Surrounded by three towering volcanoes, the lake and surrounding hills provide perfect coffee-growing conditions: temperature is moderate, and rains soften the deep, volcanic soil. High among the hillside villages, veteran coffee farmer Don Joel harvests Caturra and Catuai varietals for washed processing and sun-drying.
Lake Atitlán is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and is a Guatemalan national treasure. Its massive depth and cold waters trigger microclimates that regulate temperature extremes in this unique and beautiful place.*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Guatemala Finca Monte David, from Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Lake Atitlán, Solola, Guatemala
farm: Finca Monte David
producer: Don Joel
elevation: 1550 – 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Catuai
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
Opening the bag of Guatemala Finca Monte David, I’m pleased to report that its aroma is inundating my nostrils with those all-too familiar gaseous roastiness that Starbucks is famous for. Of course, that’s not to say that this coffee’s aroma isn’t gaseous and/or roasty—it’s both of those things. But it’s not as bombastic as I was anticipating. There are some recognizable scents, though, including dark chocolate, wood, baking spices, and cooking herbs.
The coffee is pretty full-bodied, but it has a slick, watery mouthfeel. What it lacks in texture, however, it more than makes up for in pungency. As its aroma suggested it would be, it’s a roasty and gassy coffee; I’m tasting a lot of carbon, metal, smoke, nitrogen… Drinking this coffee is not unlike licking the inside of a roaster. As the cup cools off, some of the coffee’s natural sweet flavors present themselves (or become a bit more obvious, anyway)—shades of dark chocolate, salted caramel, dark berries, and orange—and I’m also tasting notes of roasted nuts and burnt cedar. Each sip finishes dryly with a long-lingering and unpleasant aftertaste of metal and smoke.
I don’t want to say that I had high hopes for this coffee going in, but I certainly had some hopes for it. When Starbucks announced that it was launching the Reserve roastery and line of coffees—direct-sourced coffees from individual farmers—, taking an obvious cue from the so-called Third Wave of Coffee movement, I thought that maybe Starbucks would be adopting a new roasting style for these coffees, too. I didn’t expect them to go so far as a Nordic or Japanese style, but I figured they’d at least roast a little bit lighter.
I brewed at relatively low temperatures (180°, 185°, and 190°, for those keeping score) and I even brewed it at the industry-standard 200° because I didn’t want to give up hope on this coffee… Alas, Starbucks Reserve’s Guatemala Finca Monte David—for as different from their usual offerings as it is—is no different than most of their usual offerings. It is a coffee with some recognizable flavors of dark chocolate, berries, and citrus, but it is far too roasty to be enjoyable.
*content courtesy of Starbucks
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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.