Coffee Review: Café Grumpy La Esperanza

For those who have read Albert Camut’s “The Stranger,” warm graham crackers and hazelnut would be the last things that come to mind. While the classic novel takes place under the blistering sun of the Algiers, “warmth” is not often associated with it.

But there is a paragraph that lingers in my mind, one that paints an ordinary man, eating an ordinary lunch, followed by an ordinary nap. One that features the most unassuming cup of coffee, summed in three words – “had some coffee.”

We arrived at Celeste’s dripping with sweat. Celeste was there, as always, with his big belly, his apron, and his white moustache. He asked me if things were “all right now.” I told him yes they were and said I was hungry. I ate fast and had some coffee. Then I went home and slept for a while because I’d drunk too much wine, and when I woke up I felt like having a smoke. It was late and I ran to catch a streetcar. I worked all afternoon. It got very hot in the office, and that evening, when I left, I was glad to walk back slowly along the docks. The sky was green: I felt good. But I went straight home because I wanted to boil myself some potatoes.

I have wanted to try Café Grumpy’s coffee for some time, so when my Parsons student/future superstar designer sister-in-law visited with this bag in hand, I was delighted.

There is nothing ordinary about the coffee from La Esperanza farm in El Salvador. Owned by the Pacas family for generations, the El Carmen lot is 1600 meters above sea level and is 100% bourbon variety.

Bourbon – the variety named “2013 Sexiest Coffee Variety Alive” by Sprudge (read the article here). It was one more reason to try this coffee from Café Grumpy.

“Sexy” is not the word I would use to describe this batch. Graham cracker and hazelnut notes were prevalent, and overall the cup was smooth and balanced. (I missed the key lime note, as indicated on the packaging, but that could have been less than perfect brewing on my part.)

“Warm” is the word for this batch. An unassuming “had some coffee” may have been the phrase I uttered when I was brewing this in and around Christmas, but not out of indifference. Rather, it was a home coming from all the bright and fruity Ethiopian coffees I’ve had in previous weeks – back to balance, back to subtle sweetness, back to smooth cocoa.

The brown paper bag used for packaging adds a rustic, crafty feel. And the infamous Grumpy logo displayed on the label is eye-catching, prominently showcasing the roaster’s brand.

Whether it’s an evening in front of a crackling fire, or an afternoon on a beach under the piercing sun of Algiers, Café Grumpy’s bourbon variety will leave you with lasting traces of warmth.

*          *          *

Café Grumpy – La Esperanza, El Salvador (bourbon)
12 oz whole bean – $16
Brooklyn, New York

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