Chasing the Cherry

I’ve had a coffee crush on Square Mile Roasters ever since summer of 2015.  For my birthday I was given The World Atlas of Coffee written by James Hoffmann, co-founder of the quality driven roastery tucked into East London.  A little about James, not only was he World Barista Champion of 2007, he exudes professionalism, takes coffee curiosity to another level, and he’s driving the industry in new directions with his leadership.  He and his superb team are the reason Square Mile is an award winning roastery and putting London on the coffee map.  

In the fall of 2016, a friend of a friend was coming to Seattle and I was asked to take care of him while in the Emerald City.  I only agreed if he would bring me a bag of coffee from Square Mile – I probably would’ve done it anyway but he would’ve gotten the quick tour if he showed up sans beans.  We met at a cafe and I hugged this total stranger when he presented me with the sleek black bag embossed by a white griffin.  

The coffee he brought was one of Square Mile’s hallmarks, their seasonal espresso blend, Red Brick, a nod to their roasting facility (I’m assuming).  I need to tell you upfront that you can’t get this coffee now.  It’s seasonal.  Sorry.  I should’ve posted this earlier.  Like last season.  

That Red Brick was a blend of 60% Rabanales, Guatemala and 40% Montanas del Diamante, Costa Rica.  I only know this because it’s written on the bag along with roast date and tasting notes, which is really what this post is about… Hazelnut, Cherry, and Ganache.

After a few too many espressos at some of Seattle’s hot shot cafes, and a stroll along Lake Washington, I ended the tour at Kerry Park that boasts an iconic view of downtown Seattle.  Then, I said goodbye to my new friend and went immediately home to brew this coffee.

Per usual, I brewed this coffee on Chemex, my preferred method that I wrote about in my post, Essential Chemex.  Right away, lovely notes of hazelnut mingled with the ganache.  It was sweet and clean, but where was the cherry?  Hmm…

Over the next couple of weeks I brewed this coffee again and again.  It met me with toasted hazelnuts and a truffle like chocolate finish… but still no cherry.  I was nearing the end of the bag and desperately wanted to taste my favorite coffee flavor combo, cherry and chocolate, but I was failing to unlock that flavor either in my grinding or pouring method.  

With only enough beans left for one more brew, I took the bag to work with me in hopes that our shop’s Mahlkonig grinder would take a better shot than my Baratza (which I still love).  On this particular day, I was by myself at the roastery.  I carefully ground the coffee and inspected the particle size, measuring it against what I remember seeing at home.  As soon as I poured the first grams of water onto these precious last grounds, there was a knock at the door.  Coffee delivery.  Darn.

Even though alarms were going off in my head that I couldn’t leave the coffee, I walked over to the loading bay to sign for the delivery.  While the delivery guys unloaded the pallets, I ran back to the brew bar to check on my bloom and looked at the timer.  It had been two minutes.  I’d never bloomed a coffee over 20 seconds let alone two minutes.  I figured my little experiment was probably over but still decided to finish the brew instead of wasting the coffee – I doubt it would be bad.  

After a few minutes of brewing, I tasted the coffee and immediately my eyes popped out of my head.  The world stood still.  My palate was electrified by unmistakable cherry sweetness.  Finally!  I didn’t care if it was the only perfect cup from the whole bag.  I was living in the moment.  Maraschino cherry and chocolate ganache with hints of hazelnut.  I couldn’t believe it.

As a tradition of gratefulness, I always serve the green coffee deliver people fresh coffee when they visit.  Since this coffee was hot, that’s what they got – even though it left me with just a mere cup after chasing the cherry for weeks.

This coffee experience immediately became one of my most memorable because I wasn’t taking anything for granted.  I had to struggle for the divine cup and even then, after a two minute bloom, there was a chance it wouldn’t materialize.  What had a two minute bloom done to bring out the cherry notes?  Was it the grind setting of the Mahlkonig versus the Baratza? Was it a different water source? Was it because Mercury was in retrograde?   I have no idea.  I’ve since tried two minute blooms with other coffees but haven’t replicated this experience.

Looking back, Red Brick espresso blend was one of the best coffees I had all year, even if it was only one cup.  Although you can’t get this version of Red Brick you can get their new seasonal offering, a blend of 40% Derrubada, Brazil, 40% Serrania, Colombia, and 20% Mulish, Ethiopia with notes of Caramel, Raspberry, and Chocolate.  


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