Coffee has come a LONG way since the old Folgers Coffee days and many artisan coffee makers are producing good coffee. King’s Row Coffee, the brainchild of Chef Craig Shelton, is one of those boutique coffee producers and it produces coffee blends like fine wine, using the science of taste to create particular flavor profiles and uber smooth coffee.
Shelton, a graduate from Yale with degrees in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics, cooked at some of the nation’s finest restaurants where became obsessed with finding the perfect cup of coffee. After sampling more than 280 of the world’s best single origin coffees, Shelton determined that none provided the complexity and balance he was looking for.
Chef Shelton realized, like different cuts of meat that vary in shape, size and composition and require different cooking methods and seasoning, different coffee varietals need special attention specific to the bean. Not only does Shelton’s company custom roast different coffee beans, he blends beans the same way a great Bordeaux blends five different grapes to create a perfect wine.
Start with the Best Beans
King’s Row uses only shade-grown, Arabica beans from small farms in Africa, Asia, South America, and Central America, from the top 10 to 20% of global production. They look for the best beans, paying growers 35 to 100% more than Fair Trade rates based on quality. “Fair Trade” guarantees minimum revenues to the farmer. However, paying growers directly based on quality incentivizes them to produce great coffee, while treating the workers and the land fairly.
They roast beans using what they call the Full-Spectrum “Broadband” method, roasting each of the four to six coffees in a particular blend individually in small batches, to a customized temperature and time interval. This allows the beans to produce a broader range of flavors.
Our editors sampled two of King’s Row’s eight blends: The Shelton Signature and The Bonbon Blend. All the coffees come in 12 ounce bags ($15) or $25 for the sampler (4 ounces each of 8 blends). They also offer The Selamta Blend ($25), a traditional Ethiopian Dark Roast, which comes in a keepsake hand-stitched bag. The company donates $5 from each Selamta Blend sold to The Selamta Family Project, a charity that benefits orphaned children and marginalized women in Ethiopia.
The Shelton Blend combines five different varietals. I make my morning coffee using a single-cup, pour over method and drink it black. The Shelton Blend is perfect for a black cup of Joe. It’s amazingly smooth, with round notes and no sharp edges. I detected caramel notes with toasty almost sweet riffs. As the coffee cooled in the cup, the coffee offered light fruity notes.
The Bon Bon Blend is touted as the perfect coffee for foodies, standing up to a wide range of flavors. This coffee, again super smooth, is heartier and bolder than the Shelton. It offers a sweet, tangy aroma and a smooth finish that pairs well with a wide range of foods. It would be a great coffee to try out with your holiday meals.
Real Bottom Line: King’s Row Coffee company produces some of the smoothest, most complex coffee I’ve tasted. While we didn’t sample the whole range of blends, the two we tasted produced great coffee with nuanced flavors not found in many other coffees. This is a coffee sophisticated palettes can appreciate. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor