Second Best Coffee is one of the newer shops in town and I’ve had a couple of enjoyable trips there since I learned about their shop in Waldo earlier this year. After seeing an announcement on their Instagram feed about a tasting on Saturday, Oct. 4 I decided I was due for another visit.
The main buzz around the tasting was that these were coffees roasted in-house by Second Best. Until now, the shop has been using coffee roasted by others, including Oddly Correct, Dogwood, Ruby and more.
They recently brought a friend (Chris) who has roasting experience into the business and this is a major new direction for Second Best, just in time for KC Coffee and Tea Week 2014!
This was the first public tasting/cupping of Second Best’s roasted coffee and Nathan (sorry, I didn’t catch any last names, but I foresee a feature story on Second Best in the not-too-distant future) said they would have these coffees packaged and ready to sell in time for KC Coffee and Tea week, which kicks off on October 11.
It was a casual affair with most of the people present having learned about the tasting through the Instagram announcement. Instagram and Twitter are definitely the best and most direct way to follow your favorite coffee shops, by the way, because you have only about a 20% chance of seeing what’s in their Facebook feed thanks to FB’s sketchiness.
They cupped four coffees which had been roasted about three days earlier. I forget what one of them was, but two were from Mexico (one washed, one natural) and the third was Guatemalan. Nathan said they sourced a small amount of these beans from their friends at Dark Matter in Chicago (which is where Chris probably gained his roasting experience, I would guess), so these will probably sell out quickly. In the future they’ll be sourcing beans from Coffeeshrub, which is the commercial side of Sweet Maria’s, where I get my beans for home-roasting for. This is pretty exciting news because Sweet Maria’s is top notch!
The nice thing about coffee cupping is that it allows you to experience the nuances in the coffees and immediately compare and contrast them. If you drink a cup today, and then a different cup tomorrow, you may pull a few differences or similarities out, but if you have four cups of coffee in front of you at once and you can repeatedly sample them all, then you’ll really see how the flavors, body, aromas, etc differ. Beer, spirits and wine sampling are done the same way and it makes all the difference in the world, really.
I imagine a lot of people are intimidated by coffee cupping, but don’t be. The guys at Second Best made it really accessible and low key. It was about loudly slurping coffee and talking about what you tasted. It’s a social thing and it’s fun and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it when the next one comes around.
Of the four coffees that we tasted I really enjoyed what turned out to be a natural processed coffee from Mexico. It was pretty wild and bright and I kept tasting something reminiscent of strawberry. It had some astringency in the mouthfeel, too, so I think that pushed me toward “strawberry,” too, but once I got the image of strawberry in my mind it wasn’t going to leave! The coffee was a little more tame in a brewed cup, but still had a lot of complexity and I would definitely take a bag of that if I got a chance. I don’t know anything more about that coffee other than that it was naturally processed and from Mexico, so maybe Nathan or Chris can comment if they have more details.
One of the tasters asked Nathan why they were moving toward roasting their own coffee. His answer was that it will simply give them more control over the coffees they can offer to patrons. As it stands, coffee roasters of course buy their coffees from distributors who source and import the beans. As such, a lot of roasters use a lot of the same distributors, so you’ll see the same coffees appear around the same time from different roasters. Of course, what those roasters do with the coffee in their machines makes all the difference in the world, but Nathan said they wanted the control over being able to offer a well-rounded selection of coffees from different regions at any given time and that is hard to do when you’re at the “mercy” of other roasters.
He said their plan was to offer 3-4 of their own roasted coffees at a time with two additional ones from guest roasters. One of those would be picked by the current manager of the shop (sounded like they may rotate who is manager so know one is “the boss”) and the second one would be picked by consensus by everyone else. This seems like a cool way to do it and yet another aspect of Second Best that I think is unique.
Anyway, the fruits of their Diedrich IR3 roaster were pretty good and I can’t wait to learn more about Second Best in a future interview as well as see where this new venture takes them. Plus, you know what selling roasted beans means: packaging and branding, two of my favorite things when it comes to the coffee business!