Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Sumatra Blue Lingtong, Zabu Coffee

Grown high up by the PPKGO coffee co-operative in the Taekngon region of North Sumatra the Blue Lintong is a totally hand produced coffee. The tiny farms that make up this co-operative go through their extensive process of harvesting, pulping, fermenting, washing, drying and then sorting all by hand.

The beans are strikingly dark in appearance, I mean really black. On taking a big nose-full  you immediately get a heavy coffee aroma with an acidic lilt. On grinding these beans fluffed up beautifully into a really even batch of grounds. The sharpness in scent was lost a little as a broader aroma stepped forward.

After brewing, the Blue Lingtong gives an incredible dark and thick crema you could eat with a spoon. The aroma was very deep, full bodied and hinting at the darker flavours one can sometimes find.

Tasting confirmed this, the acidity was light, well balanced against a dry, almost iron tang. The darkness seen in those beans carried all the way through, resulting in great depth of flavour and a smooth dark bitterness.

This cavernous flavour begun at spiced fruits and ebbed towards moments of sweetness. Finally this coffee blossomed into an earthy, smooth rich chocolate tasting brew. Despite the strength the finish was clean and the coffee was smooth throughout.

For such a dark bean what could have been overpowering was instead strongly flavoured, striking but still well rounded and with plenty of elements to enjoy. Would kill with a slice of high % coco dark chocolate.

Supplier: Zabu Coffee
Twitter: @zabucoffee
Zabu on Facebook

How do we taste the coffee? Go here.

The Book Club, Shoreditch, East London, UK

As I sat down with my cracked but entertaining bright orange cup and saucer I realised I had been here before. It was a party, I wasn't drinking for some reason & I ate nachos. My friends wife was very drunk and was being hysterically funny and then I had to leave. Good times.

Well with that classic humdinger of a reminiscence over with lets get on with the review.

The Book Club is a great space and nicely decked out. The high ceilings, brick walls, large art pieces and open kitchen create a wonderfully large airy room. The mixed up furniture of various seating arrangements and dividing wall kept things intimate but still breezy. The ping pong table is just plain fun.

This seemed like a great omni functional cafe. One would be as comfortable with breakfast, a meeting or after work drinks here.

When the coffee came in the aforementioned funky cup I noted it has a solid aroma with a little hint at some sour notes across its olily sheen.

On tasting unfortunately I was immediately grabbed by fuzz at the back of my throat. First impressions were that it was a little too bitter for my tastes and a little too weak. There was flavour to be mined but it was masked with that layer of wateriness, perhaps from over espressed beans. 

As the drink continued, things improved and we got on better. The stand out elements were of the citrus that the aroma had hinted at and an overall pleasant dry quality. The finish sadly took on what the drink had started with, a muddy fuzz.

  • Black Americano
  • £2.00
  • Medium strength
  • Slightly sour and dry but fuzzy
  • Medium crema with a thickish rim
  • Medium size

A more than adequate but not really fine cup of coffee; greatly enhanced by a super atmosphere in the place.



Friday, 23 March 2012

Va Bene Caffe, Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas, USA

Two trips to the US in a month is a little startling. The first was work this one was all pleasure. A week long bachelor party in Las Vegas. Oh dear, what happened?

Whilst I was there and in between the sinning I tried to search out some great coffee. I have to admit my searches were pretty limited and those attempts I made were quite disappointing however I did find this one little gem right in my hotel.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel is relatively new on the strip. Modern, pretty luxurious and like all the big casinos it tries to provide you with every thing you need so you KEEP GAMBLING and don't need to leave, sleep etc. In my case this is a solid coffee bar.

Va Bene models itself as the name would suggestion on an Italian style coffee bar. They do a range of cakes, sandwiches and gelato on top of the standard hot and iced coffees. The sandwiches were very good, especially at 8 in the morning after no sleep and a quart of Makers Mark to soak up.

I knocked back an espresso here on our first night in town. It had lashings of thick crema, sharp clean bitterness and plenty of flavour. I was already out and about so I'm not reviewing it but it was good, strong and cost $4.50.

The staff were normally very cool and attentive till review time where they were a bit grouchy. Having said that they still delivered on some great coffee so I can't begrudge them too much.

