Passport to coffee

Local shop offers blends from 4 different countries

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL — Coffee isn’t only for closers anymore.

These days, as coffee continues to take on an increasingly artisan approach, anyone with a discerning palate can pick out the flavors and notes hidden in each cup of joe.

Kat Lindsley is an assistant manager at Happy Creek Coffee & Tea. The Front Royal coffee shop, which roasts all of its beans on-site, prides itself in taking a purist approach to coffee.

“Each bean, depending on the region that it’s from, the altitude that it’s grown at, has certain undertones like a wine would that are just waiting to be picked out,” Lindsley said.

She described Happy Creek as a “third-wave coffee shop.”

“It starts off with the first wave, drinking coffee just for the caffeine and roasting without any skill,” she said. “The second wave is kind of the Starbucks wave, which is specialty coffees, fine coffees, but they’re over-roasted. So now [in the third wave], there’s a focus on the bean, and we have four different varieties of beans here.”

Those varieties include:

According to popular legend, it was an Ethiopian goatherd who first discovered the coffee plant when he noticed his goats prancing about after eating the beans.

However true the story might be, it’s a fact that Ethiopia produces the most coffee beans in Africa and is one of the largest coffee producers in the world.

Happy Creek General Manager Mallory Russo, who conducted her undergrad anthropology research at a village in Ethiopia, said the bean has the heaviest mouth feel out of their four single-origin coffees.

“It has this crazy berry flavor and then it finishes with rich chocolate,” she said.

Russo described the taste as mellow and well-balanced with creamy tones that combine for an easy-to-drink coffee.

Brandon Belland, head roaster at the cafe, used “subtle” and “chocolatey” as keywords.

“And if I roast it five degrees lighter, it turns into lemon balm,” he said. “That’s just the nature of the coffee. I can roast it five or 10 degrees in either direction and it tastes totally different.”

Guatemalan beans have been said to include notes of baking spices with apple, hazelnut and lemon.

“It’s a little bit citrusy,” said Lindsley. “It has some fruitiness to it, but it’s a little bit more citrusy than the Ethiopian. The Ethiopia is a little bit more berry-flavored.”

Coffee brewed from Sumatran beans tends to contain a heavy body with a tangy acidity and can include notes of roasted bell pepper, fresh cedar and tobacco.

“It’s more earthy than the other three, so it tends to be roasted a little bit longer,” Lindsley said. “It has a smokiness to it.”

Happy Creek uses a number of different brewing methods, including the pour-over method, AeroPress and cold brew.

Lindsley said by brewing beans in room temperature over an extended period of time — the cold brew method — rather than a short time in hot water, the acidity is lessened in the coffee.

Russo said they plan to add about 10 more bean varieties and hope to eventually establish a direct relationship with their growers.

“We kind of take a purist approach to coffee,” she said. “We want each bean to be tasted in itself.”

Happy Creek Coffee & Tea, which also offers a 100 percent gluten-free bakery, will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Saturday with brewing and roasting demonstrations, coffee tastings, live music and other events.

The coffee shop is located at 18 High St. in Front Royal. For more information, visit their website at or contact them at 540-660-2133.

Later this month, coffee lovers can celebrate National Coffee Day on Sept. 29.

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