- Espresso Bella - "A lovely, rich espresso blend, smooth enough to enjoy as brewed coffee too!"
- Espresso con Robusta, Little River Style - "Our classic Espresso Blend, Viennese roast. Merely 10% Robusta beans finish this perfectly for Espresso based drinks."
- Organic Thunderhead Espresso - "Blended first for Thunderhead Perk. A rich, socially aware espresso blend."
Each of these espressos is great, and for different reasons, and the Vienna Coffee Espresso Bella, highlighted here, is really a top-notch espresso blend for pulling shots, making lattes or mochas, or even for enjoying out of the French press as a cup of brewed coffee.
The Knoxville Coffee Examiner first picked this blend while visiting the roastery in Maryville (at 106 Everett Ave.), where a nice tour of the facilities and a great selection of coffees right at the source await visitors during usual Monday through Friday business hours. When he picked it up, he was advised, despite the remark on their website about the coffee, that it is a blend "ideal for pulling shots," an admonition that he received a second time the next time he picked it up at the roastery.
So, how does this espresso blend perform in each of those situations?
As an espresso, "pulled in shots," Vienna is right on. This blend produces a very full espresso flavor reminiscent of the full-bodied, "stand-your-spoon-in-it" taste of properly pulled espresso in Tuscany. Vienna claims the same thing on their website: "This blend of three Central American beans and two roasting depths is designed to let you experience the true character of Italy’s finest espresso," a feat they achieve by blending lovely "bittersweet dark-roasted beans" with more "aromatic medium-dark beans." The shots are consistently good with a rich coffee nose and a round, full mouth feel and nary a trace of acidity.
For lattes and mochas, Bella stands up incredibly well to the milk, cocoa, and sugar (if desired) by standing firmly in its full-bodied, dark-roasted coffee roots. The distinct flavors of coffee come through, and the body is amplified through the additions of steamed or scalded milk, good cocoa powder, top-shelf sugar, and smooth microfoam. This, of course, is to be expected out of any robust espresso in the Italian style, such as Espresso Bella.
As a brewed cup, Bella is a different kind of animal. The first, most noteworthy experience of the coffee (brewed in a French press with 200 F water for 3 minutes) is it's overwhelming smoothness and pronounced lack of acidity. That aside, it makes a well rounded, full-bodied taste (as would be expected) that comes off just a little toasted and perhaps a smidge flat. For a low-acidity brew, however, it's one of the better ones available. With cream and/or sugar, this decent, easy-drinking coffee, which is perhaps ideal for an after-lunch pick-me-up, keeps its underlying character while giving up distinct caramel and toffee notes with just a hint of natural nuttiness.
Overall, if the plan is to pull shots, particularly in the shot-after-shot fashion, Espresso Bella will not disappoint in the least, even if that plan changes to include a little or plenty of frothy milk or a bit of cocoa. If instead the plan is to brew it up without pressure, expect a solid but rather plain cup that delivers true dark-roasted coffee character without any overtly exciting or adventurous notes.
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