Our friends Seung Jin and Diane are blogging their way through a gastronomic exploration of Seoul’s culinary landscape, which led Claire and me to a nice Sunday brunch at the Grand Hyatt last weekend. The food and setting was very nice, and perhaps it was just the company influencing my perception, but I’d say the food and price at the grand Hyatt were the best overall of the three pricey hotel brunches I’ve tried in Seoul (Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, W Hotel). Everything tasted fresh and most of the items were well executed. But I’ll leave the food blogging to those more capable.

My first thought when we set the brunch date was that the food would be awesome. Second thought was that the coffee was going to suck. There’s always this mismatch between the food and the coffee preparation at nice restaurants. So, rather than enjoy an awesome meal and then finish it off with nasty coffee, I looked at my bag of Guatemala Finca Isnul (2009 Cup of Excellence) roasted by Republic of Coffee, and started thinking about how I could bring it with me.

The Aeropress stood out as the best tool for the job – light, self-contained, and easy to deal with the mess. Pre-ground coffee* stored inside with the plunger down, then just extend it and remove the filter, pour in water, steep, stir, flip, press. I asked for tea to get some hot water to brew with, and it was probably way off in temperature by the time I got it, but the coffee still tasted much better than the other options available.

The Finca Isnul 2009 COE is a really rich coffee, it tastes like a blend of what I’d thought were characteristics from Central America and South East Asia; sweet red wine-like acidity and chocolate notes very nicely integrated with prominent earthy, smokey, tobacco-ish flavor. Is this complexity characteristic of the hybrid Pacamara varietal? I don’t know; still got much to learn about the agricultural side of coffee. Regardless, it’s an interesting flavor, I enjoyed it a lot.

It was a bit of a risk trying to improvise and do an upside down Aeropress at the table; I was half expecting to spray hot coffee on everyone. But it worked perfectly, and filled two tea cups with great coffee to share with each side of the table!

*Looking at the spent coffee puck, my Kalita hand mill obviously produces a lot of fines. Maybe I should sieve it. Also, I think the grind was a tiny bit too coarse, but whatever!