Ceremony Coffee’s Rorschach Espresso Project

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.

Using an espresso bland and a complex filter coffee, Ceremony Coffee Roasters is experimenting with new taste experiences in coffee.
Using an espresso bland and a complex filter coffee, Ceremony Coffee Roasters is experimenting with new taste experiences in coffee.

“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.


Jeremy Martin

 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.



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