At a Glance: blend (Kenya & Costa Rica); medium body; sweet, fruity, caramel, chocolate; medium acidity; washed

Cheerio, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to my table here in the corner of MadCap Coffee Company in beautiful Grand Rapids, Michigan—one of the hippest cities in the Great Lakes region. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, or Hannukah, or whatever it is that you celebrate. I know I did. I’m back in Chicago now, after an extended weekend visit to Holland and Grand Rapids, and I’m eager to get back to sipping some brews.

Now, even though Santa Claus has left us until next 2012, even though all of the presents under the tree have been unwrapped, and even though it’s back to work for many of us, the holidays aren’t officially over until January 2; so we’re still going to be looking at holiday coffees for a little while.

Last week, the fine folks of MadCap Coffee Company surprised me by sending me a sample pack of their latest roast, Holiday Fusion, to try out here at the Table (and, again guys, thank you so much for the gift!). So today, of course, we’re drinking MadCap Coffee’s Holiday Fusion blend, tomorrow or Friday we’ll be trying out Alterra Coffee Roaster‘s Snow Day, then we’ll be finishing off 2011 with Alterra’s Starry Night.

We’re going to be doing a lot of sipping over the next week, so it would behoove us to stop dilly-dallying and get down to business. Are you as excited as I am? Feel free to pull up a chair.

I’ll be honest—up to this year, I was never really into holiday coffees. We all know the way it is with what a lot of roasters think a “holiday coffee” should be: full bodied, deeply roasted, chocolaty, spicy, etcetera. We saw some of that here at the Table with both the Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee holiday blends this year. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how differently some other roasters (like Dark Matter, Metropolis, and Passion House most notably) approached their holiday coffees; instead of offering us the same old routine this holiday season, they showcased a lot of different flavor personalities, presumably to appeal the different personalities that celebrate the various holidays this time of year.

This very special season comes but once a year, so why fall into the same habits of offering what every other coffee roaster is doing year after year? After all, it’s impossible to stand out in a crowd when you look exactly the same as everyone else.

MadCap Coffee Company is one of the roasters that broke from the mold in 2011 and offered something entirely different from what other roasters typically do. Instead of offering that full-bodied, big chocolate, nut, and spicy flavor profile, they opted to go with something a lot more exotic. Their Holiday Fusion—a blend of Karatina, Kenya and Santa Lucia, Costa Rica—is very different than anything you’ve ever had this time of year from first sip to last drop, and is very easily one of the best coffees I’ve had in a long, long time.

The Costa Rican beans represented in Holiday Fusion make up two-thirds of the blend, and provide a really nice base for the Kenyan beans. This coffee is grown in the West Valley region, which (thanks to the ideal coffee-growing conditions present) produces some of the finest coffees in Costa Rica. The coffees from this region are typically sweet and fruity, having been grown at elevations of up to 5,500 feet above sea level and in rich, volcanic soil.

The Kenyan beans, on the other hand—the other third of the blend—, come from the centrally-located town, Karatina, in the Nyeri Region. This town lays on the southern slope of Mount Kenya—the highest point Kenya, and the second highest in all of Africa (after Kilimanjaro). Although the soil here isn’t volcanic, it’s still rich and moist, as the River Tana, the longest river in Kenya, originates in the mountain and flows downward, meandering and winding its way through the towns along its path to the Indian Ocean. The coffee that grows here grows at elevations between 5,000-5,500 feet above sea level, and are typically citrusy sweet, with notes of flora, dried fruit, and chocolate.

MadCap Coffee Company harnessed the wild flavor profiles of these two tropical regions, then fused them together to create one of the most exotic and delicious coffees I’ve had in quite some time.

As soon as I opened the bag, I was in love with Holiday Fusion. It had such a wonderfully strong and pleasant aroma that filled the entire kitchen. It was so strong, in fact, that Ashley, who was a full room away, shouted out, “Is that the stuff from MadCap?? That smells great!” The scent was intoxicating—very sweet, floral, and fruity. I initially attempted to point out all of the different smells I detected—raspberry, cranberry, blueberry—but another coffee reviewer, Jamie Ferguson of The Coffee Adventures, I think said it best in her review: Fruit Loops. Holiday Fusion’s aroma was like a freshly opened box of Fruit Loops.

The coffee’s flavor was even more of a holiday treat.

Immediately post-brew, Holiday Fusion had a lot of really nice chocolate, orange peel citrus, and dried tropical fruit notes, with just a hint of nuttiness—perhaps almond or pecan. Actually, my first reaction to this medium-bodied coffee’s flavor was that it was like biting into one of Godiva’s raspberry-filled dark chocolate bars. After having three or four mugs of it now, I still maintain that there are a lot of raspberry notes in the coffee, but I’m now tasting more caramel than chocolate. As the cup cools, the fruitiness comes out even more and each sip finishes with a buttery sweetness. The coffee is even a little like a black tea, as it leaves behind a slightly astringent aftertaste—it doesn’t give you (what I refer to as) “cotton mouth” the way an English breakfast tea or Earl Grey does, but the aftertaste is definitely similar to Peet’s Black Currant tea.

The Bottom Line

My very first sniff of MadCap Coffee Company’s Holiday Fusion immediately sent the coffee to the very top of my top holiday coffees list. Upon first sip, I wanted to throw up both of my hands and shout, “I’m a believer!” This wonderful holiday blend, which is unlike just about any “traditional” holiday coffee out there, offers an exotic and sweet foray into the highlands of Costa Rica and Kenya with notes of tropical fruits and caramel. Holiday Fusion would pair excellently with any holiday dessert (like gingerbread, sugar cookies, or coffee cake), and would complement a snack like trail mix even better.

Unfortunately, MadCap sold out of Holiday Fusion almost immediately, so I’m really glad I got the opportunity to give it a try. Hopefully, in 2012, the roasters will remember how amazing this blend was and offer it again.

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