As many other Toronto coffee lovers, I had the chance to first taste a shot of Square Mile Red Brick during their European Espresso Throwdown last month at Te Aro Roasted. This was a great social event, but for me it was a bit of a challenge developing thoughts about the espresso. Given the paper cups and the challenges that the baristas faced in pulling so many shots, I was not able to really form an opinion as I would have liked. In any case, my interest remained in trying out this espresso blend given the initial tasting, as well as the general Square Mile reputation. Given James Hoffman’s many accomplishments including former World Barista Champion and his thought leadership in specialty coffee, I had certain biases and anticipations for this coffee.
In short, it delivered. When I first read the label, I was a bit perplexed how the coffee would taste. By clearly labeling the component coffees and their percentages, along with taste descriptors for each component, the bag ended up with nearly 15 taste descriptors. It was interesting tasting the end result which had some of these descriptors easily emerge, while others melded, and others emerged very subtly during sips. The components for this iteration were 50% Brazilian from Fazienda Sertao, and two Colombians from Samaniega and La Serrania. Given the descriptors, my assumption was that the overall base of nutty dark chocolate, and buttery mouthfeel came from the Brazilian, while the tropical fruits liveliness came from the Colombian. Overall the biggest surprise for me was how clean and crisp this coffee tasted. No earthy or woody notes ever appeared.
I was a little hesitant in ordering the coffee, as there was no shipping time estimated, and spending $23 for 12 ounces of coffee (including shipping) was a bit of a gamble. The coffee arrived 10 days after roasted and was packed in a sealed bag with a one way valve. Not sure of any flushing of the bag. I managed to finish the bag in 5 days as I was loving the coffee, so freshness was not a huge issue for me.
In the past, I have found coffees from the leading European roasters to have quite tight band of parameters to achieve pleasant results. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised that this blend seemed to be a bit more forgiving, although the prescribed parameters seemed to always produce superior results. When I pulled a tighter ratio, sweetness increased, but it introduced a subtle bitter sharpness that was not preferable. I also experimented with lowering the temperature below 200 degrees, but the acidity became slightly sharper. In the end, I really liked the prescribed parameters: 18.5 grams dry, 201 degrees Fahrenheit for 29 gram cup in 28 seconds.
When you first meet this coffee on the nose, it lets you know that it is something different with strong tropical fruit on a nutty background. Pleasant and unique. On first sip a refreshing crispness dominates from a deep tart cranberry fruitiness layered with other sweet tropical fruit. This is well balanced with the sweet fruitiness. The body seems deceptively light at first flowing, but a lingering caramel buttery creaminess emerges as deep chocolate and molasses notes produce a refreshing sweet medium finish. Yes, I say sweet quite bit.
Surprisingly assertive with sweet caramel nuttiness intermingling with tropical sweetness on a strong dark chocolate background. Great balance and flavors.
Favorite espresso blend that I tried so far this year. The clean taste of this coffee along with its complexity makes it a quick favorite for me. Combine it with juicy crispiness from the well-balanced acidity, and I had my mouth craving for more. Many have recommended for me to try this coffee, and you can be sure that I will be ordering more, or picking some up if they have some at Café Myriade when I visit Montreal.
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