As a coffee enthusiast born out of the third wave...
I tend to cringe at the term “Italian Espresso”. It’s not that it can’t be good, it’s just not on the flavor spectrum that I usually go for. Generally Italian’s roast quite a bit darker for their espresso than most of the modern specialty coffee roasters in the United States. Caffé Umbria appears to be toying with both sides of the coin utilizing both modern and classic blends.
A darker roast tends to bring out all those classic coffee flavors; e.g. cocoa, caramel, and often something from the nut family. These are all great, but on the other hand a darker roast can also have a very bitter, smoky flavor. These are things I don’t tend to enjoy, but coffee is very much a subjective enjoyment experience. So you do you.
That being said, lets dive into the espresso. Caffé Umbria is a Seattle based roaster with Italian roots dating back to the 1940’s. This can be seen from the moment you look at the bags. They are ornate and are reminiscent of family crests with gold pin striping in the form of winged creatures donning crowns and claws. Their logo is of the Arco Etrusco, a landmark of the Umbria region of Italy.
Cracking open a new bag is always one of my favorite sensory experiences with coffee. That fresh aroma hits you like a wave, and has a Pavlovian dog-like effect on me. Of the two coffees I started with the Leone Blend, listed as a “Modern Italian Espresso”. The roast level was medium to light, no oil to speak of on the beans. The second bag, Gusto Crema, is their “Classic Italian Espresso”, which is darker, oilier, and has that distinct dark roast smell that I have yet to find the words to describe.
I actually found both to be relatively smooth, and easy to drink. Surprisingly more so the Gusto Crema than the Leone Blend. As a plain espresso it really had little bitterness and held up very nicely with milk. The Leone Blend was significantly brighter, which is to be expected from a lighter roast, but it didn’t come across as all that different in terms of tasting notes. Had I not read the bags before diving in, I would’ve speculated that they are a very similar blend of coffees roasted to different levels.
In the end Gusto Crema is my favorite of the two, but neither would be espressos I'd have on a daily basis. They are definitely worth a try if you prefer the darker, heavier, flavor notes or if you like a coffee that is bold enough to stand up to steamed milk in larger drinks.
Origins: Ethiopia, South America
Brew Ratio: 1:2
Grams In: 18
Grams Out: 36
Duration: 28-31 seconds
Origins: Brazil, Colombia & Costa Rica
Brew Ratio: 1:3
Grams In: 15
Grams Out: 45
Duration: 25-27 seconds