Place: Box Kite / Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York
Coffee: The Barn / Costa Rica / La Bandera
Varietal: Red catuai / White honey
Roaster notes: Macademia, blood orange, alfalfa honey.
Our South African barista was struggling. He hadn’t “worked at this location before” and was frantically searching for something. “If you’re looking for your Kalita Wave, it’s sitting up there”, I pointed out to him. Annoyingly for him, we had asked for two of the most labour-intensive drinks to make on the menu: a pour-over and a 1&1 (espresso, macchiato, seltzer). With customers waiting and no help behind the bar, I could understand.
We got our drinks, I thanked him apologetically, tipped, then asked what he said my coffee was again. He told me it was a Colombian, but turned out it was really a Guatemalan from George Howell. I could tell that he was annoyed with himself. Annoyed that this guy was showing some interest in his coffee and he was in the middle of having an off moment. I could tell that these off moments were not the norm for him. More importantly, I could tell that he wanted me to know this.
When I finished my macchiato, I felt a hand on my shoulder and saw a cup of espresso appear in front of me. “This one’s on me. It’s the La Bandera from The Barn. I’ve just tried it. It’ll be pretty good.”
It was the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted.* It will likely be the single best cup of coffee I have had this year.
It was like biting into a blood orange. The acidity was intense, but somehow not tart at all. The mouthfeel was unexpectedly smooth for a cup that was so boldly citric. It was shocking just how overwhelming the flavours were.
“This is awesome”, I said to my new South African hero. “Thank you”, he replied.
* I’m pretty new to specialty coffee.