Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #16.
The two major natural foods markets, at least in our region, are Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. There are more TJ’s close to me, but I’ve always been a bit frustrated by their coffees. Determining origin on most of their self-branded beans is difficult, if not futile. Some of their offerings are okay (the Organic Bolivian is decent), but even Coffee Review found most to be average (notice also the lack of origin info on most). More on TJ’s in this post.
Whole Foods, on the other hand, is much more transparent. Although they carry several additional brands (varies regionally), including Intelligentsia and Counter Culture’s Sanctuary line of shade coffees, Whole Foods features coffees roasted by Allegro Coffee Company in Colorado. Allegro is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Whole Foods, acquired in 1997. The Allegro web site has a page where you can download their social responsibility scorecard and coffee sourcing report.
Today’s review is of Allegro’s Organic San Marcos from Honduras. It is a Special Reserve selection. Growers of Special Reserve coffees receive $10,000 to fund community initiatives. This coffee is from the COCOSAM cooperative in San Marcos de Colon, Choluteca department in southwestern Honduras (red on map). Around half the growers of this nearly 100-farmer co-op grow certified organic coffee. The varieties grown are bourbon, caturra, and catuai.
This is a light roast (full city). There was no roast date on the bag, but a “best used by” date of 3/23/07 and the healthy bloom when prepared on 16 January indicates a 12/23/06 roasting, or thereabouts.
As a mixed lot from a number of farms, I did not expect it to approach the excellence of the single estate Honduran El Puente from Counter Culture, one of my favorite Central American coffees. The San Marcos is also grown at a lower altitude than the El Puente, a factor that might also argue for points off the flavor profile. But the tasting panel agreed this was a really enjoyable coffee.
Like nearly all Honduran and Guatemalan coffees we’ve sniffed, the San Marcos had a beautiful aroma. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of smelling beans like this, although the coffee rarely lives up to the (small) room-filling fragrance. At any rate, the San Marcos had a profile typical of good Central Americans: hints of vanilla, milk chocolate, and caramel. This coffee was very smooth, almost buttery, with an especially creamy mouthfeel that we thought added a lot to the experience. This was, unsurprisingly, most pronounced when prepared in a press. It was also excellent brewed, although I’d skip the paper filter and use a gold filter to preserve some of the creamy smoothness. We give this 3.75 motmots.
Since they are so accessible to many people, we’ll be reviewing at least two more Whole Foods/Allegro coffees in the future.