I've been drinking a lot of coffee from Ritual and Barefoot lately, so I decided to switch things up and buy a bag of beans from Four Barrel (although they get their beans from Portland's Stumptown and Sweet Maria's, according to ManSeekingCoffee).
Four Barrel Coffee has been around for almost a year now, and I've visited several times, often during my lunch break, for espressos and the occasional Dynamo donut. You can see my postings about them here.
I was a little hesitant to buy beans from them after reading ManSeekingCoffee's pronouncement in March that their roasting has yet to live up to expectations, and that basically he prefers Stumptown's versions better. Still, it's been a few months and thought I'd play around with a bag for a few weeks and see what I got.
During previous trips, I didn't see roast dates on the bags, but they all have them now, which is an important piece of information for the coffee buyer to know. Freshness is so critical for coffee to be good, and I'm realizing that it's not just about the roast date, but the age of the beans themselves. I've pretty much ended my brief, torrent love affair with Blue Bottle after purchasing numerous bags of beans for home brewing, only to find they've all seemed dead inside. Nothing but stale, pencil shaving flavors. No acidity, no life, despite the fact they they were all roasted within a week of my purchase. I still like to get an occasional shot from their new cafe in the Ferry Building because of their cool lever machine and the convenience factor for me (I work a few blocks away), but I no longer get their beans for home because they don't seem to refresh their stocks enough or keep their green beans fresh.
Anyway, I went to Four Barrel a few weeks ago and wanted something lemony, something powerful. So I picked up their Ethiopian Wondo Harfusa for $12.50. As Four Barrel's website is just a front page right now, I couldn't get any additional info about the beans, but there is info on Stumptown's site.
Here's what Stumptown had to say: "Our lot was traditionally fermented for more than 24 hours, washed and left to dry in the sun on raised beds for more than a week. Wondo Harfusa is pure essence of hibiscus in fragrance followed with ripe red fruit flavors of raspberry, red currant and red cherry that finish in classic Yirgacheffe style with distinct notes of black tea."
I toyed around with different preparations for a week or so and found the inverted Aeropress to extract the best flavors. Very complex coffee, with a nutty, buttery taste to start, developing into jasmine/floral tea and ending with stone fruit flavors. The coffee had a light body and muted acidity. As a pour over, I got more nuts in the finish - hazelnut and macadamia nuts.
If you enjoy tea-like coffees, this is one to try. I haven't had Stumptown's version, so I can't compare it, but overall I liked it and will be exploring some more Four Barrel offerings in the future.