Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coffee Roaster Review: Vienna Coffee Company

Since I had cappuccino and cereal for breakfast this morning (cereal can be good!), I didn't make anything particularly exciting to talk about. I did, however, realize that I've been meaning to say something overall about our local coffee roaster: Vienna Coffee Company (coffee experiments will be on hold for a while because I broke my French press doing dishes the other day, but really I cracked it being careless about six months ago, and it's survived until now without leaking a drop). Despite my lack of a specific coffee review, I will note here that I wish I could do one properly because I have some of my current favorite from Vienna: a blend called Kaldi's Dance, the name referring to the legendary story of coffee's discovery by a goatherd named Kaldi watching his goats behaving very energetically after eating some ripe, red coffee berries. A proper review will follow sooner or later, but for now, I'll suffice it to say that it's my favorite from Vienna and that the description on their website (find the link to it on this page, roughly halfway down) more or less nails it: "complicated, earthy, etc."

So what about Vienna Coffee overall? I love that it's local. I respect that it's better than any other coffee I've run into without having to do a mail-order or a direct import via my brother who lives far away near a very good coffee roaster. I appreciate it usually a couple or three times a day. I just wish they'd put a roasting date on their bags because I'm not clear on how fresh their coffee is when I get it. Granted, I get it at a store, or occasionally by showing up at their roastery, so perhaps mail-order is different. I suspect not, though, and real coffee geeks really want to know when their coffee was roasted because they know that stuff is perishable and diminishes in brewing quality quickly after a short peak period.

I've probably tried three quarters of their caffeinated, non-flavored coffees (I don't usually do flavored coffee and don't believe in decaffeinated coffee, which might even be quite bad for you). I probably would have tried them all by now, but since I rarely keep notes (I'm not a serious coffee taster, just a serious coffee enjoyer), I can't honestly remember for sure which ones I've had and which ones I haven't. I do know that I haven't had a bad one yet, and the descriptions they provide are quite accurate. I'm certain that the freshness of the coffee I've had from them varies from quite properly fresh, to "fresh enough" most often, to "I think this is probably pretty old, relatively speaking." It's consistently better than essentially all of the crap in the grocery stores, though, including in most cases fancier places that tend to carry decent or good coffee. It doesn't, however, quite compare with a giant like Dancing Goats Coffee (formerly Batdorf and Bronson, having changed their name to match that of one of their best blends) or some smaller places I've found that are quite awesome: Bluebottle Coffee Co. (San Francisco, California) and Milagro Coffee Y Espresso (Las Cruces, New Mexico). It more than makes up for that, however, by being 1) local, 2) less expensive, and 3) quite good in its own right and excellent when it's properly fresh, which Dancing Goats and Milagro are consistently able to produce because it's part of their fundamental coffee ethos.

I'm glad to see that Vienna Coffee is featured in a lot of local restaurants here too. Though this list is not nearly inclusive, I know for certain that it's featured at the Tomato Head (which is awesome for well-crafted, healthy, hippy-style, cafe-style food) and at a local coffee shop called Grounded, which might have one of the best coffee-shop names around, not to mention superior atmosphere and great desserts and whatnot.

Overall, I give Vienna Coffee Company an eight out of ten in terms of ten-point scales that don't really mean anything. I'd probably give it a ten if they had roasting dates on their bags, but I'm probably pretty easy to get a ten out of (along with a half dozen suggestions for ways to make that ten really stand).

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