Coffee review: Menno's Best

For those who know me, you've probably heard me talk about how much I love Mennonites. Having not grown up around Mennonites but then spending four years in a Mennonite university community out east, I came out with a deep love for that tradition. Since moving back to Iowa a few years ago, I've kept very close ties with that community. In fact, my day job entails telecommuting work in online education for Eastern Mennonite University, my graduate alma mater, and also keeping contact with a few close Mennonite friends. Etc., etc. - So I love Mennos.

A few weeks ago I saw a few of my Mennonite friends on Facebook posting selfies with a cup of coffee and a curious bag sitting next to them. That was how I discovered that Goshen College, another Mennonite school in Indiana, was doing a special fundraising program to help raise money for Mennonite Church USA youth to attend their biennial convention, which this year is in Kansas City.

And it's a great idea for a fundraising program: SELL COFFEE! They call it: Menno's Best. (Mennonites getting their name from the 16th century Anabaptist leader, Menno Simons, pictured above on the clever logo, sipping coffee.)

So earlier this week I did a bit of "gift economy" work. My Mennonite pastor friend in Nebraska had just ordered three bags of Ross Street coffee, and I turned around and bought some Menno's Best and designated the donation go to his congregation's youth. Share the coffee love!

Well the box showed up on my doorstep today just before lunch and I immediately brewed up a cup, so here's my review...

First off, I smelled the second I opened the box that this stuff was fresh. The unmistakably awesome smell of fresh-roasted coffee wafted out of the cardboard shipping box when I tore into it. Having roasted a good bit of coffee, I could tell the smooth chocolatey aroma of a Central or South American coffee. (This is direct trade coffee from Peru - read more on the website for that awesome system they have set up.)

Opening the bag, I noted that the beans appeared to be roasted somewhere in the light to medium range. No oils were visible on the outside of the beans, and the in seam running down the inside of the half-bean you could still see some evidence of the chaff.

Running a scoop of beans through my hand-crank burr grinder, the tint of the grounds indicated a lighter roast (a kind of "North Carolina clay" color). The bouquet of the grounds gave off a similar odor to when I initially opened the cardboard box, but more powerful now.

Using the AeroPress for brewing, I noticed again that this was, indeed, fresh-roasted coffee, as adding water (190° F) produced some bubbling activity characteristic of fresh lighter roasts. After 30 seconds, some stirring, and adding more water I pressed out all the coffee from the AP. Before adding a touch more water to "Americano it out" to my full cup size, I took a drink.

A fine light roast. I would say somewhere in the City+ to Full City range. (I'm no trained cupping expert mind you, so I could be wrong.)

The front-end of the sipping experience was a bright one. I would say the notes bordered on grassy, but not in the bitter sense of an under-roasted coffee. The body/mouth-feel was nice - even and smooth. And the aftertaste gave a slight tobacco-y impression.

As the coffee cooled, the flavor remained consistent and allowed some of the notes to come out even more, which is always a good indicator of "Good Coffee." And now with my cup fully emptied, I taste another marker of a good, fresh light roast: a subtle "buzzing" on my tongue. Lighter roasts have more caffeine, so I'm not sure if that's what produces that sensation or not, but it's a good feeling to end on from a good coffee experience.

So my hat is off to The Refinery Coffee Company, which roasted this coffee for Goshen College's student-run coffee bar, Java Junction, who is running this fundraising program. "Menno's Best" is a very good cup of coffee.

And this might sound crazy for a coffee seller to recommend someone else's coffee, but I'll do it anyway: Get some! And if you do buy a bag or two and don't know of any Mennonite congregations to help out on the fundraising side, send it to "First Mennonite Church" in Beatrice, NE.  :)
Posted on January 16, 2015 .