Over the past year, Equator has had the honor of collaborating with Chef Thomas Keller and his team to revise his popular namesake espresso blend, TK Espresso. This espresso blend is served in all Chef Keller’s properties, including the busy Bouchon Bakeries and flagship restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se, among others. Although we enjoyed the previous version of the blend immensely, appreciating it for it’s deep-toned chocolatey character, balance and subtle fruit notes, Chef Keller’s taste preference has evolved in recent years. The goal for revising TK Espresso was to increase the fruit flavors while retaining the sweet chocolate structure and creamy body. After several rounds of experimentation with recipe variations and roast profile adjustments, we settled on a combination that meets all our flavor requirements.
This new version of TK Espresso features a trio of coffees from some of our favorite growing regions. The star of the show is a beautiful dry-processed coffee from southern Ethiopia’s Guji region. The method of dry-processing, also known as the “natural” method, is nearly as ancient as coffee drinking itself. After ripe coffee fruit is harvested, the berries are spread out on raised screen beds to dry in the sun naturally. Once dry, the fruit is removed to reveal the coffee bean (actually a seed) within. When processed well, as with the coffee we use in the TK Espresso blend, the flavors of dry-process coffee are intensely fruity. This lot in particular shows flavors of strawberries and cream and adds a degree of smoothness that balances the other components in the blend.
The next coffee in TK Espresso is a sparkling wet-process coffee from Kenya. With this style of processing, also known as the “washed” method, is a bit more involved than the dry-process. After harvesting, the skin of the coffee berry is removed, and the pulp laden seeds are transferred to fermentation tanks for a day or two before the loosened fruit mucilage is washed off the bean using fresh water. The beans are then placed on raised screen beads to dry in the sun. The flavor that this Kenya coffee brings to TK Espresso is bright-toned, sweet citrus that really helps bring out the berry-like character of the dry-processed Ethiopia coffee mentioned above. The last coffee in the blend is another wet-process lot, this one from Colombia. The coffee rounds out the blend by adding silky notes of bittersweet chocolate and spice. The coffee comes from a cooperative Equator has been working with for many years called Cooperativa de los Andes, which is based in the Antioquia growing region. Like all of the components in TK Espresso, this coffee is grown by smallholder farmers.
TK Espresso is more than the sum of its parts, together the coffees in this blend create a shot of espresso that is chocolaty with flavors of roasted nuts, sweet citrus and cherry. As in the past, we have worked with Chef Keller to develop a flavor profile that that is rich and complex, one that can stand on its own but also tastes great in milk. We find that TK Espresso tastes particularly good in cappuccinos and caffè lattes, where the flavors sweeten somewhat, and the fruit character emerges, especially in the aroma.