The third pound of coffee from Trager Brothers arrived today. While the previous two bags were single source beans listed by country of origin, this bag was mysteriously labeled Viennese Roast. Now since you can’t grow coffee in Vienna this bag of beans could be from anywhere, and since a Viennese Roast is the lightest of the dark roasts, it’s hard to tell much about the beans. The problem with dark roasting beans is that, along with lowering the caffeine content, dark roasting disguises a lot about the actual beans. Knowing that, it then becomes clear why companies like Starbucks dark roast most of their beans. It gives them a consistent product that can be shipped all over the place, because the darker the roast, the longer the beans last. That sounds good, except it also leaves them with a fairly bland product, which is why Starbucks is really in the milk business. Most of their drinks rely on milk and syrups to give them distinguishing characteristics.
The whole point of going to small private roasters is to experience the complexities of different types of coffee beans from around the world. Ideally, I don’t like beans roasted any darker than a city roast, and really prefer an American roast or lighter. The lighter roasts preserve the unique characteristics of the different beans, so you can really taste the difference between say beans from Ethiopia as opposed to beans from El Salvador. True coffee experts can tell where a bean comes from simply by taste. I can’t do that, but I do enjoy some of the acidy of lighter roasts and I miss the unique flavors that are lost in darker roasts.
Having said that, the coffee arrived fresh, smelled good, and produced a lovely bloom when hot water was added to the grounds. After that, it’s pretty average, not bad, not great. It’s very fresh regular coffee, which let’s face it, is still pretty good. You’ll note in the picture, this is the first cup of Trager Brothers Coffee I’ve photographed with cream. It needs it. If you love Starbucks, then you’ll really love this Viennese Roast from Trager Brothers. It’s essentially a really fresh, slightly lighter roast than what you get at Starbucks. I’ll drink all of it, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to get.