Barista Ryan Bisson pours one of the brews from Bean Box and reviews each while at Narrative Coffee on Oct. 3 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Barista Ryan Bisson pours one of the brews from Bean Box and reviews each while at Narrative Coffee on Oct. 3 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Bean Box: Mail-order coffee to fit your (evolving) palate

The Seattle-based gift and subscription service features the area’s top-rated artisan roasters.

The Daily Herald recently received a Bean Box in the mail. Bean Box is an artisan coffee gift and subscription service featuring Seattle’s top-rated roasters. I offered to review it because tasting different coffees sounded like fun.

The Seattle company sends freshly roasted coffee every month to its subscribers. It features 25 of Seattle’s top artisan roasters and ships coffee within 48 hours to guarantee the very best cup. The company’s motto: “Better mornings, delivered fresh.”

Each box is personalized to fit your palate: Like your coffee light and fruity? OK. Like it dark and chocolatey? No problem. Want more or less caffeine? Bean Box also offers espresso and decaf beans.

While I drink coffee nearly every day, I honestly don’t know that much about it. (At home I drink a medium roast with creamer.) So I formed a tasting team to review these roasts the right way.

I enlisted the help of a barista from Narrative Coffee to make the coffee for us at the Everett coffee shop and share his professional opinion of each sample.

Ryan Bisson of Everett, has worked in coffee for 12 years. Ryan is Narrative’s assistant manager of the cafe and oversees the company’s mobile events and catering operations. (His go-to coffee? A cappuccino.)

I also put out a call in the newsroom for a co-worker who really loves and knows her coffee to help me taste test. News producer Sue Misao isn’t a coffee connoisseur, but she is a self-professed coffee lover. (She likes dark-roasted brews with milk.)

Bean Box sent The Herald a box with four types of roasts — one light, two mediums and a dark — so that we could do a proper taste test.

The coffee shipped Sept. 26. We sipped Oct. 3.

I waited until we met up with Ryan to open the box. It smelled heavenly. Inside were our four sample bags of coffee beans, each from a different roaster. There also was a drawing of the Seattle skyline and a note: “Roasted with love.” It was a nice touch.

We started with the light roast and tasted our way to the darkest coffee. We tried each one with and without cream.

Ryan brewed the coffee just like he does at Narrative — the V60 way, which is a pour-over method where the coffee is strained through a paper filter. It creates a softer body and a cleaner mouthfeel. He weighed out 25 grams of coffee and 50 milliliters of water, which was heated to 208 degrees. Each pot brewed for 3 to 3½ minutes.

As the coffee brewed, he talked about V60 techniques and the coffee’s “bloom time.” Such the professional.

Kuma Coffee | Kenya Nyeri Hill

From the roaster: “This cup stopped us in our tracks: a stunner! This light roast has wine-like notes of black currant, cherry and passion fruit.”

The professional opinion: “It’s juicy with a bubble-gum candy kind of sweetness. The body of this coffee is really light and clean. It doesn’t overwhelm the palate.”

Our unprofessional opinion: “There’s a tangy tongue thing. It has a tart yet sweet fruit flavor.” “It tastes like a ukulele.”

Zoka Coffee | Organic Tatoosh

Roaster: “This medium roast has a buttery rich body with notes of dark chocolate and strawberry.”

Barista: “It has a sweet earthiness. It’s like you’re camping and you wake up in the morning, your fire has gone out, but it’s breezy and you get all that green, you get some of that campfire, you get the morning dew. I get more of those tones. It’s definitely on the chocolate side. Dark chocolate and lots of it.”

Herald: “This one’s much richer. It tastes kind of like a black tea I have at home.” “It’s less linger-y. It’s more coffee-ish; less ukulele. It’s more of a standard acoustic guitar. This is totally doable coffee.”

Seven | Sumatra Mandheling Old School

Roaster: “Full-bodied with low acidity, this medium roast carries an earthy chocolate flavor that settles into a crisp, cucumber finish.”

Barista: “I dig that because it has a lot of body. Definitely a lot of chocolate, not as dark chocolate as the last one, and just a really nice sweetness. It’s really wet; it’s not dry. It’s really clean on the finish. You can feel it, but it’s just very soft on the linger. This one is really nice.”

Herald: “It has a better feel in my mouth than the other one. It seems a little bit lighter. I want to say that I can taste the cucumber-y notes, but I’m taking their word for it. This is very drinkable.” “I was tasting a little keyboard there.”

Longshoreman’s Daughter | Bearded Lady

Roaster: “Notes of molasses, cocoa, ginger and cherry, and a little bit nutty.”

Barista: “This is heft and roast-y. This one’s a little more drying on the palate. It dries my tongue out. It’s definitely heavy. It’s lingering around. The roast flavor is pretty heavy on the tongue, but the actual coffee itself doesn’t have a heavy feel.”

Herald: “This is pretty much what people serve when they serve coffee.” “It tastes most like the coffee I drink all the time. To me it tastes like standard coffee. This is my comfort flavor.”

The verdict? Bean Box is a really fun way to try different coffees.

Ryan leaned more toward the Kenya coffee. I liked the Sumatra the best. Sue’s favorite is the Bearded Lady.

Bean score

Our favorite Narrative Coffee barista scored each sample bag from 0-5 beans. Light, medium and dark roasts cannot be compared to each other.

Kenya: 4 beans

Tatoosh: 2 beans

Sumatra: 3½ beans

Bearded Lady: 3½ beans

Bean Box

721 E. Pine Street, Seattle


Each box features four roasts. Whole bean coffee in 1.8 ounce bags. Cost is $21 per month.

Coffee ships within 48 hours. Coffee subscriptions and gifts. Beans and biscotti boxes available.

Learn more at

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