Last week I learned that Espresso Vivace has removed the robusta component of their Dolce espresso blend. This may not mean much to you, but to me this is like changing the Coke formula. You don’t mess with perfection. From the article Coffeehouse customers steamed about higher prices:
David Schomer, co-owner of Espresso Vivace, is considering raising drink prices because his coffee costs have gone up, too.
He’s stopped adding the lower cost robusta coffee to his blends to boost the brownish-red foam called crema. “It wasn’t helping us,” he said. “It’s gone.”
Well, I doubt Vivace was using cheap robusta in their blend. Although most robusta is cheap filler coffee, there exists premium robusta beans as well. These beans command prices equal and sometimes greater than arabica beans. Recently, I had a 100% robusta single origin espresso from Paradise Roasters (Sethuraman Estate from India). It was an outstanding espresso and every bit the equal in quality to arabica espresso blends.
Vivace Espresso Dolce
Why use robusta? From SweetMarias page on Premium Robusta Coffees (for espresso blends):
There is a core use for Robusta coffees that are picked, sorted, processed and prepared with as much care as top grade Arabicas; this valid use is in the 5 to 20% range in espresso blends. Robustas add body, crema, and a distinct flavor to espresso. If you are familiar with traditional italian espresso you will recognize this taste. It also aids the espresso in distinguishing itself in milk drinks.
I’ll go further. When you drink an espresso with a robusta component it stays on the palate much longer than an espresso made from 100% arabica. It lingers. How many beverages can persist taste for sometimes 20 minutes?
I adore the Dolce blend. I’ve probably purchased 100 pounds of the blend. Before I ever moved to Seattle, I was home roasting the blend down in San Diego. I had to know if the blend still tasted the same to me. This past Sunday I went to Vivace and got a pound of Dolce. I gave half to a fellow Dolce fan.
The 100% arabica version of Dolce tastes just like the robusta version, however it doesn’t linger on the palate as much. My friend referred to the new blend as “the younger brother”. Now these are just the opinions of two espresso drinkers. We still love the taste, but missed the depth. Maybe we are wrong.
Before completing this review, I visited Stella Coffee and had their espresso. Stella roasts a classic Italian espresso and proudly uses robusta in their blend. Although I prefer the taste of Vivace Dolce, Stella’s espresso stayed on my palate much longer. I’ll continue to purchase the Vivace Dolce, but maybe not as much as before.
UPDATE: Since this post was first written, I have confirmed with two separate sources in the industry that Vivace only dropped the premium robusta component when they could no longer source enough at a price point they needed.