Found Familiar is a small coffee roaster with artwork and blends inspired by fantasy worlds and roleplaying games, particularly Dungeons & Dragons. Enraptured by the stories behind the coffee and the fantastic art gracing the bags, librarian and noted coffee consumer Alenka Figa and former barista Kate Lyons ordered a selection of the three most enticing coffees and sat down with a webcam and a french press. Together, we split a bag of Fey Step, a Guatemalan medium roast; Rogue Panache, a Peruvian blonde roast; and Thieves’ Cant, a secret blend of beans that varies in roast and origin. Armed with Alenka’s good taste and Kate’s caffeine dependency, it was time to drink.
Fey Step is a medium roast grown in the Huehuetenango department of Guatemala, a country known for full bodied coffee and nutty tasting notes. According to Found Familiar, Fey Step is “a balanced, sweet coffee with a honey aroma” with “notes of apples and almonds upfront with a deep sweetness and lingering milk chocolate finish.” We both found that description broadly matched our cups: a hint of tartness and high acidity coupled for a nice, bright, light drink. The apple flavor note provides a lasting aftertaste, and reminded us of our favorite rogue, who once stole three silver pieces from a random hookup. Obviously the pleasant aftertaste in that case was just for the rogue, but maybe he could offer some Fey Step as an apology!
We received a bag of Fey Step adorned with the “‘Otto’ Autumn” design, illustrated by Jessica Nguyen. Nguyen’s work is intricate and lush; even without the title, the warm golds and browns of the design scream “Fall!” The fey character she created for the bag holds a lute and wears a small smile, suggesting that they’re a sweet, caring bard whose magic connects deeply to the natural world. It would be easy to build a character based off such a detailed illustration, but caffeine addicts can also simply drink in the warmth of the image as they throw back their morning coffee.
Rogue Panache is a light roast from Cusco, Peru. Peruvian coffee is known for being aromatic, with dark chocolate and citrus notes. Found Familiar describes Rogue Panache as “a balanced, medium-heavy bodied coffee that is floral and sweet with delicate notes of oolong tea.” Both of us enjoyed Rogue Panache quite a bit; it offered an earthy, almost spiced cup of coffee, though the high acidity meant maybe you shouldn’t have too much on an empty stomach.
This roast would serve particularly well as dessert coffee, paired with something sweet like dried figs or rich chocolate. Drink it while spending far too long leveling up—it should take at least five hours to decide on a feat, right?—or over a long in-game shopping trip. Make sure to pour extra for your GM.
Our bag of Rogue Panache bore an illustration from Nguyen Minh Hieu, depicting an elf with glowing hair and tattoos. This character seems to be mid-battle-cry, and the cocky tilt of their mouth suggests that they’re delivering a really sick burn. What a perfect rogue! The elf’s hair is so vibrant, it seems like it is about to burst into actual flames and pop right off the bag. It’s an exciting image to see each time you grind fresh beans, and would certainly help wake up a player after a session that ran a bit too long.
Thieves’ Cant is a secret blend. Going in, it was an absolute mystery—the only hints we had were the flavor notes on the bag and Found Familiar’s description: “A seasonally changing blend of coffees taken to different roast profiles. Stands up to cream and sugar while maintaining a complexity found in dark roast coffees with a toasty, nutty character.” Once we brewed it, we found Thieves’ Cant’s flavor profile to be as complex as they promised. It was well-blended, and no particular flavor stood out and outshone its peers.
Thieves’ Cant was a balanced workhorse of a blend, and as a dark roast (at least, in this incarnation) the lower caffeine content makes it great for your afternoon brew. Drink this as you ready for an evening of dungeoneering after working all day. Pair it with something nice and lemony to munch on and you’ve got the perfect gaming snack.
Meghan Pagliaroni designed the illustration on the bag of Thieves’ Cant that we received. The burly figures on this bag are eyeing each other like teammates who have had enough of each other’s bullshit—is a double-cross afoot? Or perhaps they’re sharing a look because they’ve both noticed the shadowy figure looming behind them, and, as thieves, they’re used to being in trouble. While you slowly sip your cup of this roast, consider the ensuing bar fight amongst these compelling characters.
Our overall experience with Found Familiar’s coffee was thoroughly positive. Finding the coffee in the mail was a wonderful pick-me-up when the pandemic was just starting to change our everyday lives, and while we couldn’t drink the coffee together in person, it provided a nice opportunity to connect over the distance. Alenka’s partner—typically an exclusive coffee-with-milk drinker—participated in some of the tasting and has only drunk black coffee since! Found Familiar truly has barbarian strength; their brews have convinced my partner that coffee can be delicious enough to drink without any additions.
We both agreed that we’d definitely order from them again, and would order from them more frequently if we weren’t blessed by Chicago’s plentiful local coffee scene. The gorgeous art on the bags also makes this coffee a perfect gift for your favorite GM or party-mate—or for yourself! We all deserve something nice right now.
Alenka Figa is a queer librarian obsessed with D&D podcasts that have solid queer rep. They frequently tweet about them @alenkafiga. Catch their reviews of zines and indie comics over at Women Write About Comics.