Single-farm Guatemalan coffee, lavender lattes, satiny-smooth nitro cold brew — the coffee we have to choose from on Long Island constantly grows more manifold.
Even so, like many people, I grab a $1.84 morning cup on the run at least twice a week — in my case, at a 7-Eleven on Horseblock Road in Farmingville. I love this bustling 7-Eleven for many reasons, including the warm staff, salty customer banter and constantly unfolding parking lot drama — but also because, among 7-Elevens, it has especially well-brewed coffee, always hot and fresh.
This spring, a new urn sprouted on my 7-Eleven’s coffee island: Black and gray instead of orange, with bold lettering reading 7R Seven Reserve Africa Blend. Specifically, coffee made with Arabica beans sourced directly from small farms in Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe and Rwanda’s Nyamagabe regions.
Ethiopian coffee at 7-Eleven felt like a gift, one that might be taken away at any moment. I grabbed some immediately and during every visit since. What I thought was a cutting-edge move by the chain, however, isn’t exactly that; it’s about staying competitive, and it’s nothing novel. “Your convenience store may not have the sophistication that smaller roasters do, but places like 7-Eleven, Wawa and QuickChek have always done limited-time offers,” said Spencer Turer, vice president of Coffee Enterprises in Burlington, Vt.
Coffee Enterprises consults on coffee sourcing and quality control for some of the largest food and drink purveyors around the world (though Turer can’t say who, think really, really big guns). While roasters and independent shops may have the edge in terms of early trends, Turer said, stores such as 7-Eleven can offer lower prices, driven by volume, and, well, convenience. As for Ethiopian coffee, Turer said that despite slightly off the norm, it lends a unique character to blends. “Because of the intensity, you can blend [Ethiopian beans] and their flavors stay discernible in the finished product.”
Despite the tasting notes on the side of the Africa Blend’s urn — “blackberry,” “chocolate,” “rich and complex” — the coffee is, at least to me, bright, light and citrusy. Each morning I stop, I brace myself for its disappearance, but so far it seems to be sticking around for the summer.