Green Alert coffee. I was impressed enough that I figured I should let everyone know what I think of it.
Green Alert is a mixture of coffee and tea, which to a coffee snob like myself seems like sacrilege. There are two varieties, Primal and Refresh, which are each unique blends. The Primal is a mix of Sumatran coffee and Wulu green tea, while the Refresh is a mix of an Ethiopian coffee and Morrocan mint tea.
At first glance I'll admit I was skeptical. I'm not a fan of green tea, and especially not the bitterness of over-steeped green tea. I imagined that the time involved in steeping coffee would inevitably over-steep the tea and make for a really bitter concoction. I was wrong, and pleasantly surprised by the result.
The first we tried was the Refresh, brewed stronger than the directions indicated in a French Press. We were headed out the door on vacation and the weather was in the high 90's so we opted for Iced coffee. We added extra coffee, steeped a touch longer, and then poured it hot over ice. The Ethiopian coffee makes great iced coffee, its bright but with lots of backbone and not as citrusy as Central American coffees. The roast is really nice. It isn't too dark and oily, but it's probably a French Roast or a dark Full City roast. The mint really adds a cool dimension to it though. It cuts right through the coffee right behind the initial coffee flavors and fills your mouth, before fading and blending into the coffee flavor in the aftertaste. Unlike adding a shot of mint syrup to a drink this mint isn't sweet, which is more my cup of tea (if you'll pardon the pun) than the Frappuchino inspired dessert drinks people order. This is actually refreshing.
Primal, as it's name implies, is supposed to be the more intense of the two flavors. I don't know if I agree that it's as intense. I would say it is darker and more subtle. Where Refresh is right there in your face with a slap of mint the Primal is harder to decipher. I've made this in a french press as well as a Mokka pot and even tried it through my espresso machine on a whim. The Mokka pot was the best by far with deep, rich coffee flavors augmented by a tannic bite from the tea that blended in so well it was hard to distinguish where the coffee ended and the tea began.
The french press was my least favorite, partly because the grind was fairly inconsistent and included a lot of fines. Those ended up clouding the cup and overall the taste just wasn't as deep and caramely as the Mokka pot version. My guess is that when this goes to production better burr grinders will improve this, so it isn't really a fault so much as a consequence of getting a really early sample. I will also admit to having a preference for Mokka pot coffee anyway, so consider this review biased.
The espresso experiment was almost disastrous, but in the end actually turned out delicious with a couple of additions. This can hardly be considered the fault of Green Alert. The coffee grind is too big for espresso anyway, but the pressurized filter basket on my home espresso does pretty well with all kinds of grinds so I tried it. I had to mix half Primal and half Refresh in the basket since I was running low. The result was REALLY dark, lots of the bitter tannins of overstepped tea, and VERY minty. It did have a ton of long lasting crema, which was nice, but it was pretty much undrinkable…still, I'm persistent. Adding a tablespoon of half-and-half and a lump of brown sugar made this into something awesome.
Of course, sugar and cream make everything better but this was unexpectedly better, a sum greater than it's parts. The cream took down the tannic bitterness several notches and the molasses blended the deeper coffee notes with the brighter tea and mint. It evened out into an intensely minty and very tasty cubano-like drink that I could have had several of…if time and lack of more Green Alert hadn't kept me from it.
If there is anything wrong with Green Alert it is that the taste might not be for everyone. People like me who aren't tea fans will probably be turned off by the idea, and Lucas will need to convince people that it's worth it to try. On the flip side my wife, who loves tea but hates coffee, was more than willing to try it. There is also the, 'why can't I do this myself' argument. After all, it can't be that hard to find the right mix of tea and coffee, right. This is probably the most valid argument against Green Alert, but also the easiest to refute. We are a culture that is willing to put millions of K-cups full of mediocre coffee into landfills rather than measure out our own coffee into a machine. If we're too lazy to make our own coffee aren't we also too lazy to experiment until we get the mix right? I don't think Green Alert has anything to fear by marketing something that anyone can theoretically do for themselves. They've taken the time to perfect this so we don't have to.
My only gripe is that the grind needs to be more consistent for those who don't use a drip pot or some other sort of paper filtration. Also, ground coffee just doesn't stay as good, for as long, as beans but Green Alert pretty much has to be sold pre-ground and mixed. But, again, humans are lazy and plenty of pre-ground coffee gets consumed. It will depend on whether the target market is average drinkers, or coffee snobs looking for something new and different. Speaking of different filtration and coffee snobbery…has anyone tried this stuff in an AeroPress? I bet that would be really tasty!
So, if you are interested in this idea please go over to the Green Alert Kickstarter page and donate. It's worth it, and you can get a package as a gift for your donation.