Sampling eight different beans from The Caffeine Peddler

As we all know, mrbrown is Singapore’s number one O.G. influencer, long before being a influencer was even a thing. In one of his daily dinner drone shots, he had a box of coffee beans in the top left corner that he said was just delivered.

Source: mrbrown (FB)

I zoomed and zoomed but still couldn’t make out the brand, and so I asked him which shop he got it from. Turns out I wasn’t the only curious person as a few other folks were also interested to know. He said that it was from The Caffeine Peddler, and added: “I have been ordering from him quite often so that’s means good.”

And just like that, I was influenced.

It was coincidental that Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions were kicking in on 16 May, and I received my delivery just before the lockdown-lite started. I had ordered the Sensory XL Box and chose eight different beans, each packed in small 100gm bags, allowing me to sample and compare flavours from various coffee origins over the course of a month.

I asked The Wife which one she wanted to try first, and she chose the Kenya Kiriga, which had the following tasting notes: “Fresh floral aroma, berries, bold & full-bodied with a distinct winey acidity.”

Tasting notes have been hit-or-miss for me, and I’d be lucky if I managed to catch even one of the stated flavours. In the case of the Kenyan beans, I did detect a light floral scent and it was a pretty good cup.

When I made the same cup the next morning, the taste changed completely. But then, it could have been due to the bananas that we had for breakfast. So, even though black coffee is strong, it seems banana > coffee.

After we finished the Kenyan, I wanted to do a back-to-back comparison between the three Ethiopian beans that I had chosen — Kilenso, Sidamo and Limou. My expectations were high, given that the best cup we’ve had so far was from Ethiopian beans roasted by Tiong Hoe.

I started with the Ethiopia Sidamo, which was supposed to have notes of “red apple acidity, grape, orange, cherry and black tea.” There was a pleasant acidity, though I couldn’t tell if it was red apple-related, and the other three fruits completely eluded me.

But what was really surprising was the dominant hint of pu’er tea, which I really enjoyed. The Wife, not so much, with the complaint that “kopi must have kopi taste!” Fair enough, since we already have a huge stockpile of tea leaves that will probably take us years to consume.

The Ethiopia Kilenso was next, with its flavour profile of “strawberry, graham, brown sugar, apricot, honey, cream and deep chocolate.” Now, I’m a big strawberry fan and one of my favourite drinks is a Japanese sparkling strawberry wine, but after drinking the Kilenso over four consecutive mornings, I could not detect any strawberry whatsoever.

Chocolate biscuit, most definitely yes, but strawberry, no. The Wife, on the other hand, firmly insisted that she could taste strawberry and declared this her favourite so far. I suppose it’s true what they say, taste is indeed subjective.

Rounding out our Ethiopian adventure was the Ethiopia Limou which was supposed to have “lime, berries, honey, apricot & soft floral notes, smooth body and cocoa malt finish”. It had a good balance of taste and body, and this time, both of us could clearly taste the lemony note. It was interesting to see how beans from the same country, but from different regions and farms, could taste so different.

With the more fruity beans done, we started moving to South America for the chocolatey side of things, starting with the Costa Rica Dota Tarazzau and its “intense plum fruit, chocolate, caramel, good body with sweet cherry aroma.” There was definitely a nice balance between the fruit and chocolate flavours, making it a pleasant cup to have in the morning.

The Guatemala Antigua Pastoral (caramel, citrus, spices, full bodied) wasn’t as nice and left us feeling meh. It was a decent enough cup, but we felt that it was nothing special and probably not worth re-visiting in the future.

Our final two beans were from two different Indonesian islands. The Bali Kintamanis was supposed to taste of “bittersweet citrus rind, tropical fruit & roasted nut” but all I could get was a slightly grassy, almost dou miao-like aftertaste, which was a very strange experience. This was a hard pass for us.

It was a challenge dialing-in the Sumatra Mandheling Mt Sinabung, given that it was a dark roast. For the previous beans, I had been using a brew temp of 94°C and grind size of 3-5-2 or 3-6-0 on my 1Zpresso JX-Pro.

From past experience in brewing darker roasts, I knew that I had to drastically drop my brew temp and so I went with 86°C and 3-5-2. It turned out to be very bitter and tasted almost like the kopi o kosong from my downstairs kopitiam.

I went cooler and coarser at 82°C and 3-6-0 but it didn’t help much, and then I went further with 80°C and 3-7-0 and got a cup that was less overwhelmingly bitter, but it still wasn’t good. I pushed it even more to 78°C and 3-8-0, which didn’t improve things much, and then I ran out of beans. Looks like Indonesian beans and us are not fated to be together.

So, what were the relative rankings of the eight beans we sampled? And, more importantly, which would we buy again?

Coffee BeanMy RankingThe Wife’s RankingBuy Again?
Ethiopia Sidamo15
Kenya Kiriga22
Ethiopia Limou33
Costa Rica Dota Tarazzau44
Ethiopia Kilenso51
Guatemala Antigua Pastoral66
Bali Kintamanis77
Sumatra Mandheling88

I was quite happy that we got to try so many different beans within the one month span to see what we liked (and didn’t like). The Caffeine Peddler sampler box was a convenient and efficient way to do this. They also have smaller boxes with four and six beans, which may be more suitable if you’re brewing for one.

From these results, it was clear that our preference is for African beans, with their predominantly fruity notes, and Costa Rican beans that strike a balance between fruit and chocolate flavours. This will definitely help guide our future choices as we continue on our coffee journey.

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