If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen (or scrolled through) some of my coffee product reviews, where I’ve talked about new coffees, brewing methods, and schools of thought within the industry. What better way to revive the blog than with a special holiday edition, starring my favorite coffee roaster (outside of my own company, of course).
Behind The Bean
Onyx Coffee Labs, based out of Northwest Arkansas, has been operating since 2012. Their full story is on their website, so I won’t spend too much time on their history. But, my history with Onyx goes back to 2014. While working in south Atlanta, my good friends began talking about this killer shop in their hometown that was making really good coffee. We got some samples in at the church café, and my mind was blown by how tasty their coffee was. We had been regulars at Octane in downtown Atlanta, since that really was the closest high-quality spot, but this coffee was a game-changer.
Fast forward to 2017, and I’m working in a shop here in Nashville. I struck up a conversation with a customer who was passing through about good coffee spots, and she mentioned a shop that was in her hometown in Arkansas. “You mean Onyx?” I asked her. She was shocked that I knew about it, since Onyx hadn’t opened a partner shop in town yet. I hadn’t had any of their coffee in a few years, so of course I was reminiscing about how delicious it was.
The next week, someone walked into the shop and said, “Hey are you Jacob? My friend who you were talking to had me pick this up for you before I came to Nashville.” She handed me a bag of the Sugar Skull blend, and the rest is history.
Naughty Or Nice?
Onyx’s holiday origins are some of my favorite coffees of the year. Among the larger specialty coffee roasters that produce a limited edition release, Onyx does it the best. Not only do their coffees taste the best, they also have some of the best branding for their releases.
Within roasting and flavor profiles, roasters like Onyx categorize each coffee as more traditional or more modern. Traditional flavor profiles include more robust and “coffee like,” with notes of Early Grey, baker’s chocolate, and cacao. Modern flavor profiles, however, are fruitier and unexpected, with notes of strawberry jam, watermelon, and floral.
Onyx switches up their categorization for the holidays with a whimsical, child-like distinction: is it naughty, or nice? Will it get presents from Santa, or a lump of coal?
On the naughty side is Krampus, a Kenyan that’s been roasted more traditionally.
With notes of burnt sugar, black currant, cinnamon, and dark chocolate, these intense flavors marry together to create a darker, bolder cup. Think diner coffee, but with depth and tastes good at all temperatures.
As you brew it, it’s really hard to mess it up. If you accidentally grind it too fine, it’s not going to be ridiculously roasty or bitter, and it’ll bring out more of the caramelly notes you’d expect in the burnt sugar description. If you accidentally grind it too coarse, you’ll find some hidden citrus flavors that are quite pleasant. Grind it just right, and the deep spice notes extend throughout every sip.
On the nice side is Framily, an Ethiopian that’s been roasted to a more modern profile.
Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for Ethiopian coffees. As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has some of the most diverse and complex varieties of plants, some that have yet to be named (see Ethiopian Heirloom Varieties). After serving a naturally processed coffee from the same region at my shop, I’ve gained a huge respect for Guji and the beans that come from there.
While more modern-roasted coffees have fruitier profiles, the flavors inherent of the coffee bean always end up showing themselves in the roast. The Early Grey and dark chocolate round out the berries and sweet cream, giving this coffee a smooth taste all the way from first sip to lingering aftertaste. But beware: while it tastes deliciously warm and sweet, it can be unforgiving if over- or under-extracted. It may take a few tries to get it dialed in just right, but it’s worth the work.
The Final Verdict
Whether you’re spending time with your family this holiday season, or grinding hard to get year-end deadlines met, this holiday release set is the perfect choice for your at-home brewbar. For the times when you have a million things going on, as the family is trying to pull your attention in all different directions, Krampus doesn’t require that much focus and will taste great. And for the times when you just need a moment of zen and a silent night (or morning), Framily will warm your heart and soul with homey flavors and love.
Buy your own holiday cheer right here: