Review: MariGOLD coffee… alright that was bad, let me try again

When I read Barista Magazine’s select few articles on women in coffee roasting (http://baristamagazine.com/blog/category/people-in-coffee/women-in-coffee) I thought to myself two things: (1) Hey! Why isn’t Joey Gleason, the owner of Marigold listed, and (2) Wait a minute! Representation is one thing, but isn’t it just as sexist to celebrate women roasters by first focusing on the fact that they are women rather than the fact that they’re roasters? Maybe its just me, but I’d rather be celebrated for my skills, talents, and abilities that I worked at rather than the fact that I was born with a penis and, coincidentally, happen to have skills… So, as a demonstration of my reviewer skills, in contrast to Barista Magazine’s poorly thought-out premise: I offer unto you, sweet reader, a celebration of Marigold Coffee – the creation of Joey Gleason, her team, and their talents and abilities.

0910151344First some Back(on the)ground: Marigold popped up in 2009 (July of 2009 according to their website), as a new venture for former chef and foodie, Joey Gleason. They must have been a small operation because I only heard whispers about them, and recall more about Marigold from seeing their Facebook page rather than seeing their coffee. I may have, at one point in 2012, tried their beans at a small coffee shop in North Portland but I’m not entirely sure – so until Marigold corrects me we’ll just pretend like they were, in fact, in some random cafe up in NoPo.

What I am positive about though is that Joey’s coffee beans could often times be found in booths and stands at various food, coffee, or wine events (which is where I officially saw their name in the ranks of local Portland roasters). As of May of this year however, they got a nifty little coffee shop setup in SE. The space used to be Forum Cafe – I don’t know what happened to Forum, nor had I ever been there to begin with. I’m sure it had the stench of failure about it.

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Ascetic, with a hint of coffee

The Gear: La Marzocco Linea (possibly PB, didn’t ask), Mazzer SJ Rio, Mini, and I’m fairly certain a white Mahlkonig EK43. Very appropriate and nifty little bit of gear actually; their lack of a giant high tech espresso machine or couple of big ass Mazzer Roburs actually gives the place a nice austere feel.

The Beans: There were, I believe, two types of beans: one for coffee and one for espresso. I did not bother to inquire about the former, but judging by the specificity provided for their SO (“Single Origin” in case you’re behind the curve) coffees I would wager their strength probably lies outside the espresso realm. The espresso blend is the “9-Bar”. Which is almost clever – you see, the common standard amongst espresso folk is to pull your shots at about 9 bar (or roughly 130 psi). To be honest, it’s actually not the worst name of I’ve seen, but to give your other 0830151445blend a name like “Squirrel Rhapsody” (which wasn’t offered when we were in last) makes the name “9-Bar” look fairly boring.

The Nose: This may have been my favorite part of the espresso. Which sounds weird, because who runs around smelling espresso? Well I do – deal with it. The real points are that (A) the smell influences taste and (B) coffee just smells good – it’s like Mother Natures morning potpourri, or the perfume she sprays on herself before she goes to drop her kid off at school.

How sexy was mother natures perfume? Well their 9-Bar Blend has led a double life since they opened. Early on it had mild hints of caramelizing palm sugar, a really mellow milk chocolate tone, and a nice combination of maple wood and rich moist soil near the end. Very complex, very seductive nose.

The more recent shots (as of September) show they’ve been trying to dial in their roast and grind a bit which is resulting in a significantly more floral aroma. Hyacinth and peach hit the nose immediately with a little spiced maple like richness still lingering. The shot rounded out with an almost peach cobbler smell near the end.

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It’s like chocolaty butter in a cup.

The Mouth:  Solid tasty shots – all around good. Now I need to preface that really quick with something Ryan and I mentioned in the Sterling podcast (take a listen). Portland (and the Pacific NW in general) has a lot of awesome coffee. And certainly in the case of characters like Ryan and myself ‘A+ coffee’ is a rarity. It means that you were so above the rest that it was tantamount to perfection or some bloody close facsimile. We don’t hand out grades like some cheap commuter college here at PDXpresso… Needless to say, Marigold was “good” in the sense that I would say their flavors and mouth feel were better than 85-90% of the coffee you’re running into in P-Town.

Initial shot flavors (in August) were a combination of coriander, nutmeg, and nice light tobacco. Really pleasant rich spice, but it didn’t linger long. After that was an almost leathery taste. And right at the finish you get a little bit of a Morello cherry tartness. Nice complex shot, and the hints of savory notes with the combination of something a little more sour was delightful. The bottom of the cup definitely had more of a crisp tartness than the top and the crema… which was okay-ish. The first half of the shot definitely seems to be where it was best.

More recent shots (again as of September) have a much more fruity character. Initial hit on the tongue is a little tart, clearly a faster pull than when they first opened, but that’s probably a grind choice. It follows up with a clear note of peach and Bartlett pear cobbler or tart. There is still some richness in the shot, but what was once leathery now seems to have mellowed into an almost buttered oat like flavor. Toward the back end there continues to be a sharp Morello cherry tartness and maybe even a bit of straight cranberry.

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Stay Gold: So the take-away is that this is a damn fine little coffee shop in SE and, realistically speaking, the only good coffee shop in that general area (because K&F doesn’t really count). Genuinely tasty espresso, nice decor, and a good variety of solid SO beans  – though, as stated, you may be better suited to snagging a coffee in one of their SO varieties as that’s probably what they do best. They do a good espresso, not great, not Top 10 – I think “solid” is the best way to describe what they’re offering right now. I mean they are basically brand new in the cafe scene, but based on what I’ve tasted in the first couple months of their grand opening I think they have a good amount of potential. We’ll see what they come up with after a year or so in that location. All that said, Gleason clearly has a slick new operation up and running, and a pretty damn good roasting setup to boot. Do yourself a favor and drop in!

Oh right, and see that Barista Magazine? That’s how you review someone for ‘who’ they are rather than ‘what’ they are.

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