Southern Weather from Onyx Coffee Lab
|Country||Colombia and Ethiopia|
From the Roaster:
Southern Weather embodies everything we love about specialty coffee and has evolved into a foundational blend...it balances the relationship between modern citric acidity flavors with full bodied chocolates. This comfortable, yet surprisingly complex and sophisticated coffee is approachable to all
In the bag, Southern Weather seemed very fresh and vibrant, -- it smelled sweet, alive, and juicy. While brewing the coffee I noticed a nutty and earthy character reminiscent of the bourbon varietal as well fresh white grape juice. In the cup, there is a more complex interplay. There is a sweet, roasted cinnamon-sugar almond presence (like those that you find at a fairground) mixed in with white grape juice and some floral notes like those that one finds in washed Ethiopian coffees.
The medium-light body enters the palate carrying bittersweet chocolate chips that present prominently and then reveal those sweet roasted cinnamon-sugar almonds, sweet potato, and an indistinct citrus oil note which is less like biting into an orange and more like a whiff of orange extract. At first the predominant bittersweet chocolate chips give almost no impression of acidity, but as that note fades and the others present there is a dry acidity that pulls at the sides of your tongue like a light but harsh pinot grigio. The pinot grigio rolls away leaving a somewhat clean finish with a bit of dark chocolate and dry toast remaining. As the cup cools the acidity takes the lead but becomes more relaxed.
Like the power of suggestion, our expectations weight heavily on our experiences. I went into this coffee expecting a Guatemalan / Ethiopian blend roasted on the lighter side that was sweet and clean. A good blend can create a unique combination of flavors that isn't found in single origin coffees and can sometimes be hard to describe. Guatemalan / Ethiopian blends in particular tend to have a character of their own that is recognizable but not easily described. What I found here was more roast influence (those bittersweet chocolate chips) and a lighter body than I expected. Given the roast influence that I tasted and the appearance of the beans it seems that maybe a longer, more drawn out roast was applied. Doing it this way can yield complex savory notes and some gentle gentle roastiness. I don't prefer a lot of roastiness in the cup, but the good news is the core flavors in this blend (those roasted candied almonds, sweet potato, and pinot grigio) are well put together and enjoyable. The dry finish keeps you coming back for another sip. The roastiness will help to please more people.
According to the Onyx Coffee Lab website for Southern Weather (which has an impressive amount of information), they are currently using a Colombian coffee along with a washed Ethiopian for this blend. Their description of their blend approach is worth quoting at some length:
Our approach to creating blends is a bit different at Onyx. Instead of choosing coffees from specific countries or regions that will, in theory, intertwine well to develop complex & cohesive flavors like most, we start from the end and work our way back. This perspective means we choose to create a particular flavor profile first - deciding which acidities, sugars, and fats we want to accentuate for the coffee. Once a flavor profile has been set, in this case, a very approachable citrus zest, milk chocolate, and candied nuts for Southern Weather. We then start cupping blind through a lot of coffees to find these specific attributes.
Then they outline the coffees they are currently using:
For Southern Weather, the Colombian we use comes from our friends as Pergamino Coffee, which gives us sweetness and has perfect caramelized sugars, which come across as chocolate and nutty notes. We look to other coffees in season that exude high citric acid content and clean finishes to add citrus notes for acidity and slight bitterness for balance. Currently, that’s our washed Ethiopia Worka.
Overall I really appreciate the amount of care that Onyx Coffee Lab seems to put into their coffees (even a blend in this case!). If I had been creating this blend I probably would have gone for a less roasty / bittersweet vibe overall, but I'm not Onyx. If you find yourself interested in blending as a roaster or consumer, the blends from Onyx seem like a great place to explore what's possible and how it can be achieved.
Grab some Southern Weather from Onyx Coffee Lab for yourself.