I first learned about Omaha, Nebraska’s Hardy Coffee Co. last year when they were featured one month in MyCoffeePub.com‘s subscription service. I really loved that coffee and after a short email exchange, I have a bunch more of their lineup to share with you over the next week! I’ve included a video at the end of the review that tells Hardy’s story in their own words, so make sure you check that out (they are the coffee roasting wing of Omaha’s Bliss Bakery and Aromas Coffeehouse).
The coffee we’re looking at today is Hardy’s Brazil Criminosos, which was sourced by a coffee buyer (Brian Phillips) here in Kansas City, sold to Hardy and roasted in Omaha, and then made it back to Kansas City and into my hands thanks to my pal, Ben Helt! Full circle! Well, minus the whole Brazil part, but close. This is a pulped natural from Brazil’s Fazenda Criminosos, owned by Cesar Augusto Ferraz Junqueira. It’s a yellow bourbon varietal grown at 1250masl, quite high relative to most of Brazil, and this was a 9-bag microlot (about 1400 pounds of green coffee) that is exclusively available from Hardy Coffee Co. You can buy this coffee directly from Hardy Coffee Co. for $17/12oz bag.
Fazenda Criminosos (“criminals”) gets its namesake because it is in an area where robbers used to hide out and take down caravans on their way to port to ship materials back to Portugal. Hardy Coffee Co. actually sent me two versions of this coffee. The one hand-delivered by Ben was cupping a bit too bright, so a couple days later I had a box waiting for me containing another sample of the finished product. I was a bit aggressive in sharing this coffee with other KC coffee geeks, so I ended up not having enough to do any side by side taste testing. Doh!
The first thing I noticed about this coffee is how tiny the beans are. I’d say they are about 1/2 the size of your average coffee bean. Compared to the Pacamara beans I had from Japan’s Golpie earlier in the week they are about 1/5 the size! Tasting notes for this coffee include, “strawberry, toffee, raw sugar.” I have to admit going into this review that I am not a big Brazilian coffee fan. I tend to find them a little boring and I also had my first experience with very under-roasted coffee from a locally roasted Brazil and it was awful. It left a bit of an indelible impression on me.
That being said, one of my all-time favorite home roasts used to be a natural Brazilian from Sweet Marias and so I am always open to possibilities. The description on this coffee sounded great and everyone involved in it were really excited about it, so…
This is a pretty nice coffee. Pulped naturals, for me, tend to be hard to differentiate from washed coffees, so they tend to taste pretty clean. Even a fully natural Brazilian coffee is not going to be like an Ethiopian natural, for example. The flavors just tend to be a lot more mild across the board when it comes to Brazilian coffee. There is some nice, fruity and sweet aroma in this coffee and the flavor definitely reminds me of fresh strawberry. There is a mouthfeel that is a bit dry and that reminds me of that slight astringency that also comes with fresh strawberries. Overall I would call this a low perceived acidity cup but it has a sweet citrus tone to it that brightens it up. It’s overall a sweet and juicy cup of coffee and it doesn’t have any of the grass or (bad) peanut flavors that were etched into my mind by that batch of underroasted Brazilian I had that one time. Thank God!
Coming off two very complex and very odd (but awesome) coffees from Golpie, recently, this Criminosos strikes me as being a mild, easy-going, very drinkable cup of coffee that is sweet and fruity but lacks the ferment that often comes with strawberry flavors. It’s really delicious and one of my favorite examples of a strawberry-forward coffee recently (and there have been a lot of them!). If you like the really nutty and chocolatey Brazil’s this one won’t do it for you, but I highly recommend it if you’re looking to step away from that mold but not with too big of a step initially!