The World and the Cupping Table: 25 Years of Change at Coffee Review

Kenneth Davids in the Coffee Review lab circa 2007.


Coffee Review has been reviewing coffees and reporting in depth on the world of specialty coffee since 1997, making this our 25th year of slurping, spitting and writing. Over those 25 years, we have published reviews of thousands of coffees, tasted tens of thousands more, and produced more than 350 in-depth monthly reports on coffee growing regions, processing methods, tree varieties, and roaster issues. We were the first in the world to apply 100-point ratings to coffees (in 1997) and the first online publication to offer serious in-depth coffee reviewing and reporting. (During our early years most roasters hadn’t developed websites; we published phone numbers). You can find an account of our founding years here.

What in coffee has changed over these 25 years, particularly as seen from the perspective of our cupping table? What has not changed?

Our … Read more

An In-Depth Look at the Top 30 Coffees of 2021

Coffee Review’s list of the Top 30 Coffees of 2021 represents our ninth annual ranking of the most exciting coffees we tested over the course of the year. This annual effort supports our mission of helping consumers identify and purchase superior quality coffees and, in the process, helping drive demand and increase prices to reward farmers and roasters who invest time, passion and capital in producing high-quality coffee. The Top 30 celebrates and promotes coffee roasters, farmers, mill operators, importers, and other coffee industry professionals who make an extra effort to produce coffees that are not only superb in quality but also distinctive in character.

In 2021, we tasted more than 2,000 coffee samples and published more than 500 reviews. These reviews focus primarily on the highest-rated coffees, which are of most interest to our readers. This year, roughly one out of four of the more than 2,000 coffees … Read more

Our Love Affair with Geisha — It’s Not Just a Panama Thing Anymore

Geisha seedlings in a Chiapas, Mexico nursery. Courtesy of Kim Westerman.

The Geisha variety of Arabica is the most expensive green coffee in the world. Year after year, this sought-after variety — known for (in the hands of a good roaster) its florality, delicate fruit, integrated structure and balance — breaks new price records in the Best of Panama auction. The Panama with the highest price in 2021 was a Geisha that sold for $2,568.00 — per pound. It’s gotten stratospheric in the way that wine auctions did long ago. You can debate the relative (in)sanity of this phenomenon, but the fact is that Geisha is the darling of the specialty coffee world.

Geisha’s Migration Around The Globe

Geisha originated in the Gori Gesha Forest of Ethiopia, but made its spectacular appearance on the global specialty coffee stage in Panama, where, in 2004, a Geisha grown by the Peterson family … Read more

Yemen Coffees: Variations on the World’s Oldest Cup Profile

Coffee typically grows on steep terraced slopes in Yemen. Courtesy of Port of Mokha.

As most readers know, Yemen is the oldest continuously cultivated coffee in the world. The Coffea arabica tree originated in Ethiopia but was first systematically cultivated and commercialized in Yemen starting in about 1500. Until European colonists got into the game about 200 years later, Yemen produced virtually all of the coffee drunk in the world.

And, surprisingly, however, much coffee production practices changed as coffee spread from Yemen to the rest of the world, Yemen has stayed with its original, ancient methods. Most Yemen coffees today are still produced almost exactly as they have been for hundreds of years: The coffee fruit is picked and laid out to dry on rooftops, the dried fruit husks are split open with millstones, and the beans are winnowed and cleaned by hand. Until recently, the only changes in … Read more

Tradition, Diversity & Measured Innovation Elevate Guatemala Coffees

Women taking a break while working in a coffee nursery on a Guatemalan farm. Courtesy of Kenneth Davids. 

While some people in the specialty coffee industry still refer to the “classic Central America cup,” effectively lumping together the diverse coffee-producing countries of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica, it is more the trend now to make increasingly fine distinctions among these origins in terms of varieties, processing, and cup profiles specific to each. Single-origin coffees are the primary driver of sales in the specialty market, and this month, we look at the coffees of Guatemala, something we haven’t done in report format since 2013.

When Coffee Review editor Kenneth Davids surveyed the landscape of Guatemala coffees more than 20 years ago, the themes that emerged were growing region, roast level, and the efforts of Anacafe, the Guatemalan Coffee Association founded in 1960, to frame the country as … Read more