At a Glance: blend (Nicaragua Quetzal Estate and El Salvador Finca El Carmen); caturra, catimor, bourbon; full body; floral, earthy, fruity, winy, fig; medium acidity; washed

Greetings, fellow coffee connoisseurs. Snow is on the ground for the first time this December, which means winter has arrived, just in time for today’s review of Metropolis Coffee Company’s Falstaff Winter Blend! I’m very eager to give this coffee a go, so let’s get down to it.

Feel free to pull up a chair.

One of Shakespeare’s most beloved, popular, robust, and jovial characters was the fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight, Sir John Falstaff. However, despite his popularity, he was a relatively minor character in Shakespeare’s canon. After all, he only appears but a few times in Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and he doesn’t get many lines. In fact, he’s not even that likable a character. Really, all he does is lead Prince Hal into trouble, gets punished when Hal becomes King Henry IV, then dies.

However, as legend has it, Queen Elizabeth so loved the character, that she requested Shakespeare to write a play with Falstaff as the main character. Furthermore, she wanted him to fall in love. Shakespeare obliged by writing The Merry Wives of Windsor, but being the sort of rebel that he was, decided to present Falstaff to the audience as he really was—a disgusting, slobbish, oafish, scrupleless, self-assured, insatiable, incorrigible, romantically dubious, brute of a man. A love-struck, slightly nihilistic, epicurean. As opera singer, Mark Delavan, described him in his portrayal of Falstaff, “A Don Juan with an eating disorder.”

There are a few traits, though, that make him at least somewhat likable; and, thus, complicated; and, thus, memorable. For one thing, Falstaff isn’t careless in his consumption—he is a man of taste. Much like Dr. Greg House, he is honest in his dishonesty, honorable in his dishonor, frank and still deceitful, confident in his obvious self-awareness. He is an enjoyer of life. He is jovial and cheerful and robust. The mere thought of wine can bring him back from the brink of death:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwokRoCygrk]

Chicago’s Metropolis Coffee Company, once a year, rolls out their Falstaff Winter Blend to commemorate, not so much the holidays, but the season. A celebration of the solstice and that certain feeling that comes along with it. So then, during a season that’s all about cheer, benevolence, goodwill, self-reflection, and, to a certain extent, mindless self-indulgence, who better to pay homage to than Sir John Falstaff?

Falstaff is Metropolis’s blend of two Central American regions—Nicaragua and El Salvador. The Nicaraguan bean is a caturra catimor varietal which finds its home at El Quetzal Estate, in Matagalpa. The estate is situated in the Nicaraguan highlands and their coffee grows at elevations of up to 1,200-1,300 meters above sea level. The coffee that comes from this estate is wonderfully tasty with notes of cocoa and molasses. A very sweet, syrupy coffee that blends really well and is particularly delicious as an espresso. The El Salvador, similarly, comes from Finca El Carmen, a farm nestled 1,300 meters above sea level in El Salvador’s Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range. This region is one of Central America’s prime coffee-growing areas and is known for producing coffees that are sweet, fruity, and have fine, balanced acidity.

But as great as these two coffees sound as single origins, they blend together to create, much like the character the blend pays tribute to, a truly memorable cup.

Now, before I get into describing this coffee, I have to make a couple of confessions: 1) I am painfully self-aware, 2) I don’t think I’m that good of a writer, and so 3) I don’t think I could do nearly as superb of a job at writing a description of this coffee as Metropolis wrote for themselves. So, I’m not even going to bother trying to outdo them. Instead, let’s first take a look at what they said about Falstaff Winter Blend; then we’ll taste it for ourselves and see if it lives up to their description. From the coffee bag:

Forged from feverous, feudal fighters of fortitude, Falstaff is a full-bodied, fruitful flagon for festivities. Fulgent fig notes fix firmly for a fantastical, floral finish. Flavors of fresh fruits fold into a floral façade. Fragrances of fresh, farouche, fuchsia frolic with figuration. Falstaff formulates a fashionably fat, fanfare of flavor for a fortnight.

Pretty good. But such a lofty description generates some pretty lofty expectations. Does Falstaff live up to its perceived personality? Or does it go the way of the original Falstaff—falling to the wayside in the wake of its own pride?

While I agree with all of the “f’s” in Metropolis’s write-up, there are some other letters I’d like to add; I just don’t think this coffee’s flavor can be contained solely by the letter “F.” The aroma of the beans is particularly enchanting, with a sort of syrupy and peanut buttery bittersweetness. Also present is the flowery, intoxicating scent of lavender and violets.

The flavor, however, is clearly where this coffee gets its name. Like Sir John, it is full-bodied, robust, and overflowing with big personality. Furthermore, the flavors of this blend are truly representative of the traditional tastes of the winter season—particularly during the Elizabethan era during which Falstaff lived. This blend is a fruit basket of red and black berries, currants, raisins, grapes, and fig; a lively bouquet of violets and lilacs; a dash of jasmine and lavender.

As the cup cools, the finer, more delicate flavor nuances come to the forefront, but it ends with an snow-covered malty, maple syrupy earthiness. The finish is clean, and leaves behind a sweet, balanced, juicy acidity and mild astringency, like a blend of Earl Grey and Black Currant tea. In fact, I was genuinely surprised that Falstaff was a blend of two Central American regions, and didn’t feature any African beans because it was so reminiscent of the Ethiopia Guji Shakiso I had from Sightglass Coffee

The Bottom Line

Metropolis Coffee Company’s Falstaff Winter Blend is pretty emblematic of the season. Living up to the name of Sir John Falstaff is no easy, nor light feat, but Metropolis Coffee Company’s winter blend is certainly does so. Much like its Shakespearean namesake, this is a fairly complicated cup of coffee—its as delicate as it is bold, as fine as it is gritty, as fanciful as it is robust. Wild berries, fig, flora, and herbal leaves fold into each other like a wreath and create a full-bodied cup of coffee that will go perfectly with light winter desserts (fruitcake, gingerbread, Christmas cookies, figgy pudding, and what have you).

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