Location: St. Louis, MO
Coffee Roaster: Blueprint Coffee
Drink: 12oz Decaf Caldas, a Colombian coffee
Where do decaffeinated coffee drinkers fit into coffee’s third-wave?
One of the challenges that I’ve faced as a longtime drinker of decaffeinated coffee is understanding where I fit into the coffee’s third wave.
There are some roasters and shops that cater to the needs of the decaffeinated coffee drinker just like we’re any other consumer of outstanding coffee. Decaf is readily available and, in some cases, they even have multiple decaffeinated roasts available. However, I’ve found that those coffee shops and roasters are the exception.
Some roasters and shops ignore us altogether, arguing that the process of decaffeinating the coffee (whether chemical or chemical-free, such as Swiss Water Process) change the flavor of the coffee.
But many third wave roasters do have decaf coffee – albeit with a limited selection. A coffee shop that might regularly have 5-10 different types of caffeinated coffee available only roasts and brews one type of decaffeinated coffee at a time.
So, on the one hand, they do cater to the needs of decaf drinkers. But do they really? In a coffee shop that prides itself on the experience of providing a variety of outstanding coffees, is the experience for the decaf drinker really any different than what is found at many of the chain coffee shops?
Sure, they use the Specialty Coffee Association guidelines to brew your coffee. That does matter. But, I sometimes wish that I could drink something different, something new.
I know there are market forces at work here. Decaffeinated coffee doesn’t sell, or at least it doesn’t sell in the quantity needed to provide other options.
So it’s hard to blame the roasters and purveyors of fine coffee for making that choice.
But it still sucks for everyone else. At least everyone who drinks decaffeinated coffees.
In the St. Louis region, a number of third wave coffee shops have opened during the last 5 years. When we lived there, we made the effort to visit as many of them as possible. We wanted the experience of fine, well-crafted coffee.
We quickly found that some of the shops just didn’t cater to us. And while that was frustrating because we had heard so many good things about those shops, we were able to respect their decision and were glad that we could cross those shops off our list.
What was more disappointing were the high-end coffee shops purporting to provide a coffee experience who, we found, provided a subpar experience for decaffeinated drinkers.
Unfortunately, I have to throw my recent experience at Blueprint Coffee into that category.
Blueprint Coffee opened along St. Louis’ Delmar Loop in 2013 in a beautiful, light, airy space. The café is very modern, with a minimalist décor and modern vibe found throughout. It was founded by a “Dream Team” from St. Louis’ burgeoning coffee scene, including a core group from Kaldi’s Coffee.
At first, I found Blueprint Coffee to be good for the occasional coffee break. The location was great for my work & play, the space was gorgeous, and the decaf coffee was good enough. Was it my favorite coffee shop in St. Louis?
No, other coffee shops were my go-to purveyors of decaf in St. Louis. But given the location, the bright & airy space, and the general atmosphere, I found it to be a pleasurable spot to visit.
So, when I was in the vicinity and needed a coffee in December, I thought it would be a great space to relax for a few minutes. Walking into Blueprint Coffee was just like I had remembered. It was a hip, sheik space dominated by minimalist décor and design.
Walking to the counter, I saw some tasty looking baked goods that I would’ve been all over if I hadn’t just finished lunch. When ordering, the staff gladly welcomed by request for a decaffeinated coffee and got to work to prepare me a pour over coffee. The decaf that was available at the time was their Decaf Caldas, a Colombian coffee from the Caldas region.
Settling into a spot by the front window, I eagerly anticipated having a coffee on the cold, winter day. At first, the coffee was pleasant, tasty. There was smoothness to this decaf that was quite enjoyable. But it was quickly followed by an acrid aftertaste, an unpleasant sharpness that distracted from the taste of the coffee.
Over the course of a few more drinks, I contemplated how to describe the aftertaste. The best I could come up with is that it was metallic. And while it didn’t keep me from finishing this decaffeinated coffee, its presence certainly detracted from every sip.
As I sat back and contemplated the Decaf Caldas from Blueprint, I must admit that I was disappointed in this brew. I had enough good experiences at Blueprint Coffee over the years to know that it’s a lovely coffee shop. The staff is knowledgeable, the space is beautiful, and they care about the coffee experience.
But, on this afternoon, their decaffeinated coffee missed.
Note: After consuming this coffee, Blueprint changed the decaf roast that was available from a Decaf Caldas, a Colombian coffee, to a Decaf Cajamarca, a Peruvian coffee. I have not yet had the opportunity to try this new decaffeinated coffee, but look forward to that opportunity the next time I’m in St. Louis.
He said: I love the space that is Blueprint Coffee. It’s bright & airy, a great space to read a book, converse, or work while sipping a coffee. Unfortunately, the cup of Decaf Caldas that I had at Blueprint Coffee on this afternoon didn’t match the overall experience. Would I return? Yes, because Blueprint has earned another chance. Let’s hope it delivers the next time.