It’s kind of tough to advertise flavor notes, isn’t it? We just have so much variety in our tastebuds.
I’m sensitive to complex flavors myself. I adore being able to get several notes in one cup and can even find myself disappointed if a drink is straightforward (not even bad, just…simple). I also have a massive sweet tooth. The science behind our tongue is a fascinating subject, involving subtle taste receptors located in different areas of the muscle to sort bitter from savory and sweet from salty. That doesn’t stop some people from having overpowering or underwhelming tastebuds, granting them sometimes contradictory experiences with the same product.
Diversity is one of the many beauties of the human condition…so imagine my shock when my mother tried La Colombe’s Luna Azul without knowing its flavor notes and nailed every single one. I had to double-check my phone to make sure I was reading it right! While I’ve long since accepted I can try out a new coffee and not quite get the flavors it was promising, La Colombe has clearly narrowed down its beans’ personality to a razor edge.
If you haven’t read my previous specialty decaf reviews, check out my Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series.
Let’s see what makes this coffee special:
This specialty decaf coffee comes from the Santa Rosa De Copa region in Honduras. It’s a USDA organic bag that uses Swiss Water decaffeination and the washed processing method. While organic certification is an important detail, keep in mind the USDA has recently proposed updating its regulations due to a lack of consistent oversight in the coffee supply chain.
If you’re not privy to the techniques used to separate the beans from the cherry (or, more technically, the seeds from the berry), the Perfect Daily Grind has a brisk 101 breakdown on the topic. Here you’ll learn about the differences between natural/dry, washed and honey processing and what they mean for the coffee’s flavor and mouthfeel. Personally, I love the extra pop of juicy sweetness that comes from the honey processing method, though others can find it a little cloying. Again. Massive sweet tooth.
La Colombe is one of the larger roasters in the United States, a name you might’ve glimpsed while browsing online. Alongside freshly roasted specialty coffee bags they sell cold brew, tea and brewing equipment. They have several physical locations along the East Coast, from Philadelphia to Boston, and are currently operating on a ‘safe grab-to-go’ method to deliver their products. Most of their coffee hails from South America, though they have a few selections from Ethiopia and Haiti. As of right now I’m browsing their stock and utterly shredded I can’t try their delectable Phocea Dark Roast. Flavors of pinot noir and chicory? Oh, I wish it were decaf.
If you want a side of community support with that cup of joe, La Colombe is currently offering a coffee bag under the No Kid Hungry program. Every box sold will give $2 to the organization to combat food insecurity under the coronavirus pandemic, with the express goal of ensuring as many children as possible have three healthy meals per day.
There’s something just a little kitschy and old-fashioned in La Colombe‘s boxed packaging. Gets me feeling all nostalgic for my childhood rummaging through my mother’s tea boxes in her cupboard.
Much of today’s coffee packaging design comes in bags. Squat bags, long bags, flat bags, you name it. That this one comes in a little cardboard box (with the coffee carefully wrapped in plastic inside) stands out immediately. It looks more like a European box of water crackers than a specialty coffee. The lettering and logo is artfully arranged, varying in both size and color to get your eyes dancing between essential details of flavor, origin and roast level. There’s a gorgeous little illustration of sparkling fields overseen by a half moon, right beneath the La Colombe logo of a dove with an olive branch.
With its strong grasp of packaging basics, an airy color scheme and a downright retro packaging choice, Luna Azul is a quaint design that invokes tender feelings.
Ah! This is an aroma for the recordbooks. It’s soft and sweet, caught between the fruity apricot and the nutty praline. It’s distinct enough I didn’t even need the notes on the front of the box to tell. Does these hold up as flavors, though? Let’s take a look.
French Press, pourover and Moka pot, go!
The mouthfeel of this coffee is in limbo between smooth and creamy, suiting the flavor notes well. I’m actively considering buying a gooseneck kettle in the future to boost my pourover technique. They’re a little on the expensive side, but quite a few coffee lovers swear by them for a more consistent temperature and pour.
This is a medium roast decaf coffee.
Coffee drinkers who don’t like bitter brews, you’re going to love this one.
The pourover boasts a gentle flavor, with the chocolate note standing out immensely. Chocolate cream is a very apt description: while Onyx Coffee Lab’s Decaf Colombia Huila had the more robust and slightly bitter punch of dark chocolate, this one leans light and creamy. Like biting into a Lindt Lindor. Now, I’ve never actually had pralines before, but they’re similar enough to cookies I can bridge the gap. The nutty aftertaste (and aroma) is distinct and easy to get hooked on. I only got the soft tartness of the apricot with the Moka pot. Interestingly enough, both the chocolate cream and the pralines are completely absent here.
This was such a fun purchase because it felt like getting several bags in one. Honduras coffee may very well be another kaleidoscope in the coffee world.
A pleasant, if a little inconsistent, specialty decaf coffee. I already am very curious about their dark roast decaf Monte Carlo.
Now, let’s make one thing clear: this coffee is very good. Two out of the three brewing methods, French Press and pourover, have a distinctively creamy chocolate and nutty flavor that pair beautifully with breakfast. The downside is you might need a more concentrated espresso to taste the apricot. While I don’t mind inconsistent flavors in my coffee — I find it a lot of fun, in fact — this can be frustrating for those that don’t have a lot of brew methods. Milk and sugar are a perfect compliment here, though I found myself drinking it black once or twice.
If you’re someone who steers clear of bitter or acidic brews, this is the decaf for you. La Colombe’s Luna Azul is sweet and pleasant enough to be an everyday coffee, though drinkers should double-check their brewing tools to make sure they’ll get the flavor they want.
You can find La Colombe at their site here.
If you’re in the mood for more coffee news and reviews:
How do you stop coffee from tasting so bitter? The Queen Bean has several quick-and-easy answers to help level up your cup, from trying out new roasts to adding a pinch of salt.
Baristas have been hit hard by cafe closures. Thankfully, there’s a fundraiser ready to help. Go Fund Bean’s applications closed last month, but they’re still doing great work to ensure today’s coffee workers can keep their heads above water.
The United States is overflowing with roasters big and small. If you need help narrowing things down further, the 2021 Good Food Awards has a round-up of finalists for the best tasting coffee around.