Coffee Review: Starbucks Black Apron: Sulawesi Kopi Kampung

by on June 1, 2006

Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #1.

The new C&C tasting panel decided to cut our teeth (so to speak) on Starbucks’ newest Black Apron offering: Sulawesi Kopi Kampung. We chose this for our first test run mainly because The Star[bucks]ling got some on employee comp.

The coffee: Sourced from northern Toraja, in central Sulawesi, an area of lush forest where coffee (often typica) is usually grown under shade.  It is a semi-washed bean.

The beans: It looked like a full city roast, perhaps a bit beyond, as nearly all beans showed some oils.  Sweet Maria’s suggests this may be too dark a roast for a Sulawesi, not surprising from Starbucks.  We opened the bag and took a sniff.  We all agreed it had a distinctive smell. BirdBarista thought they smelled spicy or earthy.  ConLeche immediately said smoky, “like burning leaves.”  Nighthawk also detected a smoky smell, but none of us thought it unpleasant.

In a french press: First, we tried a french press.  The consensus was that this was a very distinctive coffee, with a lot of character.  It had good body, and we thought it was “intriguing,” as we tried to come up with good descriptors.  The flavors of coffees frequently develop as it cools, and it only took a few minutes before our generally favorable impressions began to change.  Star[bucks]ling and BirdBarista began to detect rubber notes.  Really.  The mouthfeel went from lingering and smooth to lingering and “hairy.”  BirdBarista: “I definitely taste tires.”  Sweet Maria’s described semi-washed beans from Toraja as “deep and brooding.”  This seemed apt.

Brewed: We may have steeped it too long or made it too strong in the french press, because we really didn’t care for it at all prepared that way. This is a mistake any average joe could make making a cup of joe, so we consider this part of the review valid.  However, the next two days we tried the Kopi Kampung as ordinary drip coffee in the office coffeemaker through an unbleached paper filter.

The results were much better.  It was much “friendlier,” while still retaining a unique character.  The Risky Kingbird liked it.  Nighthawk was quite enthusiastic.  He described it as “pungent and vigorous,” and said it really “jumps at your palate.”  ConLeche found it hearty, but he said milk neutralized the character.  Once again, as it cooled, we found bitter notes emerging, but overall in the pot it was a much more approachable coffee.  Both Star[bucks]ling and another Starbucks barista, CoalTit (Charbucks, coal, get it?) found it quickly became flat on the palate, the spicy and smoky notes becoming more pronounced.

The verdict was that this was an okay and very distinctive coffee, but perhaps not an every day coffee (good thing, at $13 for a half-pound).  Star[bucks]ling said, “I wouldn’t want to wake to it.”  It just develops a weird taste after a short period of time.  Surprisingly, we let it sit in the pot for 30 minutes, and it didn’t taste any more bitter after cooking all that time.

When to drink this coffee (field oriented): Mid-afternoon, during a long stakeout watching bird behavior at the nest, when you need to be jarred alert and distracted from your cramped thighs and mosquito bites.

And we’re rating this 2.5 motmots. UPDATE: Coffee Review has posted their comments.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Coffee reviews,Indo-Pacific,Retail and specialty roasters,Starbucks

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