Stalking the Wild Bean: Royal Farms Royal Gourmet

Funny story: I ran out of coffee at home on Sunday night – fairly late in the evening after stores had closed, and without time to order any from my favorite roaster or head over to the grocery store to get a standby brand that I knew I would enjoy, I stopped by a convenience store that’s well known in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Royal Farms. I actually went in for something else entirely, but remembered that I was out of coffee for the following workday, and thinking to myself, “who wants to start a Monday without a fresh cup of coffee? (Nobody, that’s who.)” I decided to pick up Royal Farms’ house blend to try at the next day.

So that’s how I found myself in possession of a can of Royal Farms Royal Gourmet coffee, pre-ground and ready to go. I opened the can first thing on Monday morning, poured the bulk into my airtight coffee canister (which if you don’t have one I strongly recommend you get) and got to work boiling the water and prepping the French Press for my first cup of the day.

How did the Royal Gourmet fare? Head behind the jump to find out.

Trust me, I have lots to say about the Royal Farms Royal Gourmet, but first, let’s go over the rules, shall we?

Unless otherwise noted, the beans I’m tasting have been on the shelf no longer than 5 days, roasted Vienna style, and sealed in an airtight or vacuum packed container, the way any consumer would get them. Obviously in this case I bought the coffee pre-packaged, roasted, and ground – the way you’d find in the convenience store (and sadly, how most people buy their coffee.)

I normally prepare the beans by grinding them on-demand, just after boiling the water for coffee, and then prepare the coffee in a french press. I let the coffee steep a touch longer than advisable, but otherwise consume it the way any normal consumer would. I will, at times, prepare the coffee differently for the sake of Ray Ban outlet comparison, but I’ll note it in the review. In this particular case, since it was all ready to go, I tried to retain as much freshness as possible by serving that first cup right from a freshly opened package, just as I prepped the French Press to make it. This blend did go through the French Press also – more on that and extraction times later.

Finally, each blend will be reviewed on five factors: aroma (the smell of the cup as it’s brewed and poured), acidity (the sharpness and acidic notes of the coffee on your tongue), body (the richness and heaviness of the coffee), flavor (the flavor notes and depth of the coffee’s taste), and after-taste (how long the flavor stays with you after swallowing, and what type of flavor that is).

  • The Blend: Royal Farms Royal Gourmet

    Straight from the back of the can:

    You can brew the same fine coffee at home that you get here at Royal Farms. A vibrant combination of Colombian and Central American coffees producing a medium bodies, balanced finish. With its smoth taste and fresh aroma it is the perfect coffee for any occasion. Thank you for choosing Royal Farms Coffee.

    The can is 16-ounces of ground coffee beans, and ground pretty finely to the point where using a French Press is a bit challenging. The can is vacuum sealed with a plastic lid that can be replaced after opening. It’s hardly airtight, and the can itself is a cardboard roll with thin tin lining at the bottom and top.

  • The Aroma

    The Royal Gourmet has strong, strong, very strong cocoa overtones. And before you snark at me and say “well duh, it’s coffee,” I mean cocoa like Hershey’s Powdered Cocoa or Nestle Quik cocoa scents on the nose. There’s also some pretty solid bitterness on the nose that I couldn’t quite describe; almost like burning Sage or another herb that’s being roasted somehow. The Royal Gourmet is the epitome of a coffee that smells sweet and rich, much more so than it tastes (without ruining too much later) – the kind of coffee that people will say smells better than it tastes.

    When powdered, you really get that chocolate nose along with some tar and a little stinkiness that’s not unpleasant, but when it’s brewed you lsoe some of the sweet edge on the nose and exchange it for a milk-chocolate small, almost like adding the hot water and brewing the coffee has resulted in you getting a cup of coffee that smells like steaming chocolate milk with some tar-like undertones. I also get some walnut shell when smelling the cup as well, and a little coconut that hangs in the back of your nose along with that residual bitterness. Any sweetness you may have smelled before the coffee was brewed is all but gone.

  • The Acidity

    I’m not going to pull any punches here: the acidity on the Royal Gourmet is out of control. I know I tend to normally over-extract my coffee, but even when I paid very close attention to the extraction time, it was still pretty nuts. I even tried to cut the acidity once with a little kosher salt in the grounds before adding the water (an old trick) to little avail. Each time I could progressively get past further past it and could taste the acidity diminishing, but that has a side effect we’ll get to in the next section. The important thing to note here is that the acidity is pretty damned strong here and almost entirely overwhelms the mouthfeel when you taste your cup.

