Review #21 – Unique Coffee Roasters

So this one comes with a little bit of a curiosity attached to it. As you may know from reading the blog, I’m based in the UK but today’s coffee comes to us from a roaster based in Staten Island, USA. Now while not entirely unheard of, it’s not a place I tend to buy coffee from because –

A – Most of them won’t ship overseas and

B – If I DID, the costs would just be prohibitive.

So how did this particular bag of coffee come into my possession? Well, I randomly found it at my local TK Maxx (TJ Maxx to any US folks reading this). TK Maxx has stocked coffee for ages, but the one local to me has mostly had random bags of pre-ground, flavoured coffee that don’t interest me. But on this visit I found this, a bag of beans! Interest piqued, I grabbed it and it wasn’t until I got home and looked up the roaster that I discovered that it’d had quite a journey to get to me. I did reach out to Unique twice through both their online contact form and their Facebook page, asking for more information about this coffee and how it might have ended up in the UK, but received no response to either one which is a little disappointing (though I can clearly see that they have read my FB message). Ah well, it’s a sad truth of the internet that we encounter poor customer service far too often. Let’s move on!

As usual, we start with a bit of history about the roaster.


Based on Staten Island, Unique Coffee Roasters have been around since 1995 and offer an impressive selection of coffees. Fifteen single origin beans, fifteen different blends and THIRTY different flavoured coffees as well as teas and Keurig and Nespresso pods! Dayum. If you can’t finds something here you like, I’d suggest maybe switching to…I dunno. Soft drinks?

Prices run from between $11.99 to $13.99 for a 450g bag of single origin, which is pretty damn reasonable if you ask me. Blends are $10.99 to $14.99 and the flavoured coffees are almost entirely $10.99 for a bag, with only one at $11.99 so I have to say their pricing is pretty generous for the size of bag they’re selling, I’ve paid more than that for a 250g bag which is pretty much the regular size for most UK roasters.

Nice enough bag, eye-catching livery and a nice little blurb about the coffee and the company on front and back, along with some brewing instructions and information on their roasts. Nice! No way to re-seal the bag, so an airtight container or straight into the hopper for your grinder is recommended.

First thing you notice on opening the bag is DAMN, that’s pungent! Not unpleasantly so, but I could immediately tell that this was a much stronger roast than I normally buy. Looking at their roasting chart they claim this is a medium roast but I gotta say it tasted FAR more like a dark roast to me, it had a serious kick.

Straight off, don’t bother with this in a syphon, it’s not pleasant. In a cafetiere it was nice enough, but again just too strong for me. Definitely one for espresso only, I think. Unlike my previous review, also of a Mexican coffee, I couldn’t really pick up any massively spicy notes here, all I got was COFFEE. Like COFFEE from dawn till dusk and then dawn again. If this is their idea of a medium roast, I can’t even begin to imagine what their strongest roast is like!

All in all, this is one for those who like their coffee to taste like coffee, but also who want a stronger kick to go along with it. I ended up having to add extra milk and sugar to mine! Would I buy this one again? No. Would I pick up coffee from this roaster again if I had the chance? Definitely.

TTFN.

Review #20 – Raw Bean Coffee

Hello folks,

So it’s been a little while since my last review and for that I do apologise! I’ve been doing a lot of work writing for the other site I’m involved with – Set The Tape – and between that and gearing up to start a new job in the new year, coffee reviews have somewhat fallen by the wayside.

But I am still here! Still drinking coffee! Still slowly driving my wife insane by attempting to find space for yet more coffee paraphernalia on our already cluttered kitchen counters! With the run up to Christmas money’s been a little tight so I’ve not been ordering as many coffees online as I used to and instead I’ve been hunting around trying to find if there’s any other really good store-stocked coffees.

My current go-to remains Modern Standard’s Espresso Blend – Available at your local orange branded supermarket. I also quite like the “Lucy’s Blend” from Change Please. Unfortunately the others from this range are all pre-ground, this is the only one available as whole beans.

Today, though, we’re looking at a recent discovery – Raw Bean Coffee.

The site is a little light on specific details about the company, but looking at the blog it would appear that they’re based in Winchester and they’ve been around since around 2014/2015. There’s a number of different coffees available on their site, from single serve coffee bags, single origin coffees, decaf coffees and even three different blends. The site design is pretty nice and clean, quick and easy to navigate, so I might well give online ordering from these folks a try.

At the moment there’s only one of their coffees available in my local Sainsburys so let’s take a look at Raw Bean’s “Mega Mexican” single origin coffee.

Immediately major props for putting a roasting date on the bag! Modern Standard do that as well, but most of the other brands you see in the supermarket don’t, so you really have no idea if they’ve been there three weeks, four months, ten? Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Well, probably not, but it’s the sort of little detail that I appreciate and immediately makes this offering stand out from the rest.

Moving on, one thing needs to be made clear – Don’t use this for espresso. My results with it were, well, not great. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. In fact, this kicked off a new trend with any coffee I review in future. All coffees will now be tried in three machines –

  1. Sage Barista Express
  2. Hario Syphon Filter
  3. Bodum Cafetiere

That way I’m giving every coffee a fair shake, trying it as espresso, plunger and filter. So after my mediocre results in the espresso machine (and again, it wasn’t BAD, but a lot of the coffee’s tasting notes were drowned out by the milk) I moved on to my syphon.

I got a little arty with this one, can’t you tell? The syphon will always be one of my favourite machines to make coffee with, just because of the artistry of it. It’s such a fun thing to show off, it looks like some mad scientist experiment! I’d love to lay my hands on a Vienna Balance machine sometime, which is sort of like a syphon on steroids, but they’re both big and kinda pricy so I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

So what was it like in the syphon? Not good. I don’t know about other folks, but I find the syphon is unbelievably picky about coffees and it has a habit of bringing out all the top, sharp notes of anything you put into it so in this instance the coffee just became unpleasantly strong and almost sour so I gave that up as a bad idea and turned to machine number three and this is where I struck gold.

In the cafetiere it was transformed into something rich, slightly spicy and entirely delicious with not a hint of a sour or sharp note to be found. Strong, without being overpowering, with a pleasant mouthfeel that stayed just the right side of cloying, this was just a bloody good coffee.

I finished the bag in a week, it was that good I kept going back for more and more and more. My cafetiere saw more use in that week than it has in the year and more since I bought it. I actually have another bag of this coffee in my kitchen as we speak, it’s simply that good.

But I’d really, really recommend a cafetiere for it. I grind it on the coarsest setting my Sage Smart Grinder Pro will do and that seems to work pretty well so just something to keep in mind.

Right, that’s it for now. When I return in the new year it’ll be with a review of a purchase from TK Maxx that turned out to be the most well-travelled coffee I’ve looked at so far.

TTFN for now, and have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!