big Four Roasters—Intelligentsia, Metropolis, Bridgeport, and Dark Matter. Intelligentsia and Metropolis, especially, dominate and saturate the Chicago market with their roasts—you’d be hard-pressed to go to any coffee shop in the city and not find their beans decorating the merchandise shelves or in their coffee urns or in their espresso grinders. It seems like no matter where you go in the city, coffee shops are pulling espresso shots with either Intelligentsia’s Black Cat roast or Metropolis’s Red Line roast.

But every now and then, you’ll stumble across a local coffee shop that does their own small batch roasting, like Ipsento Coffee on Western Avenue. Now, in Ipsento Coffee’s case, we’re talking very small batches; when you walk into the shop and peruse their merchandise shelves, you’ll only find two types of beans—the Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (or, simply, “FAF”) of Brazil and the Finca Vista Hermosa of Guatemala (at least that’s the way it was when I stopped in this past Sunday—they may offer other roasts throughout the year). And not only do they not have much choose to from, they don’t have very many bags to choose. Their selection is incredibly limited.

But that might not be such a bad thing.

Now, I’m an Indo/Pacific kind of guy myself; my favorite beans come from the highlands of Papua New Guinea and Sulawesi. American coffees have never really been my thing, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when I learned when they only offered Brazilian and Guatemalan beans (I was even more disappointed when I asked, “Do you offer any Indo/Pacific roasts?” and the barista dude replied, “Umm, well. We offer a Colombian roast sometimes,” then proceeded to grind the beans I ended up buying for a French press rather than the flat bottom grind I asked for (I have to add a side note here—this occurrence is really untypical service from Ipsento; they’re usually very knowledgeable)). I kind of consider Guatemalan beans a “gateway bean,” if you will, to Indo/Pacific beans because, being up in the highlands, they typically have very similar tones and flavors.

So that’s what I ended up with—the Finca Vista Hermosa of Guatemala.

I was very surprised to find that this Guatemalan coffee was unlike most other Guatemalans I’ve tried in the past. Whereas a lot of the other roasts I’ve had were somewhere between a medium and a heavy body—fairly hearty, well-rounded cups of coffee—, the Finca Vista was a little bit lighter; not much lighter, but enough to notice.

The flavor, though, was impeccable—unlike any other Guatemalan I’ve ever had. As I said before, I consider Guatemalan beans a leaping point for South American fans who are interested in trying Indo/Pacific or African beans. They usually share that medium-heavy body, and they also share flavor tones like spiciness and earthiness. The Finca Vista, on the other hand, although it contained spicy nuances, was a sweeter cup of coffee—much like an African coffee. What also made it similar to African coffee was its rich chocolaty flavor that coats the palate. It also has this awesome, smooth buttery richness to it that’s impossible to resist. Most mornings, I have a cup of coffee and a pastry for the commute to work, but the Finca Vista was such a sweet delight that I switched to bananas.

Those cocoa overtones were so dominating that it took several cuppings at home to find the flavors that I’ve come to know and love in Guatemalan coffees—the spice, the nuttiness, the caramel, the toastiness, the smoke. Coupled with the sweetness, these more intense features made the Finca Vista a really well-rounded cup of coffee that was a real treat.

The Bottom Line

Ipsento Coffee’s roast of the Finca Vista Hermosa of Guatemala is a wonderful, balanced, nicely-rounded cup of coffee. Its medium body and buttery sweetness will appeal to South American coffee fans; its chocolaty overtones will appeal to African coffee lovers; and its earthy, nutty, spicy smokiness will delight Indo/Pacific snobs like me. This coffee is a great option for people who are just getting into coffee and want to discover which region will be their forte and for coffee experts who want to taste a really complex, rewarding, flavorful cup of coffee alike.

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