“Where did October go?” – A classmate of mine.
I can’t lie to you; November did not creep up on me. Even creepy Halloween costumes didn’t creep up on me. I’ve been counting the days (and too inconsistently the hours) since the calendar struck October. It feels like the month was born with a finish line and and for most the only goal is getting to Halloween, a holiday I love, though I’m bittersweet about despite accruing piles of sugary milk chocolate and hard candy year in and year out. The milk chocolate, specifically, has always gotten under my skin – like that year I dressed up as Wolverine and, persistently, kept poking myself trying to open up candy bars with my adamantium claws.
You see, I’m a 35% cocoa and above kind of guy who dreams of a trip to Brooklyn where the Mast Brothers make chocolate bars from scratch (they visit some of their farmers, too) and where a special Madagascan chocolate blend walks its way over to Stumptown Coffee inside Manhattan’s Ace Hotel and makes friends with their milk and espresso.
Now that I’ve successfully weaved coffee into my story – getting to my point.
I’d found a reason to treasure my day-to-day countdown in the later half of October. Midday the 21st I received a package in the mail; one of those cushiony white envelopes containing a rectangular object the size of my hand. A brick of cheese? Couldn’t be. But its distinct rattling sound and characteristic lightness gave it away.
I had a new bag of coffee. I skipped reading the sender’s address (adding to the mystery of the moment) and ripped open the envelope to reveal something much more exciting than a fine brick of cheese and more satisfying than the last chapter of a Hardy Boys novel.
It was eight ounces of their highly anticipated Ruthagati AA coffee from Kenya, an “adventurous” choice, that came dressed like a candy bar in their new deep brown and caramel colored packaging.
I documented the moment with photos of the packaging and then proceeded to brew up the coffee using a V60. The cup was crisp and popped like only a coffee 1-5 days out from roast could. The first thing I noticed was a palpable juiciness – the kind where you can tell your mouth is watering even though its full of coffee. The Handsome guys’ own flavor notes describe “juicy goodness.” Check. I suppose it wouldn’t be enough for me to stop right there and tell you it was a damn good cup of coffee? Can’t I just tell you to click and buy immediately? Fine, because this is the internet I’ll go ahead and talk flavor breakdown.
Here’s what I tasted: citrus like the first spritz you taste of a lemon or an orange. But the taste was sweeter than that, and not like a sugary lemonade, but much more natural like a solid, tangy fruit. Similarly, I can’t help but to remember back to a cup of Kenyan coffee I had in San Francisco that I thought tasted very accurately like the “lemon candy” descriptor written on the menu. The pure citrus flavor in the San Francisco cup was very good. This one from Handsome, however, was quite a bit more complex. They seemed to have it very right with their own description of passion fruit and nectarines. It’s far too bold to peg all Kenyans with the same flavor notes, but we can all agree the best ones are all superbly, complexly juicy.
Flavor evaluation aside, I just sat, got comfy and sipped happily on one of the better Kenyans I’d had this season. I brewed Handsome’s Ruthagati multiple times each day (alternating between V60 and paper/disk aeropress brew methods, and once on the chemex with a friend) for the next 11 days until I ran out on November 1st; a perfect 14 days past roast. I wish more roasters sold 8oz bags but, as it turns out, Handsome sells only 12 ounce bags of their Ruthagati online.
Or perhaps I should just stick with the 12 ounce bags and have friends over for coffee more often.
My consensus: Handsome hits 3/3 with me. The first was their espresso in a cappuccino at CoffeeBar in Los Angeles; second was a bag of their La Providencia (currently a part of their espresso blend) I’d been brewing a few weeks ago. Assuming you’ve been narrowing in on a Kenyan to start African coffee season out right, try an excellent Ruthagati AA coffee from Kenya, roasted excellently by Handsome. Brag to your friends, but don’t forget to invite them over afterwards. Tote around a bag and you’ll be the most popular guy at those coffee brewing parties you go to.
I’m sad to see the “Ruth” go. It’s nice, though, that a bag of Water Avenue’s coffee from the same continent; an Ethiopia Limu Kossa has landed in my lap. So far it’s crisp and tasty.
P.S. I’m not a “coffee reviewer” – nor do I drink coffee with the sole purpose of identifying notes. Sometimes I just enjoy a coffee enough that I feel I’d like to write about it.