Blue Monarch Coffee is one of Kansas City’s newest roasters. Having just put the finishing touches on their website, today’s coffee is one of their first public offerings. Kansas City’s coffee culture is one of the country’s best, so my friends at Blue Monarch have big shoes to fill, but we’ll see they have their sights aimed at a different segment of the market and with strong business principles guiding them, they’re sure to be successful!
BLUE MONARCH COFFEE SUMATRA KERINCI HIGHLANDS
I met up with Tyler Wilson and Caleb Kangas a couple weeks ago at the lovely Goat Hill Coffee & Soda in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood and we spent quite a bit of time chatting about and around coffee. One thing I forgot to ask about is where the name Blue Monarch came from! Ack! Going out on a limb, I’m guessing it’s a mashup of the Royals’ blue color, also adopted by our soccer team, Sporting KC, and the Monarchs, who were the longest running franchise in the history of baseball’s Negro Leagues. Baseball greats like Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson started their careers with the Monarchs. Kansas City has a deep tradition of using “royal” words like monarch, empress, royal, etc in place names around the city. Tyler and Caleb both have deep business backgrounds as well as a love for coffee, and they are setting their sights on “getting uniquely roasted coffee into the hands of normal coffee drinkers.” There’s plenty of room in the specialty market for more patrons, so this is a smart idea!
The boys from Blue Monarch also took advantage of the many, many roasting machines here in town and they rent time from another roaster, which is a great way to get rolling in the coffee business. Roasters, gas, electrical, zoning, inspections, ancillary equipment like bag sealers, etc are all very expensive to purchase, maintain and manage, so this allows them to cut all of that out and do the roasting and sourcing they would prefer to focus on. Smart.
Let’s get to today’s coffee! I don’t know much about it other than that it’s from the Kerinci Highlands in central Sumatra. Knowing where they sourced this coffee from, I know it’s a wet-hulled coffee and contains Adung Sari and Tim Tim varietals from various small holder farms, but that’s about the extent of what I could figure out on my own. According to Blue Monarch’s website, the flavor profile is, “sweet, mango and fruity, deep body.”
I used my standard 1:16 pourover ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino dripper using Kalita 185 filters. My grinder du jour is a Handground set on 3.5. Wet-hulled coffees can be notoriously “dirty” and “earthy” and “funky” and I found this one to be pretty clean and straightforward as a pourover. There is nice body to the cup and a lot of tropical stuff happening in the cup! Mango is a good starting point. There is a little bit of pineapple in the latter half of the sip and into the finish and aftertaste… sweet with a bit of tartness that pineapple often has. I was getting a bit of lemon candy-like acidity from the cup, too. I really didn’t get any earthiness, woody notes, herbals, or some of the other strange-but-accepted-in-wet-hulled-coffee flavors.
This is an interesting coffee because it’s super fruity, but it’s also relatively low in the perceived acidity, for me. When compared to a really bright Colombian or Kenyan, for example, this one is every bit as fruit-forward, but not as… well… bright, as those coffees. It’s because the fruit notes in this coffee are those super sweet tropicals instead of the generally sharper citrus notes usually found in Colombians and Kenyans. As a pourover, I really enjoyed this one. I’m always a little leery of wet hulled coffees because you just never know what they’re going to have in store for the drinker, but this one was really nice! A few days after meeting with Caleb and Tyler, I got an email from them telling me to try this one out as espresso, so over to the Gaggia we go…
*Note: I also prepped this coffee using Brian Beyke’s AeroPress recipe and it was tasty, too. I think it brought up more acidity in the fruitiness but otherwise was quite similar to the pourover
I got some pretty nice shots on the Gaggia Espresso (with Rancilio Rocky grinder and using a 20g Decent Espresso basket and precision tamper calibrated to 25lbs) with this coffee. Interestingly, the espresso tasted almost exactly like the pourover, just a little more concentrated. I know this sounds like a “duh” statement, but in my long experience with espresso that’s not usually the case and the pourover has quite a different flavor profile from the espresso method of the same coffee. Nonetheless, the parameters I was using were 20g of coffee in and then shutting the pump off and pulling the cup out at 27 seconds. This yielded a 29-30g cup of espresso each time. LOTS of tropical fruit in these cups, like a said, just a concentrated version of the pourover, really! The espresso was a little thin for me and the crema was thin and died off pretty easily (more of a cosmetic issue than anything, and typical with single origin espressos, generally), but the aftertaste was AWESOME. Pure pineapple and mango in the long aftertaste, with some spicy notes in there, too. Really beautuiful! Again, a fruity profile without being overly bright, which is unique and can’t be overstated.
I have another one of Blue Monarch’s coffees to check out so stay tuned for that early next week! I couldn’t be happier with my first experience from these new kids on the block!