On A Sweeter Note: Cartel Coffee Lab’s New Espresso

by shelbinator3000

(What's left) of a ristretto shot of Black Market Espresso. Specs: Single origin, 100% Red Bourbon. El Salvador. Batman in the corner.

You could talk to an espresso pro whose cup of knowledge runneth over, or just the coffee bar regular whose first move is to order a shot, and they’ll always arrive at the same consensus; a great shot appears reddish brown in color. It doesn’t work inversely, though; just because it’s reddish brown doesn’t mean it tastes exceptional. But one thing is for sure: blondes (typically tasting sour) need not be served.

Cartel Coffee Lab, as of last week, is now donning a fresh new espresso blend (and a promo video) – “blend” being an outdated term, though, as many shops are serving single origin coffee in place or in addition to their regular espresso. Cartel’s new stuff is 100% red bourbon; a single varietal of coffee grown on a single, family-owned coffee farm in El Salvador. Taking a sip of the new espresso tastes a lot like biting into a maraschino cherry that’s been sitting on your sundae, drizzled in chocolate. It’s sweet and smooth, familiar, and is followed with a dry, chocolate syrup body that coats your mouth. The shot is none other than red and brown in color, which brings to memory the chocolate-covered cherry, so it coordinates nicely.

If you ask your barista to throw four ounces of steamed milk and foam in a cup on top of a shot then you’ll most likely tastes something a little different. The foam will have spice and the body of the steamed drink, to me, tastes like semi-sweet chocolate; the maraschino cherry being gone for the most part. Just a few days ago a Cartel barista described the cappuccinos as tasting like buttery flapjack pancakes (no sausage or eggs) – a romantic description that shows off how much espresso can change the farther it gets from the roast date.

I’ve heard this espresso won’t be a Cartel fixture for long – not a ton of the green coffee was bought in the first place. But I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, whether it’s a weekday with their barista Seth or on weekends with Ashley, with visits that are even sweeter now than usual. Espresso can do that.

And since their video is enjoyable, and now famous, here it is: