Mary Kate’s Take:
Earlier this year, Denise and I went to the very first New Hampshire Veg Fest, held at Manchester Community College. It was a small, but promising, event, with a lot of local vendors. Between the two of us, Denise and I weren’t able to taste too much — many vegetarian and vegan foods use either soy (which I’m allergic to) or coconut (which Denise is allergic to).
But we did discover El Recreo Estate Coffee, a local (Dedham, Mass.) company that imports coffee from a single coffee estate in Jinotega, Nicaragua, a family-run estate that focuses on providing not only a living wage and educational opportunities for their community of workers, but also ecologically-responsible growing practices. It’s coffee you can feel good about buying, spending money that is, at least for me, in line with the world I’d like to see.
I admit that I’ve gotten lazy about coffee making. At work, I’m one of the last to arrive, and I work with archaeologists. Translation for those not in my field: The coffee is always already made, and it’s strong. So I mostly make coffee on weekends. At home, I use a French press and buy pre-ground coffee (I know. This is “wrong” in coffee land.) I do own a coffee bean grinder, but it was repurposed in the years that I didn’t drink coffee as a spice grinder and grinder for flax and chia. I’d hate to re-season it with coffee, so the long goal here is to buy a new grinder just for coffee and eventually grind my beans fresh for the best flavor.
For now, though, I skip that step. Otherwise, I follow Alton Brown’s method for making coffee, which you can read here or watch here. I’ve had mixed results in the past (mainly because following directions before coffee is kind of difficult), but with the El Recreo Estate coffee, it’s always fantastic.
But this is COFFEE, so really, the most important question is “How does it taste?”
I am personally a fan of deep, rich, dark roast coffees, which I generally drink black and strong. This coffee is labeled “medium” roast, which means that I generally would not have picked this coffee up at a store. At the Veg Fest, they were giving samples, and this coffee is, by first sip, truly amazing. The flavor is maybe not as dark as a dark roast, but it is rich, full-bodied, and extremely low in acidity. It’s smooth, and easy and pleasurable to drink.
I bought a pound bag at the NH Veg Fest on the strength of the tiny sample we tasted. Since that time I’ve gone through the pound bag, a five pound bag, and almost all of a second five pound bag. It’s that good. (Caveat: I’m drinking a 40 ounce thermos of coffee a day since I began the elimination diet, confirmed corn as an allergy, and had to give up diet coke. ) I am a simplistic coffee brewer. I do grind my own beans in a coffee grinder, but I use a Krups Programmable 12-Cup Coffee Maker. I use a large soup spoon from my random cheapo flatware collection, and use one heaping (piled as high as I can get it) spoonful per cup of measured in the carafe, and that always works for me.
When I had to give up half and half in my coffee because of my dairy allergy, I gave up coffee for six months because I just couldn’t face it without half and half. Eventually I was able to cope with drinking it with a bit of cashew milk, but I still pined after the now forbidden half and half. When I tried this coffee, it was the first coffee that I was able to drink with just sugar and not miss dairy products at all. And if you knew me in real life and knew how much I whined and moaned about losing my beloved half and half (MK: She really did.), you’d know what a big deal this is. I don’t put cashew milk in my daily dose because I don’t need it. There is no acid in this coffee, which allows me to drink as much as I do in order to replace my former caffeine intake from diet coke, without destroying my stomach. I love this coffee. The flavor is luscious and when I went back to my previous favorite brand in order to finish off all the other coffee in the house before ordering my next five pound bag, it was harsh and sad in comparison.
I’m in full agreement with Mary Kate about liking the social practices of the company, but those aren’t a strong enough pull for me on their own to buy this coffee if it wasn’t wonderful. It’s wonderful, although addicting. Try it at your risk.