Paramo Coffee Shadowplay (Rwanda Musasa)

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IMG_5451For as vast as this industry is it’s always a surprise to come across a roaster or cafe that has a new philosophy when it comes to coffee. Paramo Coffee, a relative newcomer to the San Francisco (California, USA) scene, is one such roaster. Although Paramo just started up in early 2014, the men behind the company have a long history in the coffee business. Today I’m reviewing Paramo’s Shadowplay, described as “creamy, approachable and chocolate” on the (very cool) bag label. You can purchase this coffee from for $16.25 for a 12oz bag, and if you use the coupon code, “KCCOFFEEGEEK” you’ll save 10% on your entire order.

Disclaimer: This coffee was sent to as a complimentary sample from is not an advertiser nor is this, or any other review here, a paid review. The cost of the coffee did not affect the outcome of this evaluation. 

So, what’s this philosophy that separates Paramo from thousands of other coffee roasters? Paramo begins with a flavor profile, names it, and then finds coffees that fit that profile. That means the coffees will change as the seasons and years change. For example, our coffee today is Shadowplay. Shadowplay is currently a single origin coffee from Rwanda, but in a few months it may be a totally different coffee that fits the “creamy, approachable, chocolate” flavor profile that is Shadowplay. Paramo names its flavors, not its coffees. Other examples include Stargazer, which is “light, floral, elegant” and Workhorse, “spice, dark cocoa, hefty.” Paramo’s flavor profiles currently range from the lightest, Stargazer, to the darkest, Workhorse. They round out their offerings with an espresso blend and a decaf, which I always appreciate.

Of their five basic flavor profiles, Shadowplay ranks in at the 4th darkest. That being said, I wouldn’t call this a dark roast by any stretch of the imagination. You won’t open this bag to find black, oily beans (thank heavens)! The current Rwanda version of Shadowplay comes from the Musasa mill. It is a washed coffee and more subtle than I expected from the brief label description.

I tried this coffee in the AeroPress, Gino dripper (basically Kalita) and as espresso. It was surprisingly bright and acidic as espresso. Not bad, but not balanced enough by itself to work for me. AeroPress didn’t seem to do this coffee justice, either. It wasn’t bad by any stretch, but the flavors were best as pourover (see my recipes and parameters in the link below my logo at the top of the page).

The aromas coming off the brewing coffee really said “peanut butter!” to me, and there is certainly a lot of nuttiness in the flavor. More raw nuts than roasted, I would say. Walnut, if I had to specify, but that may be pushing the limits of my palate a bit! The coffee definitely has a vegetal character but that tones down in the cooling cup. I don’t get much perceived acid or fruity flavors from this coffee, although it is well-balanced overall, so they’re in there, just playing a background role.

This iteration of Shadowplay has a medium body but a surprisingly long aftertaste. And it’s in that long aftertaste that all the complexity and action of this coffee seems to happen! As such, I think you’ll appreciate this coffee more as a slow sipper, really taking a long time between sips. The aftertaste has nuts, maybe a little chocolate and some Autumn/Winter spice character like nutmeg or allspice. That spicy character is quite subtle, so it’s not going to dominate the flavor at all, but it’s certainly there. In a few sips I picked up something that reminded me of green pepper, of all things, so maybe that was the vegetal note I was catching and it clarified as the cup cooled down.

This is an enjoyable cup of coffee, no doubt. On face value it’s quite straightforward if you’re drinking it quickly, but if you can slow down and let the aftertaste develop it reveals lots of hidden and subtle complexity. It took me a couple cups to realize this, but once I did I really came to like this coffee more. It’ll be interesting to see what Paramo picks as the next Shadowplay and I’d like to compare that coffee to this one to see how well they fit into the Shadowplay profile!