This americano presented a plentiful aroma with some broad fruity notes. It was a dark looking coffee but not that oily and the crema was just a light flick across the surface. 

That fruity aroma followed through into the coffee taste and it was tightened further with some hints of cherry in the blend. After the initial fill that receded to a gentle pecan nuttiness. 

It was extremely, naturally sweet and along with the other tones mixing in the pallet would have nailed a pastry had I bought one as a side. 

It was smooth all the way through to the finish but a little weak overall. It was a shame they didn't serve a 6 ounce size which would have concentrated some of that flavour and given a bigger hit.

  • Black Americano; take out
  • $5.00 
  • Weak to medium Strength
  • Very sweet with fruity notes
  • Light crema
  • Size: Medium - 12 Oz.

Hands down the best coffee I had in all of Nevada. Great taste, smooth, sweet but could have been stronger.

Va Bene

Seattle Coffee Works, Seattle, USA - Part 2

Did I say how nice the people were at Seattle Coffee Works? Well they were super nice and after chatting them for a while and explaining a bit about the blog and my love of the old black stuff another coffee suddenly materialised.

It was the very last cup made from their Guatemalan beans. This was the end of it and they were generously giving it to us. 

Now I'm not actually a huge fan of Guatemalan coffee's and I often find them too tart for my liking but one can't turn down a free cup of joe. So here is a mini review of this coffee. 

The Guatemalan came as a black Americano and had a good layer of crema on it. The aroma hinted of acidity. It gave the front of the pallet plenty of bosh, hitting hard and drawing my tongue and lips tight over my upper teeth. 

There was clearly lemon and other citrus notes going on, perhaps a little cherry. But the acidity was well balanced and the great thing was that it pulled back from being too sour just at the right time. 

The tartness on the way down met in ascension the coffee's sweetness and was then joined by the lingering flavour of spring flowers. It was quite simply a lovely coffee and won me over to this type of bean. 

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • (free) $2.50?
  • Medium
  • Tart fruits and sweetness
  • Fine crema
  • Size: Small 6oz
  • Beans:  Guatemalan 

A classic and great introductory Guatemalan bringing fruity sour notes, sweetness and petals.

Twitter: @Drinkingman
Contact :

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Seattle Coffee Works, Seattle, USA - Part 1

I was lucky enough to go to Seattle for a work trip. Home of the great Satan of coffee "Starbucks" it is also a city of coffee lovers. Tapping my Seattle contacts for information I was told the one place I had to visit was the Seattle Coffee Works.

We got off the plane, rented our ridiculous SUV and drove straight to down town Seattle to find this place before it closed. We didn't have long but it was pretty clear I was going to cry if we didn't make it and so we did. In the end it was extremely easy to find on Pike Street thanks to a bloody enormous sign of a man drinking joe.

It is a large place broken into two main parts, the cafe area and the slow bar. It was too late to sample some of their chemistry set looking drip devices so instead we went for a normal round, me with my Americano.

The shop decor is bare brick walls with light wood furniture giving it an airy relaxed vibe. When we visited it was close to closing so there were not many people in but due to the layout one imagines that it still keeps the relaxed pace even when full.

One of the baristas who introduced herself to us as the "Guvnor" had a good old chat about their place and what they had on offer, we talked about the blog and coffee in general. They were all very friendly which was a great way to start our trip.

This photo is obviously not her but this is our barrista. He was ace but I forgot his name. Sorry.

Their espresso blend is quite a melting pot. Made up of mainly Brazilian, and some Indonesian (I think Sulawesi) and then with a touch of something from India and a little Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. 

When the coffee came it had a great sheen of oil and a good long lasting aroma but what was most striking was how black it was in colour.

The flavour was really broad and deep without being too strong. It was incredibly smooth and filled my mouth with a wonderful playful nuttiness with hints of sweetness. 

The deep flavour had a great chewy quality with low acidity and no bitterness and no fuzz on the finish. 

  • Black Americano, drink in
  • $2.50
  • Medium
  • Smooth and nutty
  • Light crema
  • Size: Small 6oz. 
  • Beans: Seattle Coffee Works Espresso Blend
Superb coffee expertly made that is very drinkable yet with a full set of flavours, depth and complexity. 

