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coffee, review

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Arctos Coffee’s Northwest Decaf

I am…very behind on my Washington coffee roasters. I’ll admit it!

While in the past I’ve looked at Washington’s Olympia Coffee and Boon Boona Coffee, I’ve been primarily ordering from roasters all over the country. While there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, it’s caused me to fall behind on what’s going on in my own state. Well! There’s no time like the present to brush up on the local coffee scene.

I was given a bag of Arctos Coffee & Roasting Co. for my birthday, as well as one of their cute mugs. I was charmed by both their name and logo, which is a great way to start off the drink.

What are the best coffee roasters in Washington state? Let’s find out. If you’re eager to try more delicious decaf coffee, check out my ongoing Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series. I’ve reviewed coffee from multiple origins, including Colombia, Ethiopia, and Mexico.

Let’s see what I’ve been missing lately:

Origin

We’re starting off a little vague on this one. I couldn’t find the origin on this decaf coffee, but I’m happy to say the beans were decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process. Considering between 10% to 25% of decaf coffee today still uses harmful methylene chloride, that’s good to know!

Their portfolio is stated to be 100% Arabica, though the named origin isn’t more specific than ‘three countries’. Discussions of coffee origin may seem like splitting hairs, but they’re actually an essential detail.

Origin is a vital (but not solitary) step in keeping hard-working coffee farmers from becoming faceless numbers in an already exploitative industry. It’s also a major factor as to why coffee tastes so unique in the first place.

If you want to learn more about coffee origins and why they matter, check out this list from Drink Stack.

Roaster

Arctos Coffee & Roasting Co. is a small-batch and wholesale roaster based in Spokane, Washington.

They started out as an extremely small project, roasting coffee in a little garden shed before expanding into a commercial space. They operate local cafes alongside their roastery, as well as provide drive-thru locations.

Their portfolio is sourced from Central America, Brazil, and Africa. They also provide white coffee: a very lightly roasted bean designed to bring out more subtle, nutty flavors. That’s a variety I don’t see all that often in roasteries. I’ll have to put that on my to-try list.

Their site has both a blog and a shop where you can buy coffee and merchandise.

Packaging

Damn. You don’t get much more representative of Washington than this decaf coffee bag. The only thing missing from the logo is a flannel shirt and a mustache.

The logo is a visual representation of the name (the Latin term for ‘brown bear’), with the silhouette filled with Washington’s quintessential deciduous forests. Even the blend is dubbed after the Northwest! It really is a slice of home.

Alongside the logo, the black and gold color scheme is (always) a win with me. I admit, the layout still feels a little slapdash and unfocused (particularly with the redundant decaf sticker up top), but that’s a taste thing more than anything. Packaging design, at its core, needs to communicate everything a buyer needs to know at a glance.

Who. What. When. Where. Why. If you get those down right, you still did a proper job. Outside of the missing origin? Arctos Coffee nailed it. The blue sticker still sums up the processing method, roast level, and tasting notes.

Aroma

Woah. This bag smells exactly like a Starbucks store. Get this…I haven’t been in a Starbucks store in years.

This has me wondering if this is primarily a Latin American origin, if only because that’s Starbucks’ most commonly sourced continent. It’s a nostalgic, slightly musky scent from both the whole and ground beans. Caramel is a good description, though I get a little bit of a milk chocolate sensation, too.

Mouthfeel/Roast Level

This is a medium roasted decaf coffee. The mouthfeel is smooth and light across all brewing methods.

Flavor Notes

This is a well-rounded and classic set of flavor notes. The bag boasts a ‘brown sugar sweetness’ and general nuttiness, as well as soft acidity.

It’s not what I ended up getting, but hey! I got something still pretty tasty in its place.

The pourover had an almost herb-like taste to it, particularly when mixed with milk and sugar. It was a surprising turn and one I found myself revisiting. The French Press also brought in that herbal kick, though with less sweetness. I’d say it was the weakest of the three brewing methods.

The Moka pot was the winner by default. The flavors hinted at in the two brewing methods came out full force, sweet and herbal with a woodsmoke kick. I made more than a few lattes with this brewing method.

arctos coffee & roasting co mug

Final Verdict

This was one dynamic decaf coffee bag. Not only did it slap me in the face with nostalgia, it was just as quick to show me its strong sides as its weaker sides.

The French Press didn’t stand out much to me, not being particularly nutty or sweet, but the pourover more than made up for it. There was a surprisingly herbal flavor beneath the mild chocolate notes. It poked through milk and sugar well: I suspect those ingredients enhanced the flavor.

The Moka Pot was my favorite way to drink this decaf coffee: it was well worth the extra effort frothing up some milk for a latte. My espresso was robust and musky, suiting the creaminess of frothed milk. All in all, not bad.

While not the most stand out bag I’ve seen or drank lately from today’s Washington coffee roasters, the Northwest Decaf pulled an underdog and came out swinging. If you’re thinking of trying out some good Washington coffee, Arctos Coffee isn’t a bad place to start. Should they ever offer decaf white coffee, I’d happily try it.

If you want more consistently sweet coffee, however, I’d recommend Olympia Coffee’s Decaf Asterisk. Likewise, I got more nutty flavors from Boon Boona Coffee’s Decaf.

You can find Arctos Coffee & Roasting Co. at their site here.

What’s going on in the roaster and cafe world? Check out:

Does a charcoal latte sound appetizing? If you said, “Hell no.”, you’re on the right track. This British cafe is offering a rather dubious sounding drink with several health risks.

The 2021 Good Food Awards have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still check out the winners. A few of my favorite roasters made it on there, so check it out if you’re looking for new businesses to try.

The charmingly named Sip & Sonder was interviewed by Roast Magazine earlier this year. They talk about the challenges of opening up during the pandemic and how they used their legal background as inspiration for the business.

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