Some of you whom have been following me since the Robby Ras days, know that I am both a coffee freak, and a huge fan of Connecticut cigars. So much so, that I did several pairing articles on both Robby’s old site and Cigar Federation. In those articles, I showcased pairing different cigars with different beans, and described how they interacted with my palate. When John asked me to do a Sharing our Pairing show on coffee, my immediate reaction was that of jubilee, as I know John is even worse than I am when it comes to coffee. We explored the idea with Omar at Fratello during the IPCPR show, and grabbed some of his cigar blend beans to feature on the show. For the purpose of the show, John and I will be doing a live review of the Fratello beans and the Fratello cigar. Here is a shot of the Fratello Coffee blend, which you can see showcases several roasting levels and bean sizes. These beans are a berry bomb in my opinion.
***Notice the varied roasting levels, bean sizes, and color. You can tell this is a multi-origin blend.***
In the meantime, I figured I would do a couple pairing reviews as well, so I went to one of my local roasters to grab a few beans, and ended up with more than I had bargained for. Covenant Coffee is a local roaster here in Bakersfield that employs foster children to give them employment experience. Given that I work with many foster children, I truly appreciate what they do for these kids, so I make it a point to give them my business on a regular basis. On this particular visit, I went in for their Ethiopian Yirgachaffe, which is a personal favorite and one of the best examples of this bean I have had. I ended up striking up a conversation with their Roaster Zack Martin about Nicaraguan beans, which led to a conversation regarding the show. I let him know I had featured their beans before, and was planning on doing so again, and he ended up piling several bean samples beyond the two pounds I had planned on buying. Covenant Coffee is a fantastic roaster, and I cannot recommend them enough. You can order their beans online, but I would imagine a phone call to Zack or email may get you deeper access to specialty beans or short runs. You can find them here: Covenant Coffee.
***I either drink my coffee black, or with a small amount of heavy cream, depending on the bean. Brew method is pour over with a Chemex***
Kenya AA and Partagas Short Habanos: I chose the Partagas short to go with the Kenyan beans, as assumed the full city roast would connect with the body of the cigar. The palate cleanse was perfect. The coffee finish sat upper tongue, while the finish of the cigar hit front-mid tongue. It seemed as if the finish of the cigar swirled around the front of my mouth, while the finish of the coffee sat in the back of the palate. This was a good pairing, as both are excellent choices, but I think a lighter bean would compliment this cigar more effectively, or a dash of heavy cream given the body of the Kenyan beans. My guess is an espresso drink with this bean will be perfect for something like an Ortega D maduro.
Nomad Connecticut Robusto and Ethiopian Kochere: The Kochere is a special bean, sourced from Yirgachaffe, arguably my favorite bean from Covenant, but I had not had their Kochere version yet. Covenant's regular Yirgachaffe is roasted a bit lighter then the Kochere, so I had to grab a pound to determine the difference. Knowing it had a floral cupping note, I chose a Connecticut that was new to me in the Nomad. The cigar was light and smooth, creamy with definition on the tongue and enough steam to awaken the sense. This was the best pairing hands down. The Nomad acted as the cream to the coffee, and produced a wonderful bouquet of flavor interaction. I am rating the Nomad based on this pairing a 90, meaning I would box split the cigar. The brightness of the Kochere hit the cigar perfectly, and my guess is any of the lighter roasts I enjoy would do the same; thus, the Nomad will now become a regular part of my Connecticut rotation. I honestly had a hard time not chugging the cigar and coffee down simultaneously the pairing was so good.
Tanzanian Peaberry and Bolivar Corona Junior Habanos: One of the cuping notes of the Tanzanian Peaberry is lemon acidity, so I had a hunch it would pair well with the Bolivar. To my luck, another knockout pair. I used an espresso grind with my Chemex for some reason, which took forever to brew, but it made for a darker stronger cup that complimented the strength of the Corona Junior. Now I do not think a dark roast would pair well with the Bolivar, but a strong bright bean would, and in this instance, the finish of both was perfect. The coffee never overpowered the flavor of the Bolivar, but had the body to play palate tennis with the cigar.
Costa Rican Peaberry and Nat Sherman Epoca Corona: I had one of the Epoca at IPCPR, and while my palate was fried at the time, I distinctly remember a floral note that intrigued me, and a hint of ligero. I paired this with the Costa Rican bean, as my previous experience earlier in the week noted a heavy cedar note, and I had a hunch this would work with the Epoca. The coffee was round up front in the mouth, complimenting the drier almost perfume like profile of the Epoca. The cedar finish of the bean, married with the ligero flavors mid tongue, providing balance and harmony of flavor. The draw of the cigar was medium, and the floral notes reminded me of Habanos in a way. As the body of the cigar progresses, and the coffee cools, the dance continued, and the finish of the Epoca stood out over the lighter roast, with the fruit notes of the coffee hitting stride back of mouth. Another homerun, and I am rating the Epoca another solid 90 box split, as this corona was a perfect morning cigar with a vibrant lighter roast.
***Notice the size difference of the Nicaraguan bean versus a peaberry on the right.***
Nicaraguan and Avo Classic Robusto: This was my random pairing, grabbing a mild Dominican cigar with a bolder Nicaraguan roast. I had a long conversation with Zack about Nicaraguan beans, in that I have tried them both very light, or what he calls a cinnamon roast, and full city plus, and enjoyed both. This bean was roasted full city, and in my first experience, the cup was not overly rich like my previous experiences with this bean were, but still had a distinct dark chocolate note, which is what makes me go crazy over Nicaraguan beans. In this instance, I added a dash of cream, which led to an extra dash, to bring out a more milk chocolate overtone, before I lit up the Avo Classic. The pairing led to a perfect example of the finish of the cigar hitting front of mouth, and the body of the coffee back of mouth. It was like the two wanted nothing to do with each other, yet showcased their attributes in a distinct fashion. The Avo allowed the beans to shine at times, and the pairing highlighted the finish of the coffee more than the Avo. I think that is why I love pairing the Avo Classic with coffee so much, it never gets in the way; rather, enhances the experience every time. I have never had a bad pairing with this cigar in that regard, which is why I am rating it a 96 based on our rating scale. The reason being, is I have bought several boxes, and I think it is a classic mild cigar that all others can be judged off of. Avo classic stands as an excellent beginner smoke, a sophisticated connoisseurs’ mild cigar of choice, or a full-bodied fans morning cigar.
Final Thoughts: I really wanted to get pictures of the beans up so you guys can see the variance in beans and roasting levels. The Peaberrys and Ethiopian are much smaller then the Nicaraguan and Kenyan beans. Also, you can barely see the oils starting to break out of a few of the Kenyan beans. I also figured this would be a quick way to give some snippet reviews and ratings. Granted, these are not formal reviews, but in the end, our rating system is based off the buying cycle. Creating a unique situation with a pairing like this allowed me to enhance my overall cigar experience with the Nomad and Epoca, both of which surprised me greatly, and will be in my rotation. I never reviewed the Avo Classic, because simply it is one of my favorite cigars. I felt the need to share how much I love this cigar, because I believe it has stood the test of time as one of the blends everyone can enjoy, and really is the basis of my coffee pairing experiences. Any day I get to start out with a cup of coffee and an Avo Classic will be a good one.