At a Glance: blend (Ethiopia); medium body; fruity (strawberry, blueberry, cherry), grassy; medium acidity; washed and natural

One of the things I’ve come to really appreciate are coffee shops that either feature guest roasts in addition to their regular lineup, or coffee shops that have a constantly rotating roast lineup. One shop that represents the former is a personal favorite of mine—Wicker Park’s own The Wormhole.

Typically, any time I wander into a coffee shop on my way to work, I order a cappuccino and a pastry of some sort. This past Friday morning, however, when the baristas behind the bar informed me that they were featuring MadCap Coffee’s Summer Solstice Blend as the pour-over of the week, I immediately changed my mind. My decision was made even more concrete when one of them said, “I’m usually a single origin snob, but this coffee is almost making me change my mind about blends. It’s definitely the best blend I’ve ever had.”

I’m a bit of a single origin snob myself, so I had to give this blend a go.

I’ve been wanting to try out MadCap’s coffee since I first drove past their cafe last Fall during a one day road trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Unfortunately, that day, I went to The Bitter End, on the other side of town, instead. My regret has only intensified since then, as I’ve heard nothing but rave review after rave review from coffee peers, insiders, and professionals. I’m told over and over again that MadCap is the best roaster in Michigan, and one of the best of the Midwest. So, of course, when the fine folks at The Wormhole told me that MadCap was being featured, I had to have it.

Now that I’ve finally had one of their roasts, I’m one step closer to believing all of the hype.

The Summer Solstice Blend is, as far as I know, MadCap Coffee’s only seasonal roast.† After sampling it, though, I’d really like to see them branch out and create another couple seasonal roasts—especially a Fall roast—, because it is this writer’s opinion that they could churn out some fantastic coffees that would complement any specific time of year really well; their summer roast did that great of a job really capturing the essence of a great summer beverage—light bodied, crisp, tangy. Even hot, it was everything a consumer wants their beverage to be in the midst of a heat wave. The description they provide on their website even addresses that this was their direction: “The flavors are reminiscent of the mid-summer fruits harvested in West Michigan.”

UPDATE: I recently learned that MadCap Coffee Company will be offering two more seasonal roasts this year—OctoberFest blend will be available in September, and a Holiday Blend will be available in November. I will also be visiting MadCap’s cafe this weekend, so check back often for reviews of their store, another roast, and their two seasonal blends later this year.

The blend is pretty simple and straightforward, too—it’s an African coffee that features beans from two separate lots in Ethiopia that are grown at similar altitudes and have two different processing methods (one is naturally processed and one is washed). So half of the beans have a really intense flavor, and the other half have a flavor that’s been reigned in a bit. Ethiopian coffees, traditionally, have a medium to full body and have flavor profiles that range anywhere from heavy, “muddy,” and chocolaty to light, crisp, and fruity, so this particular region is a really great place to combine different beans to get some really unique flavor combinations. The Summer Solstice Blend leaned pretty heavily towards the latter end of the spectrum.

The first thing that struck me about the coffee was its aroma—even in a coffee shop where so many other aromas are competing for the customer’s attention, the Summer Solstice Blend is very prominent. Coincidentally, the flavor was not unlike the aroma at all; if anything, the flavor was a bit more pungent.

It wasn’t a very complicated flavor, not a lot of subtleties to it—just a very straightforward, fruity, sweet cup of coffee. However, there were a lot of different fruit flavors to differentiate it from, so I actually had to have another cupping. Furthermore, it was a very layered coffee—more and more flavors presented themselves the more I drank it.

The most interesting thing about its flavor was how radically different it tasted as a hot coffee and an iced coffee. As a hot coffee, it had a very strong strawberry flavor—crisp and tart, but sweet—, but it also had an undertone of grass or rhubarb and a hint of bread (I’m not sure how else to describe it—this is actually the first time I’ve ever likened a coffee to bread). Like strawberry rhubarb pie. As I drove on to work and had let it cool for a while, however, the rhubarb and flavors dissipated and the coffee took on a whole other personality. More fruity flavors—cherry, blueberry, raspberry, currants—started to emerge. When I got to my office, I poured what was left of the coffee over ice and it became a completely different drink—the intense fruitiness that so dominated the aroma made a bold reappearance in the flavor. The coffee was really sweet and even became slightly citrusy.

And after spending the first nearly two hours of my Friday by sitting in I-94 traffic in 103° heat, my morning coffee was all the more satisfying.

The Bottom Line

MadCap Coffee’s Summer Solstice Blend is a perfect summer coffee. Its medium body makes it great to couple with light meals and, served hot, would make a wonderful complement to a warm cherry pie or a moist blueberry muffin on any summer evening. If the heat wave is just too much and you need something to cool you down, Summer Solstice is sweet and refreshing—a tasty, satisfying relief.

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