Article by Jeremy Martin
If a latte was a rock band, the espresso would be the rhythm section. It’s always there in the mix, constantly on point, holding down the base note, and moving the drink forward. The milk would be the front man—velvety, smooth and often tattooed with rosettas, leaves, and hearts.
But sometimes bands break up; sometimes an individual player wants to go his or her own way. So, too, is the case with the singular parts of a great espresso and milk drink. In parting ways, each musician, or ingredient, has to evolve independently to bring something new and exciting to the table.
Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis, Maryland, wants to help facilitate this kind of growth. Acting like a producer for a newly liberated espresso, Ceremony is allowing the once predominantly dark roasted, low acidic blend to find new life as the centerpiece, as the proverbial vocalist, and one that has quite a lot to say.
This is essentially the basis for the Rorschach Espresso Project, which was designed to pair classic espresso blends with single origin filter roasts in a 50/50 blend that allows the espresso to take on new flavors, textures, and identities.
“Ultimately, what we are trying to do is challenge the perception of what espresso tastes like, how you pull an espresso, what volume of water you use, and especially how long that brew time might take,” says Michael Harwood, Ceremony’s director of coffee. “In this case, we need both more volume and more time. It’s a pattern that I think most baristas have instinctively or intuitively noticed. The darker the coffee is, the tighter you want to pull that shot, and for less time. And the opposite is true for lighter coffee—the more energy it needs, the more water, and the more time [it needs] to fully extract a balance of flavors.”
Phase one of the project pairs an aged Bolivia Apolo with an espresso blend seven days off roast to create a bright yet sweet drinking experience.
“We felt it was a really good eye-opening experience for people without hitting them over the head too hard with a completely different style,” Harwood said.
Up next for Ceremony is blend of espresso matched with Rwanda Gitesi, a juicy, citrus-nosed varietal. Ceremony intends to release a new Rorschach blend about once per month.
The project allows Ceremony and its customers to play around with mixing contrasting styles of coffee, while also finding a use for bags that in most cases may have sat for a bit too long on the retail shelf.
“We’ve all gotten to that point where [we say to ourselves,] ‘Great, I have two-and-a-half-week old or three-week old filter profile coffee sitting in my cabinet, and what do I do with it’” Harwood said. “Maybe it doesn’t taste as vibrant as a pourover as a press pot anymore, and there just isn’t enough energy in that extraction at that point to get to the core of coffee like espresso can. We’re not using bad coffee; we’re applying a new extraction method to old coffee that has kind of mellowed.”
And in a way, Ceremony is applying a new paradigm to an old style that has also mellowed over time.
“I wouldn’t say espresso has been static. There are innovators. But I do think a majority of cafes are doing the same thing that they’ve been doing for a while. Tradition is good; having something established and comforting and knowable—I’m all for that. I’m a creature of habit by and large, but when you discover that espresso can be this other thing, can be sweeter and be amazingly complex and delicious on its own, that’s something we want to share,” Harwood said.
The Rorschach Project is available for purchase online at www.ceremonycoffee.com and on site at the company’s brick and mortar location at 90 Russell Street in Annapolis.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Martin is a freelance writer and photographer who has reported on coffee, craft beer, college sports, and business for a variety of publications over the past six years. A veteran of the café industry and graduate of Western Michigan University, Jeremy lives in Seattle where can often be found making sandwiches from whatever is left in the fridge and cracking wise for the amusement of his adoring wife Amanda.