Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gentle Brew Windsor Blue Blend

Type: Windsor Blue Blend
Origins: Brazil 50%; Sumatra 50%
Roaster: Gentle Brew
Roast: Dark Brown
Preparation: Freshly ground, French-pressed, sipped black

Gentle Brew has a wonderful spot right on Park Avenue in Long Beach, New York. The combination coffee shop/café is nicely decorated, yet simple; there is nothing to distract from the wonderful cups of coffee that they prepare and serve.

When I first went in there some weeks ago, I did not realize right away that they actually roast the coffee themselves, but I really should have known. There are a dozen or so different types of machines for brewing coffee, grinders (all prepared coffee is freshly ground), tables and chairs, some artwork, and shelves stocked with hardware and packages of coffee. And one will get around to admiring all of that shortly after marveling at how awesome it is that there are huge sacks of raw coffee beans right in the middle of the store. I had thought that those were just a nice aesthetic touch.

"Hey, not for nothing, but is this coffee expired?" I asked, pointing at a date on a package of coffee that was, at the time, three days in the past. Turns out that it was the date on which the coffee had been roasted, something written on all packages. "Oh, cool. So how do you get it here so quick?" (I have my moments. That was not one of them.) They patiently explained that they prepare everything on premises, beginning with the raw beans. And indeed they do it all: beans from the world over, light/medium/dark, regular and decaffeinated, on and on. In other words, sourced globally, roasted locally. It was even mentioned, without my asking, that they can do custom roasting.

So, I have been going there quite often to have a cup of coffee and relax, but then I thought that I would like to take a packet of coffee home and try it on the press. So I did. And man, it is excellent!

The Windsor Blue blend opens with a smooth aroma – yes, the aroma is so rich that it has a positively smooth feel to it – of earthy tones and hints of cashew and citrus. The taste is on the bitter side, with negligible acidity and a bold flavor of earthiness plus a slight touch of smoke. It is very smooth and very rich, and maybe a little bit syrupy. It finishes nicely with notes of cashew. The flavor fades seamlessly, leaving the mouth in a bit of suspense. Was that last bit of nuttiness a farewell gift or a portend of things to come? Eh, best to leave that question to the philosophers and just enjoy another sip of the good stuff.

Windsor Blue is a coffee person's coffee. This is not to be confused with a café person's coffee, which has its perks (pun definitely intended), but which can be described as cute, decorative, chock full of so many flavors and frills that there is barely any room left for the brew – in short, an accessory to a larger, somewhat removed scene. No, Windsor Blue is definitely for coffee people: rich, original, authentic, all about the coffee. It is rugged without being brash. It does not try too hard; it does not have to. It tastes just like a real cup of coffee, and that is that.

The fact that Windsor Blue is a coffee person's coffee should come as no surprise, since Gentle Brew is owned and operated by coffee people. They know exactly what they are doing, they love to talk about coffee, and they are finding much well-earned and well-deserved success. Mazel tov to the whole excellent enterprise.

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