In the spring of 2018, Olympia Coffee threw open the doors to our shiny new cafe in Tacoma, Washington. And, atop the espresso bar in this outpost on Proctor Street, a blend called Little Buddy made its appearance as the cafe’s flagship espresso. Lovingly named after a certain '86 Honda Civic that used to cruise around Tacoma in the 1990s, Little Buddy was tailor-made to evoke the eager, adventurous, and optimistic spirit of the City of Destiny.
Four years later, we've refreshed Little Buddy to make it an even better representation of this same spirit. Now featuring a blend of entirely East African coffees, it draws upon the sophisticated, complex, and adventurous flavors of Heirloom and Bourbon varietals from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Burundi. At the same time, with its warm fruit and sweet, smooth chocolate notes, it's as winsome and accessible as ever to coffee drinkers of all kinds.
As Olympia Coffee's roasting manager Jon Allison explains, these tweaks aren't so much of a revamp as a re-evaluation of Little Buddy's strengths. Once described as an "espresso-drinker's espresso" that could also play well with filter methods, this current iteration is a confident contender on either espresso or filter.
"At its core, we will be using the same coffees on similar roast profiles," says Allison. "We are just now stressing that it's delicious as a drip or filter coffee— which it always was."
So break out the pour over setup, line the filter basket of your favorite drip coffee maker, or grab your portafilter. Whichever method serves you best, Little Buddy is down.
Roast profiles: caramelization vs. espresso
There are a lot of factors that go into determining a coffee's flavors— but which flavors and how they're drawn out comes down to the decisions made during the roasting process. These decisions amount to what's called a "roast profile." So what makes Little Buddy unique as an espresso option is that the roast we use leans towards a "caramelization" profile rather than a traditional espresso roast. Coffees roasted to this profile retain their brightness, fruitiness, and acidity— the kinds of flavors that give Little Buddy its adventurous edge.
But what is caramelization? Scientifically speaking, it's the process by which the large, complex carbohydrates (in a coffee bean, in our case) get broken down into smaller sugar molecules. In coffee, the caramelization stage begins at around 170ºF, after the coffee has dried but before that critical "first crack." Smaller particles are more easily dissolved in water, which in turn means that more sweetness comes out in how the coffee tastes. And, if you've ever caramelized sugar, you've probably seen another piece of this process: the Maillard reaction. (By all means, please break that term out at your next dinner party.) This is the reaction that takes place between amino acids and the reducing sugars, and it's what causes coffee to brown as it continues to roast. It also unleashes a wealth of flavor and aroma contained within the bean. How fast and how long this process is initiated and maintained is up to the roaster— and it has a significant effect on a coffee's roast profile.
Most espresso roasts, for example, will extend this Maillard reaction, allowing the sugars to break down even further and bringing out more of a coffee's toastier, chocolatier notes. "Our typical roast for espresso is a more traditional espresso profile where we are gently guiding the coffee through the first two phases [of roasting] and then 'pulling off the gas pedal' and extending our time in the development phase (post first crack)," explains Allison. "These coffees are generally roasted slightly darker, as we are dropping them at higher temperatures and roasting them slightly longer." Looking at you, Big Truck.
For Little Buddy, this means striking the balance between that comforting, chocolatey profile and the bright, exciting flavors brought out during caramelization. And, with this honed-in blend, our newest version does just that. So if you haven't made friends with Little Buddy yet, why not take it home with you and let it introduce itself with notes of sweet berries, stone fruit, and chocolate? We can vouch that it makes for a delightfully fun partner to your morning coffee routine. That's our Little Buddy, after all.
Oh, and since we can't wait to introduce you— take 15% off of Little Buddy now through the weekend! Offer ends at 11:59pm on Sunday, July 30, 2022.
Jon Allison, Roasting Manager at Olympia Coffee
"Proctor Tacoma Store Now Open," Olympia Coffee blog
"What's in a Coffee Roast?", Stone Street Coffee
"Roasting for Filter Coffee vs. Espresso," Perfect Daily Grind