Kaldi’s Coffee, for the second year in a row, has graced the Table with their annual holiday blend. Instead of 2012’s vague but seasonably accurate Winter Blend, they dove headlong into the holidays Scrooge McDuck style and emerged with their festive ‘Tis the Season Roast.
While I liked what they did before, I really love this new direction they’ve taken. I particularly love the packaging this coffee came in, so I feel inclined to mention that Kaldi’s drafted the services of The Firecracker Press—a St. Louis-based letterpress company.
This year, Kaldi’s is offering two incredibly distinct coffees to create the Tis the Season Roast. Coincidentally, the two components used are two of my absolute favorite coffees I’ve ever tasted. One is a coffee from the Aceh region in Sumatra, with nice herbal and tobacco notes. The second is a dry process coffee from Ethiopia, offering dried fruit and chocolate notes. These coffees together form a new take on the old blend, Mocha Java.
Buying from Ethiopia continues to be a challenge for roasters and importers. More often than not, they are forced to purchase their lots through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange—which is difficult if you require some traceability or back story with the coffees you want to purchase. You have to become a detective, scouring through pages and pages and pages of roaster and importer websites to find information about any given ECX coffee.
Well—not you, personally; that’s why you have me: Drew Moody—Coffee Detective.
What I do know is this coffee comes from a washing station in the Gedeo Zone, west of the town of Yirgacheffe in the Guji area. The mill is called Kerbal Aricha and is owned by Surafel Birhanu, and is supplied by around 650 to 750 smallholder farmers (mainly garden growers), who produce around five containers of specialty coffee per year, and around ten commercial grade. The varietals are anyone’s guess, but seem to be mainly made up from Typica and various other Ethiopian heirloom varietals. This is what you get in Ethiopia: lots of small growers with lots of different mutations and variations of plants, and little interest in separating them and figuring out what they actually have on their hands.
sumatra tano batak
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of ‘Tis the Season Holiday Roast, from Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Gedeo, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia // Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
farm: N/A // N/A
producer(s): smallholder farmers // smallholder farmers
assocation: Ethiopia Commodity Exchange // Olam Klasic Kopi Linton
elevation: 1950 – 2150 // 1400 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom // Ateng, Jember, Typica
process: natural // semi-washed, patio dried
Mmm, the aroma of this coffee is wonderful. There’s a touch of roasted nuts at the forefront of each sniff, followed closely by scents of dried fruits, tobacco, chocolate cake, and baking spices. This aroma has me salivating.
The first few sips of this coffee are exactly what I want them to be. Just a touch of cinnamon, brown sugar, roasted almonds, and moist cherry tobacco leaves on the tip of the tongue introduce sweet and savory flavors of vanilla, nougat, raw cocoa nibs, and, yes, the most festive of holiday flavors—fruit cake and powdered sugar.
As it cools off, the coffee gets remarkably bright and lively with a sharp, tart grapefruit acidity that swirls over the palate, cleansing it of the flavors up front and paving the way for beautiful flavors of plum, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, raisin, melon, raspberry, and lemon custard tart, each sip leaving behind a smack of peanut M&Ms in the finish.
medium body; supple mouthfeel; grapefruit acidity; clean finish
the bottom line:
It took everything I had in me to wait to cup this coffee; everyday, for a whole week, the bright silver bag and the Norman Rockwell-esque packaging staring at me, taunting me, enticing me. There was no sign with the words “Do not open ’til Christmas” on it, but I was so right to wait to cup this blend last—‘Tis the Season Roast, from Kaldi’s Coffee, was the best holiday blend I had this year.
While I don’t necessarily think that this blend embodies the scents and flavors of the holiday season perfectly (the acidity is just a little too tart (though it certainly does “make the [coffee] bright”)), it is an absolutely incredible blend. I really wasn’t sure what to expect putting these two singularly unique coffees in one cup, but gee golly does it work.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.