The Nespresso boutique that opened in SoHo last week is set up like a café, but you’d have to be insane to actually use it as such. A latte at the cafe is $6.50; a chamomile tea is $5.50; a grilled tuna sandwich is $16. Espresso is $4. Meanwhile, at the boutique part upstairs, espresso is free — provided you indulge a sales person in a little pitch and demo. Clearly, the point of the boutique is not so much to host patrons as it is to remind shoppers that the coffee is café quality. As Eater pointed out, it’s to Nespresso what Pop-Tarts World in Times Square is to, well, Pop-Tarts.
Coinciding with the opening of the boutique is Nespresso’s launch of Kazaar, its newest super-strong blend, available for $0.62 cents per capsule, compared to the usual $0.55. It’s been hyped as a “monster,” a 12 on the company’s 1-10 scale of intensity, but does it live up to all the (ahem) buzz?
Kazaar is sourced from Robusta and Arabica beans from South and Central America. It’s recommended as an espresso blend, able to stand up to the added milk in a latte or cappuccino. It’s also classified as a Grand Cru by Nespresso. The company uses the designation the French assign to wine to describe its coffee capsules. It’s even hired Top Chef alum (and forthcoming All-Star) Stephen Asprinio as a sommelier and brand ambassador, who when we chatted compared Kazaar to “the kind of wine Americans like”: i.e., big. And he wasn’t wrong.
The inky, truffled brew was tannic, with high acidity. It stays on the happy side of bitter, with finish so long that you’ll need a good scraping to remove it from the palate. It certainly qualified as big, perhaps even as a “monster.” Apparently, this is what Americans want in a coffee, much like what they seek in a wine (or a car?). Subtlety is sneered at, exaggeration admired. I much prefer the Rosabaya, with its restrained, earthy elegance (full disclosure: so does Asprinio). But if Kazaar is anything to go by, coffees will continue to get bigger before size stops mattering so much. American wines are only now starting to pull back after decades of being distinguished by big, jammy fruit and tons of oak. Coffee culture is just really taking off, and surely the quest for intensity is all just part of the backlash against years of weak coffee. But weak and soft are two different things (in French, they say velouté: velvety). Sure, Kazaar does big well, but bigger isn’t necessarily better.