Hullabaloo Holiday Blend
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Change has come to Metropolis Coffee Company—one of Chicago’s original third wave coffee roasters. First it was the installation of their new Clever-centric slowbar; then it was the addition of my pal, Michael McSherry at the helm of their roaster.

But 2012 wasn’t done there—it brought yet another change for Metropolis, when they decided to no longer carry their perennial Falstaff Winter Blend. If that weren’t enough, for their new holiday blend, they decided to completely change their packaging.

(And, before I go any further, I feel obligated to publicly commend this new packaging—it’s the best I’ve seen from this company. Whoever designed it for you guys, keep that person around for a long time.)

I liked their Falstaff Winter Blend last year—it was much different than any of the other seasonal blends we had here at the Table. In fact, I was initially kind of let down when the Metropolis folks informed that they switched it up this time around.

It does us no good to fight change, so we might as well go with it…

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping a festive, Yuletide cup of Hullabaloo Holiday Blend, from Metropolis Coffee Company. Feel free to pull up a chair.

The Hullabaloo Holiday Blend is comprised of beans from three different regions. Forty-five percent of it is a Oaxaca, Mexico; another 45% comes from Colombia; and the final 10% comes from Sidamo, Ethiopia.

Finca El Vergel lies in the highlands in the south of Mexico’s Oaxca state. This mountainous area runs down to the Pacific and on a clear day you can see the ocean from the region’s hillsides. The farm is owned and managed by Angel Gonzalez Rivera, who has farmed at El Vergel for most of his adult life.

The farm extends over a total of 176 hectares in the hills around the small town of Pluma Hidalgo. Some 90 hectares of land are planted with a mix of Typica and Criollo varietals that grow in the shade of native trees. The rest of the farm’s land is used for grazing cattle or is set aside as natural forest reserve, providing habitat for a wide range of birds and other indigenous animals.

Finca El Vergel has been organic certified since 2003 and, as such, uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The main harvest runs from the beginning of November until the end of January. The coffee is picked by hand when it is fully ripe, pulped on the same day, fermented in tanks for 12 hours and then fully washed. The wet parchment coffee is then moved to the farm’s patios where it dries in the sun. Finally it is rested in parchment in the farm’s purpose built warehouse until it is ready for export.

The Colombian coffee hails from the southern region of Huila, which is well known for producing some of the most exciting coffees the country has to offer. Surrounding the town of San Agustin, there are about 50 coffee-farming families that have formed the Asociación Los Naranjos de San Agustín. They are an extremely quality-focused group.

Each family harvests and processes their own cherries and these can be sold as microlots during the primary harvest. This particular coffee is from the smaller, second harvest so it was combined to make one larger lot.

The third part of this blend hails from Sidamo, Ethiopia and was sent to us by the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. Since 2008, much (if not most) of Ethiopia’s coffee goes anonymously through the privately owned, government warehoused Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX). Aside from cooperatives and large estates, coffees are sold through the ECX to exporters and in the processes rebranded by region. Or… More or less by region.

the basics:

origins: San Agustin, Huila, Colombia // Oaxaca, Mexico // Sidamo, Ethiopia
farms: La Asociacion Los Naranjos De St. Augustin // Finca El Vergel // ECX
elevations: 1500-1700 // 550-900 // N/A
cultivars: Caturra, Typica // Criollo Typica // Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, patio dried // fully washed, patio dried // dry process
certifications: standard // Organic // standard

the coffee:

The aroma of the Hullabaloo Holiday Blend presents me with a bouquet of spicy aromatics—cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander—which couple well with the caramel, hazelnut, and mixed berries that follow on the back end of each sniff.

But the first few sips—it’s all cinnamon and spice (and all things nice, of course). This cup has a big, robust body and so much spice that my tongue is literally tingling after each sip (and, no, it’s not because the coffee is hot). I’m also picking up touches of caramel and toffee. It’s sweet, smooth, and a just a touch roasty with a silky mouthfeel that sweeps over the palate.

As the cup cools off, it becomes clear that this coffee is like a batch of trail mix as each sip finishes off with a tin of mixed nuts all the way through—cashews, roasted almonds, light macadamia, even peanut saltiness. Then, the caramel/toffee dries up and starts to more closely resemble raw cocoa nibs.

Then… Boom goes the dynamite.

At room temperature, this is suddenly a completely different cup of coffee. It’s a whole hullabaloo—a cacophony, even—of big, juicy fruits. Each sip is like biting into a crisp, juicy Fuji apple. A surge of malic acidity erupts onto the palate, washing everything clean, leaving behind a palate that sparkles; an explosion of cherry blossoms flutter in over the top; and sweet tart notes of clementine, tangerine, strawberry, raisin, cranberry, and plum come rushing in.

Now, this coffee is intense. It’s intense and complex and has startling clarity, but the thing that keeps it from going way over the top with sweetness is the calm, cool, and collected baseline of almonds.

Full body; silky mouthfeel; malic acidity; dry finish.

the bottom line:

Metropolis Coffee Company, with their Hullabaloo Holiday Blend, proves that in some cases, change is good; it certainly was for them.

“Hullabaloo” is defined as “a clamorous noise or disturbance; uproar”—Metropolis’s holiday blend of the same name definitely provides a few moments that fit the bill. It offers a full-bodied cup that excites and delights all the way through; from the first few sips that provide a bouquet of spices that tickle the tongue, to the last drop of juicy fruits that is sure to put a smile on your face.

Furthermore, this was a pretty exciting cup for Metropolis—one of the more exciting cups I’ve had from them. That makes the Hullabaloo that much more of a special holiday treat for all of us Chicagoans.

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!

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