There’s plenty of science to roasting coffee, a fact emphasized in all its geeky glory at Function Coffee Labs near the Italian Market, where the pour-overs are served in Erlenmeyer flasks alongside a slice of celery (to cleanse the palate). Nibble it beforehand and the coffee to follow will be sweeter.
But there’s artistry in the roaster’s craft, as well. And Function’s sister company, Vibrant Coffee Roasters, has scored big with its rendition of an Ethiopian Ardi bean that recently won a coveted Good Food Award, a national competition for small producers that showcases products that are also socially and environmentally sustainable. Only 25 coffees from nearly 300 entrants won the distinction. Another Ethiopian coffee — Basa from Matt Adams’ Backyard Beans in Lansdale — was Pennsylvania’s only other winner.
Coincidentally, Backyard contract-roasts the beans for Vibrant according to co-owner Ross Nickerson’s specs. But the two coffees, which come from separate regions and are processed differently, could not be more distinct.
Vibrant’s Ardi comes from the Guji region in Southern Ethiopia, and because its organic beans are washed in processing, it has an earthier profile with notes of lemonade, light strawberry, and floral tea (the Arnold Palmer of coffees!). Backyard’s tiny, heirloom Idido beans from Yirgacheffe are naturally processed, which means they retain brighter berry notes — intensely blueberry in this case, with a whiff of lavender and an acidity accented by the light roast.
Adams says the Basa is currently sold out but expects to have more by spring, just in time to help launch the opening of a new Backyard Beans cafe in Ambler.
Vibrant Coffee Roasters Ardi Ethiopia, $20 for a 10-ounce bag at vibrantcoffeeroasters.com or at Function Coffee Labs, 1001 S. 10th St., where a pour-over costs $5.50 (discounted to $2.50 if you also buy beans). When it returns this spring, Backyard Beans Ethiopia will cost $16 for 12-ounce bags online or at Backyard’s cafes in Lansdale (408 W. Main St.) and soon-to-open in Ambler (20 E. Butler Ave.).