Twitter: @Drinkingman
Contact :

Monday, 5 March 2012

Brazil Daterra Estate, Zabu Coffee

The Daterra Estate in Brazil is one of the largest in the world, this coffee is single estate 100% Arabica beans. As well as being rainforest Alliance certified you will be happy to know that you are drinking from an estate with a huge investment in sustainability and who work hard at striking a balance with the nature around them. 

These Brazilian beans were extremely dark and very oily, they looked as if you could give them a gentle squeeze and you would have raw coffee in your mug. As well as this alluring look they gave off a very strong, deep pungent aroma.

After brewing none of that strong aroma was lost and now the black gold was shrouded within a layer of thick dark crema. 

The taste hit hard, it was strong with a tight bitterness and then beautifully melted away to something quite sublime and mellow. Rex said it was like going through a "crust", these Cornish eh? but he was bang on with that, we broke through.

After the initial rush those ebony beans left us with a confectioners store on our pallets. It had the sweetness and creaminess of a high cocoa content chocolate bar with the lightest shavings of hazelnut. All these flavours politely lined up and could be enjoyed together in rich balanced harmony.

To finish the after taste gave us something slightly tart as it developed a little acidity over time.

The Zabu Brazil Daterra Estate Coffee is one of two halves. Opening with a nearly overpowering haymaker to savor and some well placed bitter body blows it soon follows us with a tender embrace and the taste of fattening luxury. Here it brings the smooth creamy sweetness one dreams of from a quality brew.

We recommend this as a superior after dinner (or heavy lunch) coffee. One that can cut through and complement the meal just consumed and leave you set up to tackle whatever the evening still has to offer. 

Supplier: Zabu Coffee
Twitter: @zabucoffee
Zabu on Facebook

How do we taste the coffee? Go here.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Zabu House Blend

 The Zabu Coffee House Blend uses a mix of Brazilian, Colombian and Costa Rican and is made from  100% Arabica beans. It is also a Rainforest Alliance certified coffee. More details of the beans origin can be found from Zabu Coffee.

Sniffing straight from the pouch the beans had a good strong traditional coffee aroma with a gentle hint of acidity. They were light golden brown with a beautiful iridescent sheen like a beetle.

On grinding there was not a huge difference to aroma and the grounds had a almost woody texture.

After espressing (pressing?) the coffee had surprising little aroma compared to the roasted whole beans but the flavour on tasting was all there. On the first sip there was light tangy acidity on the front of the pallet, as these faded it gave way to a pleasant, mild nutty hazelnut aftertaste. 

There was a pleasingly balanced sweetness throughout which complimented the earlier acidity. Not overly rich in flavour the golden beans had given out a medium bodied smooth tasting coffee with no bitterness or fuzziness on the finish.

The Zabu Coffee House Blend is an extremely drinkable brew and one which I returned to ravenously till the bag was gone. It presents a pleasing cumulation of flavours yet does not surprise with anything jarring or difficult to handle, all the way from the initial sip to the glowing aftertaste. 

A great everyday coffee and recommended as a solid gateway blend for those new to real coffee.

Supplier: Zabu Coffee
Twitter: @zabucoffee
Zabu on Facebook

How do we taste the coffee? Go here.

New to DFJ - Bean Reviews

They have been long promised and now they are finally here. The Damn Fine Joe Bean Reviews. 

In these posts we will look at and taste beans from independent suppliers and roasters from around the world.

To kick off the project the good people at Zabu Coffee sent me 5 samples of their choicest coffee beans plus corresponding tasting notes.

For this first selection of bean reviews I visited my old friend Rex at his East London home and armed with an SLR, an Aeropress and a great thirst we set to work. 

In hindsight we should have spaced it out over a few sessions. Don’t taste 5 coffee’s in a row! Although the beans stood up to tasting my cycle ride home was a little bit dangerous.

If you want to see how we do the bean reviews in detail then please go to this page:

Like all the reviews please note there is subjectivity to our taste and likings. Please refer to the brands website to their official tasting notes.