Fun With Ferment: Anaerobically Processed Coffees

Anaerobically processed coffee cherries drying in the whole fruit at Elida Estate in Panama. Courtesy of Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea.

In early April, some rather odd-smelling packages began arriving at the Coffee Review lab. Describing the collective aromas that wafted from them is difficult. And describing those aromas continued to be difficult once we started actually tasting the coffees inside the packages. Certainly, there was lots of fruit and chocolate. And fragrant cut cedar, and sweet flowers. But along with these more familiar coffee aromas came some that we do not usually associate with coffee. Maybe soft cheeses, like the mild goat cheese one eats in salads. Or, occasionally, more pungent cheeses like feta or blue cheese. Sometimes kefir, that gentle, tangy-creamy liquid version of yogurt. Sometimes fresh earth, tobacco or mushrooms. And occasionally, notes that we may not associate with food at all. Musk, for example, the deep, pungent, … Read more

Spring Break In a Cup: Finding Great Coffee Roasters In Coastal Communities

One of Hala Tree Coffee’s farms in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Courtesy of Hala Tree Coffee.

Every year, Coffee Review organizes a report focusing on roasting companies from various regions of the U.S.: in 2018, the Mountain States, in 2019, New England, and in 2020, the Northwest. Given that it’s been a difficult winter, to say the least, this month’s report celebrates coffees roasted in U.S. coastal communities, particularly beach towns and tourist destinations. We put out our general call for samples, augmented by ordering coffees from roasters not on our email list but situated in U.S. seaside communities known for their vacation appeal.

We ended up with 40 coffees. Once they came off the table, we discovered, partly to our chagrin, that several usual suspects had risen to the top — namely, roasters we know from Hawaii and San Diego, along with one … Read more

Coffee as a Force for Good: Roasters Who Give Back

Producer Tesfaye Bekele, owner of Suke Quto Farm in Guji, Ethiopia. Courtesy of Street Bean.

 

Like everything bought and sold, coffee can be a vehicle for profit or a tool for changing the world. Sometimes, it is both. 2020 was, unequivocally, a difficult year for the coffee industry, globally speaking, as it was for many of us working in that industry. One response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is to help others make it through the storm. Our report this month shines a spotlight on those kinds of coffee roasters, folks who have either been community-minded since their companies’ inceptions, or those just getting on the philanthropic wave.

We take a look at roasters who are contributing some portion of proceeds from the sale of their coffees to causes that are meaningful to them — from non-profits that feed local communities to scholarship funds for women of … Read more

Colombia Coffee 2021: Best of Both Worlds or Identity Crisis?

Red Rooster’s “Trust The Process” Colombia coffee was the top-rated coffee in this month’s report. Photo courtesy of Red Rooster Coffee Roaster.

 

Colombia could be approaching best-of-both-worlds status as coffee producer. On one hand, standard commodity Colombias continue rolling down to the ports and onward into “100{ab5f2c9c740426ae4c9b4912729231eec62bb8d7f7c15dd2b52ffa544e442110} Colombian” supermarket cans and jars, whose quite decent contents put to shame the bland, woody, Robusta-laden contents of competing supermarket cans and jars.

At the same time, small lots of specialty Colombia coffees, surprising and exceptional, have surfaced over the last decade or so. Until recently, these specialty Colombias aimed for a superior version of the classic power and completeness associated with the best traditional Colombia coffees. In other words, they aspired to transcend the standard-issue Colombia cup by doing the same thing, only better.

But recently, increasing numbers of Colombias have appeared on specialty lists that represent the opposite of classic. … Read more

The Year 2020 in Coffee: Challenges, Trends, Surprises & Knockouts

In 2020, COVID-19 devastated lives and businesses, challenging the global specialty coffee community to its core. On the producing side, the pandemic added still another daunting challenge to growers facing endemic low coffee prices and an ongoing battle with leaf rust disease in Latin America. On the consuming side, roasters saw the pandemic shutter their bread-and-butter café businesses while many once-nomadic coffee lovers were forced to become at-home shoppers and brewers.

But growers, importers, roasters and retailers adapted and prevailed, often in remarkable ways. At Coffee Review, exceptional coffees continued to arrive throughout the year from an even greater range of origins than before the pandemic. Farmers and roasters deserve recognition every year, but especially in 2020.

Amplifying the Top 30

As usual, we capped a year of celebrating great coffees and those who produce them with publication of our annual Top 30 list of the most exciting coffees … Read more