Passion Project: Karmadillo Espresso

Welcome Back, Old Friend.

I can count on one hand how many coffee experiences I had in my life and the one at the top of my list started me on this passion project.  The year was 2001 and I was able to convince the leadership at Espresso Specialists, Inc (now La Marzocco USA) to hire me as an espresso machine salesman.  You can meet the guys that got me started in this video.

I was young, full of piss and vinegar and thought I knew everything about coffee, particularly espresso.  What I didn’t know is that my coffee world was about to be rocked.  My new bosses brought me up to Seattle for training.  I was staying at a Hampton Inn by the Space Needle and that first morning I decided to find a coffee shop for a shot of espresso.  I walked up the hill about a block or so to a local spot called Caffe Vita. I had never heard of them, but it was convenient so I stepped inside.  The barista was super nice and humored me as I tried to dazzle her with my knowledge of coffee and roasting.  I mean, I had been roasting 3 whole years up to that point so I was pretty much a seasoned veteran, right?

I sat down with my espresso expecting that it would do the job, but wouldn’t completely satisfy me like the coffee I was roasting back home in Texas.  I took a sip and then it happened.  It was a karate chop to my taste buds and at that moment I realized that I had so much to learn.  I finished the espresso then got a cappuccino and BLAMMO.  My first espresso experience just happened.

Back in those early days, there were a very small handful of craft roasters in Texas and we were a real community.  We talked coffee and roasting and shared ideas and experiences.  It was a great time in Texas coffee and some of my fondest memories are around those early years.  As I shared my espresso experience, and the coffee I brought back, with my peers, we referred to it as “Seattle Style Espresso.”

The coffee was a blend, skillfully created to stimulate multiple tastes.  Brazil for a sweet nuttiness, Indonesia for a full body and natural Ethiopia for a little hint of fruit.  The roast development reached that second crack and some of the Seattle Style Espresso Blends even had a little bit of oil on them.  This was a time when lattes were king and latte art was the exception, not the rule.  This style of espresso really shined in milk based drinks.

Over the past 10 years or so, coffee companies have moved to single origins over blends and “light” roasts rather than “dark.”  During this time I pretty much stopped drinking cappuccinos and lattes and found myself longing for that delicious flavor I experienced back in 2001.  With great reverence to the pioneers of Seattle Style Espresso I decided to work on recreating the blend that had such an impact on me as a coffee professional.

The result of this passion project is Karmadillo.  A blend of coffees from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that has that deep, rich roast profile and morphs into delicious, sweet chocolate in a latte or cappuccino.  While I may not have that ah-ha moment I did back in 01, I sure do drift back to that experience every time I pour a shot of Karmadillo.