Allann Bros Coffee was founded in 1972 in Ashland, Oregon – just north of the California/Oregon border. Like most of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has a broad coffee culture with a brew-thirsty population. To fill this demand, it’s not uncommon to see coffeehouses come and go with some frequency. When a coffee shop, cafe, or roaster sticks around for any length of time, it generally means they have rapport with people in the area, and a great product. It’s important to keep this in mind when I say that Allann Bros has been in business for over 40 years – that’s no small task. My first question was how they managed to accomplish this. The answer? Evolution.
Allann Bros. has undergone some serious changes and image overhauls since their founding. As best I can tell, the overarching spirit of the company has stayed the same while employees, coffees, and even growers/farms have changed. That’s fine – and I imagine just about any coffee company with Allann Bros. longevity has experienced similar changes. Coffee, after all, is a very different today than it was 40 years ago – at least in the minds of consumers.
If Allann Bros’ recent blog posts are any indication, the most recent changes to the company have likely been the most massive. The most recent post – from July 27th – has this to say:
For over a decade, Allan Bros has worked diligently to keep the price of our specialty coffee in check. As a commodity, coffee often undergoes significant price changes… often on a daily basis! Since 2008, we have absorbed much of the cost in serving fantastic coffee. As we approach the end of 2015, we have had to make changes to some of our cost structures, including adjusting pricing to be in line with acquiring and roasting some of the world’s finest green beans. While we regret that this can result in a negative reaction, please be assured that we work tirelessly to keep prices down, without sacrificing quality.
Read: “Prices are probably going to go up, but that’s because we’re changing who and where we’re buying beans from. In the end, it will mean better coffee.”
Personally, this is great news to me. Allann Bros clearly has a customer base that is accustomed to paying a certain amount of money for a drink, or a bag of coffee. These new changes may mean losing those customers that simply want cheap coffee. The fact that Allann Bros cares more about putting out a great product than keeping it at a specific price point speaks volumes to me. So, how does that product taste?
Allann Bros Coffee sent me two blends: “Phoenix and the Turtle,” a medium roast, and “Maestro’s Blend,” a dark roast. My thoughts on each are below.
Phoenix and the Turtle
I’ll be upfront and honest: I did not enjoy this coffee very much. I
brewed several cups in my Chemex, and found the end taste to be very bitter, albeit with a slightly pleasant aftertaste. While Allann Bros claims this blend to be a medium roast, I found it to be far closer to a dark roast, and the taste profile backs this up. I found cocoa notes to be fairly clear, but besides that I largely found the taste to be smoky and earthy.
Phoenix and the Turtle had a mild mouthfeel, and reminded me more of smoking a smooth cigar than drinking a cup of coffee. The smoky, bitter taste combined with a smooth finish may have gone better late at night than first-thing in the morning.
After finding that I didn’t enjoy The Phoenix and the Turtle as much as I thought I would, I was sure I would hate the Maestro’s Blend. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a huge fan of dark roasts. This coffee, however, won me over in the end.
I brewed this blend in a variety of methods including my stovetop Moka pot, my Aeropress and a large French-Press. I found the end-results to be largely the same, but the methods that didn’t use the paper filter yielded a less bitter product.
The coffee was tangy, which is fairly uncharacteristic for a dark roast. While it was bitter on the back of my tongue, I found it to be a fairly mild taste at first sip. This shifting taste of mild to bitter, combined with the tangy spiciness made me want to take another sip…and another…then pour another cup. I found myself checking the bag to make sure this was indeed a dark roast, and not some imposter.
Allann Bros Coffee surprised me. I expected to find a Peet’s Coffee knockoff with a rich history and a shallow product. Instead, I found something in mid-evolution. I found a coffee company that isn’t afraid to grow and change. And, even better, I found that they can put out a truly intriguing product that I enjoyed. While Phoenix and the Turtle may not have been my favorite blend, Maestro’s Blend was absolutley something I would consider Specialty Coffee. It was roasted by folks who love the craft and have been doing it for decades, and the final result was a cup that I kept coming back for; it made me want to try their Single Origin roasts to see what else they can do.
If you’re interested in trying coffee that tends to be roasted on the darker side (at least in my experience), I would certainly recommend giving Allann Bros a shot. Based on their blog post from earlier this year, I’m excited to see where the company is going. If the small glimpse of their products is any indication, they’re headed in the right direction.
The Coffee Guy