At a Glance: single origin (Brazil); full body; caramel, fruit, chocolate, creamy; low acidity; natural

Good afternoon, coffee lovers. Welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. A couple days ago, one of my friends left Chicago for a week-long visit to the warm and sunny city by the bay, San Francisco – one of America’s craft coffee capitols. I was certainly jealous – not just because she’s escaping Chicago’s wintry cold for a week, but because she’s going to be in a city where coffee rules supreme, and amazing roasting facilities come by the dozen.

However, when Travis from The Wormhole (a cafe here in Chicago) contacted me a couple days ago about some guest roasters they were featuring on their pour-over bar, my jealousy subsided a bit; as it turned out, one of those guests was the nationally-acclaimed Ritual Coffee Roasters, which is based in San Francisco, and Wormhole was featuring their latest offering, São Benedito, from Brazil. This is company I’ve been wanting to try for a while now, and since my goal for this blog was to make it broader, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to review this roast.

Are you as excited as I am? Feel free to pull up a chair.

As the Frank Sinatra song goes, “they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.” It’s the largest producer of low-grade, low-grown, cheap arabica coffee. However, there’s been a big push to put Brazil back on the map as a hotspot for specialty coffees. Currently, I’m working my way through two of Brazil’s specialty representatives – Ipsento Coffee‘s Brazil Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (a review of this will probably come in the next week or two), and today’s coffee: Ritual Coffee Roaster’s latest Brazilian arrival, São Benedito.

São Benedito is both a town and municipality in the state of Ceara, which is located in the northeast corner of Brazil, but this coffee actually comes from a different, more southernly-located state – Minas Gerais. And in this area, one family’s name has risen to prominence over the course of the past century: Familia Sertao.

From Ritual’s website:

São Benedito is one of six coffee producing estates that belongs to the somewhat famous Sertão Coffee group. The farms are all owned by relatives and they share facilities for processing the coffees. This cooperative effort has produced some of the most highly regarded coffees to come out of Brasil in the last decade.

It’s plain to see why this co-op is so successful; for one thing, their efforts are the culmination of nearly a century’s amount of experience. Everything they grow is personally hand-harvested and they are masters at Brazil’s famous “natural pulping” method of processing (this process is when the coffee cherry skin is removed and the parchment, with a lot of the mucilage attached, is sun dried on patio or raised drying bed). Furthermore (and, arguably, more importantly), this region’s climate and elevation certainly lend themselves to the quality of the coffee that’s grown there. Minas Gerais is well-known for its mineral water springs, perfect combination of latitude and altitude (nearly 1200 meters above sea level), mountainous terrain, well-defined seasons, and fertile soil.

Combined with the expertise of the roastmasters at Ritual Coffee Roasters, I’m sure that São Benedito is going to knock my socks off.

First off, the aroma of this coffee is impeccable. Sweet, soothing, and inviting notes of milk chocolate. It has a very warming quality about it – the type of scent that makes you want to curl up on the couch in a Snuggie and watch home movies.

The flavor is every bit as inviting, from start to finish. The most prominent taste in this brew is that of warm, freshly baked apples. Immediately post-brew, this apple flavor is accompanied by really nice caramel and toffee notes, with hints of roastiness, to create the illusion, almost, of apple pie, fresh out of the oven on a Sunday afternoon. As the cup cools, the apple flavor retains, but starts to taste more like crisp, juicy, raw apples. The caramel and toffee, on the other hand, seem to transform into a milk chocolatiness. Heck, with the coffee at room temperature, let’s just call it “chocolate milkiness.” This description actually isn’t too far off, because the coffee has a really nice creaminess that coats the palate.

During the cooling process, a fruity acidity starts to emerge – you don’t really notice it when the coffee’s hot; but, at room temperature, it becomes more prominent. It’s not a sour acidity; rather, it’s actually quite sweet. That chocolate milk flavor starts to resemble strawberry milk, and the non-specific, crisp, juicy apples begin to taste like Fuji apples. Relatively low acidity while it retains its nice, creamy finish.

The Bottom Line

Ritual Coffee Roaster’s São Benedito, Brasil is truly the complete package. It has all of the essential ingredients that a coffee should have to make it appealing to both the coffee novice and connoisseur. This naturally processed brew is full-bodied with flavors of chocolate, caramel, and apple, and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

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