I received a pound of the New Harvest Coffee Roaster's Competition Blend last week. Oddly enough, my cousin works there - and thought to send me some of the coffee. They're a little coffee roaster in Rhode Island.
I'm assuming that this is a sort of "one-off" espresso as it's not on their site.
Working with, and drinking, this espresso was a really interesting experience for me.
I've been spending a lot of time recently drinking coffees that strive for the sort of balance, finesse and sweet acidity that seems to be the emerging standard among a certain group of roasters. From the Hairbender through the various Ecco Caffe espressos to the Ritual Sweet Tooth to the random other coffees - there is a common thread here.
In addition, I've been drinking more and more espressos that, if not actually single origin, are at least made of very few beans.
As a result, I'd lost sight of the fact that there are other styles and approaches to espresso.
This Competition Blend is a representative of another type.
Instead of going for balance and finesse - it goes for flavour and "big-ness." It's definitely a "more is more" approach. It's all over the place - with bright berry notes and dried fruit; with bakers' chocolate and leather; toast and tobacco. If it were a beer it would be one of those Stone experimental Imperial Ales.
In milk, this approach worked out very well - with drinks that were dominated by the toast and chocolate notes and a nice sweet fruit note riding along the top. Even tall milk drinks still tasted of coffee. Nice.
As a straight shot, however, this was a bit of a palate hammer. The shear profusion of flavours was a bit much for me. Beyond that, however, hidden beneath all these flavours were some not so nice notes. There was an ashy and acrid note that lurked beneath the tobacco flavours - and a hint of mushroom emerged now and then.
That being said - honestly, this was a totally serviceable espresso in many ways. I drank it happily in short milk drinks. And saying "it's no Hairbender as a straight shot" is kind of unfair.
It was very easy to work with - and really tolerant of changes to extraction parameters.
It looked absolutely gorgeous in the cup.
More than that - it was really cool to be reminded that there are a lot of ways to skin this particular cat; that there are a ton of different ideas of what espresso is and should be.
And at the end of the day - it's all what you like.