    Now given that most people equate acidity with the “strength” of the coffee, and thus its “punch,” the high acidity in the Royal Gourmet is probably an asset to most people drinking it – they want a strong, wake-you-up kind of coffee that hits hard – the fastest way to get that is to poorly roast the beans and make the coffee really really acidic. You have to remember though that acidity isn’t the same thing as the way the coffee sits in your stomach or the entirety of the cup’s bitterness – the Royal Gourmet actually goes down pretty smoothly, just with a serious kick in the teeth on the way.

  • The Body

    When I said we’d mention the acidity in the section about the body, the point I wanted to make is that every time I watched more closely and reduced the strength of the acidity in my press, I noticed that the body of the cup I was trying to pick up by reducing the acidity was nowhere to be found. This means that the cup is pretty light on body. I caught some faint nutty notes on the palate and some creamy heaviness that was actually really pleasant – enough to make me want to drink more of the stuff – and some sharp citrus on the back that lingered on the tongue, but that’s about it. I didn’t really get much on the front palate or the mid palate aside from that nutty-cocoa-like flavor. On the up-side though, the coffee went down very smoothly and only lingered on the back-palate long enough to remind you that you drank it.

  • The Flavor

    The kind of body Iv’e described is pretty characteristic of mass-produced coffee; almost always over-or-under-roasted and ground too fine to the point where you lose a lot of oils from the beans because they’re just all ground up and left to sit entirely too long before being packaged. Still, as mass produced coffees go, the Royal Gourmet was pretty smooth, and offered a better than expected flavor when you could get around the high acidity. The nose couples with the body of the coffee well to create a pretty well balanced flavor with very strong cocoa notes. The nuttiness clashes a bit and creates an almost burnt flavor on the palate, especially on the first couple of sips.

    The clincher here is that I could see this coffee being much better when prepared via drip – it would take the edge off and give the coffee a little added smoothness across the flavor profile and acidity that really comes out when you prepare it using a French Press where the grounds are soaking in hot water and then slowly emulsified Gafas Ray Ban outlet through the press grate. To Royal Farms’ credit, the back of the can suggests this as the ideal preparation method. To their detriment, they also claim the best storage method is to seal the can and pop it in the fridge or freezer.

    Anyway, preparing this via drip would only give the water a short time’s contact with the grounds, and while the coffee would likely be under-extracted severely and probably retain too much bitterness, it would definitely make for a more palatable cup, especially if the drinker loaded it down with sugars and cream.

  • The After-Taste

    The most puzzling thing about the Royal Gourmet is how quickly it vanishes from your palate. You are left with a really low-level lingering acidity on the back palate, just enough for the coffee to remind you that it was there, but it’s really watery and you don’t get a sense that you just tasted the body that’s really there while the coffee is in your mouth. The after-taste is gone in moments, but that’s just as well – it makes for a great breakfast coffee that won’t overwhelm something you’re eating along with it, or be ruined by other strong flavors in your meal.

    If you’re having this as your morning cup with nothing else though, you might be disappointed: after you drink your cup, you’ll probably have forgotten you even had a cup of coffee to begin with. You might like it (hopefully more than I did) while drinking, but when it’s all gone you’ll wonder what happened.

  • The Verdict

    The Royal Farms Royal Gourmet is a pretty typical mass produced coffee blend. It’s not 100% anything, as far as I can tell, and if you like your coffees with acidity that’s almost off the charts, this is a coffee for you. I’d strongly reccomend under-extracting this if you’re planning to prepare it in something like a French Press or an Aeropress, or serving it drip if you have the option, it’ll help you get a bit more of the body and the flavor while muting the acidity just a touch. It’s a fine line though: you don’t want to drink brown-inated water.

    I’m not going to suggest you run out and get this, and I’m not even going to suggest that if you have a choice among last-minute, open-at-1AM coffee that this is the one to reach for. I will say that if you’re stuck at 1AM with nothing open and want a fresh cup in the morning, the Royal Farms Royal Gourmet isn’t the worst you can do, and it’ll give you what you’re looking for. If you’re the type to serve your coffee with sugar and a little bit of cream to cut the acid and add some weight, you might even love it – which is why it’s much better when poured into a paper cup fresh brewed and hot at 1 in the morning than it is out of your press at 8 in the morning.

Have you tried the Royal Gourmet or live in the Mid-Atlantic area and plan to? Maybe you’ve passed through and thought it wasn’t as bad as I’ve described? Let me know in the comments what you liked or disliked about the review.

Also, as always, let me know what I can do to make this series of reviews even better! If you have a favorite roaster or blend, either gourmet or off-the-shelf, let me know in the comments, or send me an e-mail at alanhenry [at] theclassygeek [dot] com.

header image in this post courtesy of Flickr user Jeff Kubina. (Coffee Beans)

Author Description

Alan Henry

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