Sadly I’ve come to the third and final coffee from Virginia Beach’s Jolly Roasters Coffee Co. and this time it’s something I don’t get sent by many roasters… their dark roast blend they call Midnight Oil. A good dark roast is incredibly pleasing to drink so I’m excited to check this one out!
JOLLY ROASTERS COFFEE CO. MIDNIGHT OIL
Jolly Roasters Coffee Co. was founded in Virginia Beach, Virginia by Casey and Brenda Jolly in 2015. Casey had been stationed with the military in Japan, outside of Tokyo, around 2011 and he and Brenda fell in love with the specialty coffee scene there (a pretty decent introduction into specialty coffee!). They started roasting coffee for themselves and friends using the time-honored tradition of the popcorn popper, and upon returning to the USA in 2014, they launched a plan to get a roastery and, eventually, cafe open. They’re still working on the latter, but the Jollys seem to stay very busy with events, tastings, farmers markets and online sales. I was pretty impressed with their Ethiopian and Guatemalan selections (see links above) and this third coffee they sent is their signature dark roast called Midnight Oil.
I know it’s “uncool” to like dark roasts when you’re in specialty coffee, but a good one is both hard to do and has deep caramelization and flavors that light roasts just can never have. I love light roasts (obviously… have you seen my list of reviews?! LOL), but dark roasts are what started my pathway into coffee and there’s always room in my palate for them. And, let’s be honest, the vasy majority of coffee drinkers in the USA perceive themselves as liking “bold” and “rich” and “smooth” coffees and think that the darker the better when it comes to coffee, so I think specialty coffee roasters who offer one or two “dark roast” options are doing smart business. If people like your coffee and that can open up a conversation about it and get people to trust you enough to try your lighter coffees and expand their palates some, who loses in that scenario?
Getting back to this particular coffee, all I know about it is that it’s called Midnight Oil and it’s Jolly Roasters Coffee Co’s “signature dark roast.” The Jollys give us tasting notes of, “bold and smooth, almond, chocolate.” That’s my only suggestion for the Jollys, really, is to add some more info to the website for is geeks and nerds who like that sort of thing. I like to know a little bit about the coffees I drink (I like to know a lot, but the average specialty coffee drinker probably wants to know a little bit about origin, maybe), at least where in the world they’re from. So, I’d love to see more information on the website for each coffee, but that’s a pretty small gripe, all things considered!
I used my standard pourover setup of a 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino dripper with Kalita 185 filter. I used Third Wave Water, always, and a Handground grinder set to 3. Mine has always worked pretty decently and I did notice they have an upgrade kit for the burrs to get them better aligned, for only $20, so I’ll be checking that out when they’re available again. Anyway…
With the name Midnight Oil I was expecting a black, oily coffee bean in the bag, so I was really surprised to find what looked like a medium roast, visually, in the bag. I couldn’t see any oil appearing on the surface of any of the beans, so this is just proof that: 1) Visual inspection of beans doesn’t tell you everything and 2) Terms like “light,” “medium” and “dark” are very subjective and in the eye of the beholder. That being said, it doesn’t take a nuclear blast to coax roastiness and caramelization out of coffee, so even a seemingly lighter medium roast can have all the hallmarks of those oily grease bombs I cut my teeth on when I first got into coffee.
Taking my sips there is a nice roastiness and a marshmallow like sweetness to this cup. There is a surprising amount of citrus acidity in there, too, which gives the coffee a sort orange and chocolate vibe. I wonder with coffees like this how much the Third Wave Water actually influences the flavor, as the recipe is known to enhance the high notes in the cup. When I catch some time I’ll brew some up with plain distilled water (gross, I know, but it’s a good control) and my regular tap water and see how they compare). For me, this is borderline “dark” and I’d really call this a medium roast, but I don’t want to get hung up on terminology when what I have in front of me is a nice drinking cup of coffee. There really is a lot of orange flavor and in the finish is takes on an almost perfumed, sort of bergamot/Earl Grey tone that I absolutely love! In the mid sip I get some nice roastiness out of the cup, especially if I agitate the coffee some on my palate and puff breaths out of my nose (not something I do in public! LOL, but this is called retronasal tasting and it really brings a lot of flavors out). The coffee has a nice medium body to it and a creamy mouthfeel with hints of dark chocolate and milk chocolate with orange flavoring in it. This is a nice, very easy drinking, very accommodating cup and it’s really delicious. In a funny twist, this could be the gateway coffee to get light roast fanatics to try darker roasts! LOL
All in all, a great trio of coffees from Jolly Roasters Coffee Co. I’d love to see some more robustness out of their website, but beyond that, I think Casey and Brenda are on a good path and their coffee is great, so I hope that their growth continues and we do get to see a brick and mortar cafe from them sooner or later! Woot!