Recently we encountered an interaction on social media about Batdorf and Bronson‘s Holiday Blend. This interaction was regarding a specific review performed by an acquaintance of ours named Drew, who also runs a reviewing website. Drew came to the conclusion that this particular coffee was over roasted and rather unpalatable. While Batdorf and Bronson commissioned his review, they also sought the opinion of a well known foodie guru named Alton Brown who gave this coffee glowing remarks. The result was one terrible review and one highly positive review, so how do you find the reality of what this coffee is?
We got our hands on a bag to taste unofficially, and though the holiday season is all but finished we wanted to see for ourselves what the big deal was. Please keep in mind that this is not a standard review that we do on Roast Ratings, and we basically just brewed a pot based on our standard method and mulled over what we were experiencing…
‘First of all, the beans were indeed dark brown in color with spots of oil. The coffee had a smoky and rich “dark roast” fragrance as we ground it. After brewing we found a relatively smoky aroma with hints of herbs and leather, which was distinct but not overly intense. On first sip, the body was heavy and sticky in texture, which clung to the sides of our mouths and felt a little rough at times. There was not much acidity in this coffee (which was likely completely on purpose), though there were nuances of citric fruits and grape and a slight sharpness coming from the roasty carbon elements. Surprisingly there was a reasonable structure of sweetness that reminded us of molasses and dark caramel malts. Dark chocolate and herbaceous flavors were clear in copious amounts, and the coffee finished heavy with a tingling sensation on the tongue.’
This is indeed a darker roast then many of us in the Specialty Coffee industry prefer, but it was far from the aggressive bitterness of some very dark roasts we have tasted.
Was it my preferred cup of coffee? Not in particular.
Was it palatable? Absolutely.
In fact, as we sat around sipping and chatting after the initial tasting we ended up finishing the entire (1 liter) pot. In a general look at this coffee, it is bold and darker in roast but not outrageously so. Before our cups ran dry, we tried “the donut test”. That is, we ate a donut with it to see how well they went together. The result? A perfectly tasty pairing with a buttermilk cake donut.
So as usual there are a lot of extreme opinions out there, and the reality (with the large range of coffee qualities) is that the Batdorf & Bronson Holiday Blend is neither horrible nor amazing. If you want bright, fruity, or otherwise lightly roasted coffee you very well may find a cup of disappointment here. If you like a little cream in your coffee you will probably love it, and if you like a little bit of that roast flavor without being punched in the face by bitterness you will almost certainly be satisfied with your purchase. It is spicy and likely to keep you warm during the winter.
For another take on this particular coffee, the concept of brewing dark roasted coffee, as well as a bunch of links, check out Nick Cho’s thoughts via Medium.com.