Review: ROWSTER: New American Coffee // Zambia Terranova Estate
August 14, 2012
Okay. I’ll bite. I don’t know everything about coffee.
There! I said it!
In fact, as long as we’re being entirely forthcoming with each other, I haven’t even tried a cup from every one of the world’s growing regions. I’ve never had a coffee from Australia, from Zimbabwe, from Jamaica; heck, I haven’t had a decent single estate Kona in a long time!
Thanks to a recent coffee crawl through Grand Rapids, Michigan, however, I can at least cross one more region off the list.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of ROWSTER: New American Coffee. Today we are sipping one of their latest offerings—Zambia Terranova Estate. Feel free to pull up a chair.
In 1985, on the rolling hills of the upper Kaleya Valley, Zambia, the Street family started producing coffee.
The thriving farming community of Mazabuka lies on those hills—and here is where the Street family’s Terranova Estate takes up residence. Just beyond the famous Munali Mountain pass, this small rural farming town sits just off the main road to the town of Livingstone, named for the famous explorer. This African country is the home of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls.
The Terranova Coffee Estate has helped to build a community within itself. Here, a self sustained farm supports a village, where over 300 people live and work year round. This coffee estate also provides work for over 2,500 temporary workers during peak coffee season.
Once exclusive in only the European market, Warren Street has brought this coffee to the United States but, until recently, was only available in high-profile coffee towns like San Francisco or Seattle. Now, of course, one could purchase this coffee in a city like Grand Rapids. In fact, this rare Zambian coffee is even featured as one of Starbucks “Black Apron” series coffee.
It’s really starting to get around—I’m really excited that it’s made its way into my cup.
Before I even ordered this coffee at the bar, the barista warned me informed me that this coffee would be a little bit more on the full-bodied, dark-roasted side than any of their offerings. But I was hellbent on ordering it; so here we are and I’m taking my first few whiffs. I can already tell that my barista wasn’t kidding around.
This cup has an intense aroma, one that’s almost reminiscent of a grilled fruit cookout gone awry. While I’m picking up notes of cherry and some faint floral aromatics in the nose, they’re almost masked by a powerful, musty earthiness, a touch of burnt cedar, whiskey, and a bit of smokiness. I almost feel like my nose was violated.
The first few sips aren’t much better.
This coffee is full-flavored, full-bodied, bitter, smoky, astringent, almost offensive. It has a few good things going for it, but it’s hard to see past the flavors that… aren’t so great. There are some really nice touches of mango, strawberry, and tangerine, with a delicate red wine acidity. But it’s the burnt caramel, the smokiness, the Earl Grey astringency (coupled with the Lapsang Souchong flavor) that I can’t get past.
Honestly, I can’t even finish this cup. Out of twelve ounces, four or five is enough for me.
In my endless quest to become a coffee aficionado, I have to expose myself to as many different kinds of coffees as I possibly can. Light roasts, dark roasts, full bodies, light bodies, Cup of Excellence winners—you name it, all of it.
So, of course, for every amazing cup of coffee I have the pleasure to sip, I have to also have some that aren’t so amazing. Unfortunately, this coffee just happened to represent the latter.
Maybe it’s the region, maybe it’s the roast profile, maybe it’s my palate’s being accustomed to lighter roasts, but I couldn’t stomach the Zambia Terranova Estate from ROWSTER. In fact, it actually gave me a stomach ache!
As little as I enjoyed this coffee, though, I am at least grateful to have tried a coffee from Zambia for the first time. That’s the bright side, anyway. But for every silver lining there’s a touch of grey.
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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.
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.