Full disclosure: I went to school with Darrin Marion, now the craft roaster of fine coffees in my old adopted hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. I’ve been chatting off and on with him via social media for the last year or more, talking about all things entrepreneurial and coffeeish. I finally pulled the trigger on a pound of his whole bean Signature Blend last week after he shared a video with me, in which he appeared on local TV in Indy talking about his small coffee roasting biz.
I was more than excited to receive my coffee in the mail. It arrived parcel post, taking about three days to get from Indiana to Idaho, in an air locked gold foil bag; very high zoot. I was therefore assured that my coffee would be as fresh as possible.
The first thing I did was coarse grind a goodly dose of his Signature Blend (I used ten tablespoons for a standard large sized French press, typically called a four cup press) and got the water on the boil. You’ll want to use filtered water, natch.
The first thing I noticed was that he roasts his coffee quite light; it’s nothing like what you get from “Big Coffee,” as he says, which tastes burnt to some of us. Now that the green mermaid has mostly stopped taking over every other street corner, I believe it might be safer for some of us to express our true feelings about over-roasted coffee. Darrin’s is decidedly unique.
I brewed for five minutes, which is pretty standard for French press coffees. When I took my first sip, I was blown away. Darrin’s Coffee is like nothing else I have ever experienced. Somehow he has managed to engineer a roast and a blend that brings the totality of coffee’s flavors to the fore. His Signature Blend is very full bodied; it explodes on the palate with an intense cocoa flavor that is balanced with fruity suggestions of berry and orange. I tried it black first, and for my second cup I added cream and sugar. It was just as good that way.
The next day I tried using a little less coffee and brewing his Signature Blend in my Bunn drip coffee maker. This machine brews a full pot of coffee in three minutes; ideal for drip (you don’t want it stewing for like, ten minutes or anything). While it was good, with Darrin’s, I personally felt that it was better as a French press coffee.
And that brings me round to the final verdict. Darrin’s isn’t an everyday coffee for me. Here’s why: One, it’s best in a French Press (though my wife preferred it brewed as drip coffee—to each their own, and you’ve gotta experiment). Two, that implies some attendant ideas about how to best use it; i.e. making the enjoyment of Darrin’s an event in and of itself. Three, a pound of Signature Blend costs $15, which is reasonable, but shipping for me was $7.50. If we’re rounding up, that means I threw down nearly $25 for a pound of coffee, and that’s probably too much for most of us.
But that’s what makes Darrin’s Signature Blend a coffee for occasions, as far as I’m concerned. In other words, I think it’s best to brew a French press of Darrin’s and pair it with a snack. Darrin recommends apples and almonds for his Signature Blend, but I daresay it’s great with orange slices or even chocolate and berries. It’s such an intense explosion of flavor, and it’s so unique—I mean, like nothing you have ever tasted—that it needs to be paired with something equally as intense that can stand up to it.
Darrin’s Signature Blend is a powerful coffee. Contrary to what the green mermaid, peace be upon her, might tell us about real flavor requiring longer roasts, Darrin has managed to extract huge flavor from his craft roasted blend with a light roast. You'll probably want to try his other varieties as well, including his organic Yirgacheffe, his Sumatra, and of course Kona. He even has Jamaican Blue Mountain, the rarest of the rare. When you open a bag of Signature Blend for the first time, you’ll know what I'm talking about here. You’ll be greeted with the intense scent of cocoa intermingled with the slightest berry tartness. It’s a revelation. And while, for me, the cost makes his coffees a little prohibitive, it’s worth paying more for quality on occasion. ‘Nuff said, and all the best to Darrin in his endeavors.