Specialty coffee in Las Vegas? Is it really possible? Revered local roaster/cafe, Sambalatte, sent me some coffee recently and it’s time to check it out and see if the capital of glitz, chain stores and show has coffee chops, too! Links and drinks below!
SAMBALATTE ETHIOPIA GUJI HAMBELA
When I think of Las Vegas, Nevada images of the Strip and the big casinos, hotels and chain stores come immediately to mind. Lots of show, perhaps less substance. I think of tourists, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wild nights, late mornings… an impermanence that is unique to Vegas both in the constant shifting of what businesses are located where and for how long they can be part of the money grab as well as that created by a constant flux of people in and out of the city. Is it unfair? Probably. I mean, there are people who actually live in Las Vegas, raise families there, have roots in the city and there must be people looking to do authentic business in a sustainable way. Right? Sambalatte seems to be one of these.
Sambalatte is a Las Vegas-based specialty coffee roaster and cafe with three locations in the city, including their flagship at the Monte Carlo. The articles linked above do a good job of looking at that store’s concept. Sambalatte started around 2000 and so it has some permanence in this constantly changing city, too. The company was started by Luiz Oliveira, a Brazilian with an extensive CV from the world of luxury hotels, food and beverage. Sambalatte has been voted best in the city several times and Zagat considers it the best coffeehouse in Las Vegas. It probably takes extra tenacity to achieve these sorts of accolades in a city where most people aren’t there for a sensory experience (of this type) and those drinking coffee are using it as hangover cures from the previous night’s shenanigans! I didn’t find a “for sale” link or any mention of their own line of coffee on Sambalatte’s website, although the coffee they sent me is labled “Sambalatte Coffee Club,” which is a new subscription service they have started. I’m not sure if their roasted coffee will be strictly for subscribers or if they will (or already do) make it available for sale in cafes by the bag. A mystery and I apologize for not solving it before writing up my review!
This morning’s coffee is Sambalatte’s Guji Hambela from Ethiopia. The bag label doesn’t specify if this is a washed or natural coffee, but unless my palate is really off today or this is a weird example, it’s washed! LOL These are heirloom varietals grown at 1900-2200 masl and Sambalatte gives us tasting notes of, “Jasmine, stone fruit, juicy, tea-like.”
I used my standard pourover method of a 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino dripper, brewing with Third Wave Water and using a Handground grinder set to 3. I will be perfectly honest, I expected a very dark roast in the bag because of my strange Las Vegas biases as well as the somewhat old school labeling on the bag. I was very surprised to find a visually light roast in the bag, and I was also pleasantly surprised to watch some of Sambalatte’s videos and poke around on their site, which led me to the conclusion that they are really doing an authentic job at being stewards of specialty coffee!
In any case… back to the coffee! This is a medium-bodied coffee with nice florals right in the front of the sip, even as the coffee approaches room temperature. Coming in right behind those perfumed florals is a wave of sweetness as well as a hint of tartness. There is a delightful peach note toward the finish of this coffee (think peach candy or sweet peach tea) but in the middle when the “stone fruit” note is accompanied by that light tartness, it reads as apricot for me. There’s a lemon candy essence to the acidity in this cup, too. The coffee finishes pretty dry on my palate, which certainly gives a tea-like feel to it. I guess that’s “astringency” but that dry tea finish rarely bothers me in coffee and just seems like part of the deal when it comes to washed Ethiopian coffees, so I’m fine with it.
What a nice cup! Between the sweetness, clean and defined flavors, apricot and peach notes, florals, lemon candy acidity, and light tea notes this is a pretty prototypical washed Ethiopian coffee, for me. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s like going to Naples and saying you ate a classic example of a pizza Margherita! Uh, yum! This coffee is really a beauty! Especially at cooler temperatures it opens up a lot and is just a great example of why coffee drinkers love a good washed Ethiopian coffee. A very well-roasted example of a classic coffee! Spectacular.