A few weeks ago, I sat down one day with my Visa gift card and laptop and browsed through every coffee company’s website that I could think of to find their holiday offerings. I was very surprised at how few roasters out there offer a holiday blend, but I was even more surprised at some of the roasters that do.
One of those was the pride of St. Louis, Missouri—Kaldi’s Coffee.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. We celebrate the season today with a cup of Winter Blend, from Kaldi’s Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Four of the holiday blends I’ve reviewed here at the Table so far in 2012 have a Nicaraguan component in them, so I guess it should come as no surprise that the Winter Blend from Kalid’s also has a Nicaragua in it.
This coffee comes from a single producer lot in Matagalpa.
Roger Mariena and his family produce Java, Bourbon, and Caturra on their farm, Finca Las Mercedes. Roger is a bit of an anomaly in that he has resisted using higher-yielding varieties, instead focusing on producing higher-quality lower-yielding varieties.
The other coffee in the Winter Blend hails from the little-known region, Limu, located in western Ethiopia.
This area’s economy is mostly bolstered by grain and mineral processing, but coffee is becoming more and more prominent in the region. Farms have been popping up all over the place and farmers have been attempting to sell their product, but there haven’t been any organizations or collectives assembled to guide and/or support these smallholder farmers.
The times, they are a-changin’, however.
This coffee, for example, was farmed by Nano Sebeka, a newly formed cooperative that is just beginning to make a name for itself. The lot represented in this blend is only their second harvest, in fact.
origins: Matagalpa, Nicaragua // Limu, Ethiopia
farms: Finca Las Mercedes // Nano Sebeka
elevations: 1300-1821 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Caturra // Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: Rainforest Alliance, UTZ // standard
The Winter Blend’s aroma is thick and heavy and it hangs in the air, filling the empty space between nostrils and cup. It’s savory and sweet, its volume filled with notes of fig and raisin, malts, oats, and barley, pine, molasses, and raw cocoa; it’s a bread-y aroma, even having touches of buttered dough.
This coffee has the aroma of an oatmeal stout and, actually, the first few sips of it prove that the flavor is similar to a stout too.
It too is thick and heavy; dense, even. But it’s not overwhelming with flavor. If anything, it’s underwhelming. It’s delicate and complex, subtle and mild. There are a lot of flavors that quietly bubble underneath the surface, that contribute to the overall flavor, but none that really stand out and grab my palate’s attention. There are a lot of tinges of fruits at play, , mostly berries—cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, zesty orange peel, a twist of lemon, lots and lots of fig and raisin, and, after it cools off, a delicate plum acidity.
The dominant flavors, though (and the dominant flavors throughout the lifespan of the cup, really), are those dense, heavy, and belly-warming notes of graham cracker, honey, brown sugar, vanilla custard, molasses, and oatmeal.
Full body; syrupy mouthfeel; plum acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The Winter Blend, from Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri, is a pretty delicate, very mild, and very subtle cup of coffee. It actually took just about the entire pound that I ordered to fully figure out exactly what the coffee was trying to tell me.
In the end, the Winter Blend isn’t a festive flavor explosion of holiday merriment and it isn’t a cup of roasty-toasty-relax-by-the-crackling-fire; it’s a calm and reflective meditation on the season. It’s the brief pause of warmth between chilly gusts, the snap and crackle of brush underfoot during a walk through the woods, the outline of snow collecting on windowpanes.
Nothing about this coffee reaches out and grabs your attention, nothing about it screams “it’s the holidays!”, nothing about it is going to make your spirits bright. However, it will make you slow down enough to quietly enjoy the season.
Did you like this? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome here at the Table! Pull up a chair and speak your mind by entering a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!
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.