I discovered a new cafe/roaster on my last trip to Des Moines over Thanksgiving weekend and came home with a bag of their Ethiopian natural selection. Without further ado, let’s check this new place out!
HORIZON LINE COFFEE ETHIOPIA KOSSA GESHE
My family lives in Des Moines, so I make it up there quite often, but the city offers discovery and adventure every time I’m there. Even though my family’s roots are in Des Moines, I haven’t lived there since I was 12 (we moved to Rome, Italy at that time and when I came back it was time for college and other adventures), so it’s not like the city is home, for me. Des Moines is a pretty hip city with a lot going on downtown. Whenever I’m there I like to try to get out of the suburbs and into the city to discover something new and, when it comes to coffee, my latest discovery is Horizon Line Coffee.
I don’t know much about the Des Moines coffee scene… prior to now, I would try to make it over to the Drake University area to hit Mars Cafe (who is now serving both Kickapoo Coffee and Cat & Cloud!), which always offers a good cup and a comfortable seat. Horizon Line is about a 5-minute drive, if that, from Mars, so it’s easy (and advisable!) to hit up both at the same time. Horizon Line Coffee was founded by Brad Penna and Nam Ho, who moved from southern California to Des Moines in 2016. They opened HLC earlier this summer in 2017.
The cafe is in what looks like a pretty hip neighborhood, although I was there at 7:30AM on the Friday just after Thanksgiving, so not even a mouse was stirring! It sits in the Western Gateway neighborhood south of the sculpture park and just down the street from Exile Brewing. I could see some cool-looking shops and lots of probably-higher end lofts around. It’s easy to miss HLC’s modest door sign, but when you enter the space it’s polished concrete floors and a mix of warm wood and white modern seating with minimal decoration. The barn-style doors in the front look great and the roaster sits in the back of the shop, waiting patiently for its next call to action. A modern bar with a La Marzocco Linea greets people as they walk in.
I was so happy to see a 1&1 on the menu! Introduced to this idea by Cat & Cloud, it’s the perfect way to try a cafe’s coffee, in my opinion. A 1&1 is shot of espresso and a macchiato, so you get to taste the E without anything in it, and you get a sample of it with milk, but you aren’t locked into a 6oz capp or a huge latte. This has been my go-to for years, so it’s nice to see it making it onto menus. The coffee I came home with is HLC’s Kossa Geshe from Ethiopia. It appears to be sold out now, but it was 70% of their espresso blend at the time and it was glorious. I had it as a pourover at home, using my standard parameters, and it was a challenge to brew because it’s so dense and soooooo lightly roasted, it tends to settle in the filter and want to clog the works. My extractions took about 2x as long as other coffees using the same grind settings! That being said, this coffee was loaded with strawberry and lemon, but it was another surprisingly light coffees, for a natural. Like yesterday’s Guji from Presta, it’s super light tasting and has a short finish, but the flavors were excellent and I found nothing unlikeable at all in it. The strawberry flavors were fresh strawberries, right out of the garden, rather than the more synthetic Frankenberry cereal-like notes I sometimes get from Ethiopian naturals. Especially in the aftertaste, I felt like I had just eaten a bowl of strawberries. Excellent!
In the cafe on the day I dropped in, the espresso was 70% Ethiopian (and I’m assuming it was this one) and 30% of a Guatemalan (perhaps their current offering on the website, but I’m not sure about that). Ethiopian naturals often make it into espresso blends as a small component to give some fruitiness to the cup, but 70% is a lot. The results were fantastic, though! I got tons of strawberry cereal aroma from the espresso and lots of lime acidity in the sip. It was bright, super strawberry, super lime and while it was not a shot a nonna from Italy would probably care for, it was everything I love about “third wave,” West Coast style espresso and it was glorious. I was a little worried about my macchiato, though, because an espresso that bright and fruity can often mix weirdly with milk, for my palate, and read like a little sour/spoiled milk. I got none of that from this coffee. The milk and espresso worked perfectly together. The acidity mellowed out and the strawberry notes and milk were delicious and refreshing. It was very well done. For $20 including tip I was out of there with a 1&1, an 80z bag of their amazing Kossa Geshe and a sticker to add somewhere on my computer.
I will definitely be heading back to Horizon Line Coffee on subsequent trips to Des Moines and with Mars Cafe being just a stone’s throw away, my caffeine sobriety will truly be in jeopardy when I visit next!