Nothing makes me happier than getting to taste the fruits of the local Kansas City coffee market. You’d think I’d be slurping on KC coffee all week long, but I get sent a lot of coffee from all over the country and I don’t have the type of job where I can drink coffee at work, so it’s a cup or two in the AM and if I have decaf I’m reviewing, maybe one more in the evening. That, ironically, doesn’t leave me much time to check out what’s hot in Kansas City! Boo hoo for me, right? So, when Messenger Coffee Co. leaves a box of coffee on my doorstep, it makes me happy, that’s my point!
Messenger Coffee Co. has been around for a few years now and they have a big presence in Kansas City because they own Filling Station cafes and also supply coffee for several mainstays in the community, like Homer’s and Black Dog Coffeehouse. The same family also owns Ibis Bakery, and they’re basically just taking over the city one mouthful at a time!
Today I’m looking at Messenger’s Ethiopia Konga Natural. I’ve had this coffee in the past and enjoyed it, and it’s nice to come around to the same coffee, roasted by the same people, from a different crop a year or two later, and see how it has changed. This coffee is grown in the 2000-2350masl range in the Gedeo Zone near Yirgachefe, Ethiopia. It’s a natural process coffee meaning that the cherries are picked and then dried on raised net-like beds with the cherry and fruit totally intact. Natural process coffees pick up a lot of sweetness and fruity flavors and can get pretty wild (reference Golpie Coffee’s Funky Natural) if a lot of fermentation starts to occur. You can buy this coffee for $18.25/12 oz bag directly from Messenger Coffee Co. (and for online orders, they do free shipping if the order is over $20).
Tasting notes from Messenger for this coffee read, “An adventurous, fruity cup. Look for notes of juniper and honey in the aroma and a sweet blueberry, walnut and milk chocolate flavor.” OK! In the aroma on this one, I was finding some sweetness and a lot of floral tones. The flavors I got from this coffee really surprised me and don’t fit the prototype “Ethiopia natural” mold of a super sweet blueberry (or, more recently, strawberry) bomb. On a side note, the most-blueberry coffee I’ve ever tasted was another Ethiopia natural from Messenger that I had a couple years ago. Holy smokes!
Anyway, this is not a sugary and super-fruity coffee to my palate. I’m getting a lot of very “adult” flavors and tons of complexity. The juniper mentioned in Messenger’s aroma notes comes through as a slightly herbal bitterness (in a good way), giving the coffee a ton of complexity and keeping what can sometimes be a bit cloying in the sweetness of a natural at bay. There is a bit of blueberry in the flavor and the second half of the sip evokes single origin dark chocolate. The finish is a bit dry and I can see where they’re walnut descriptor comes out, here, too. There’s a bit of ferment in this cup, too, and while I know some coffee drinkers don’t like the “funk” you can get from a natural process coffee, I really do like it, so that adds yet another level of complexity and even more flavor to explore.
Overall this is a really complex coffee with a lot of unique flavors for an Ethiopian natural. It’s just surprise after surprise for a group of coffees that are usually described as super sweet, super fruity berry bombs. This one from Messenger really breaks out of that mold in a big way. All this complexity does take a little bit away from the drinkability of the cup (i.e. a fruity, sugary coffee is way easier to drink than one that has this much complexity), but that’s a small price to pay for what I think is an exceptional and unique coffee experience.