Brazil Naturals: Tradition and Innovation

Mill devoted to smaller-lot specialty coffees at Ipanema Farms in the Sul de Minas growing region, Brazil. Courtesy of Ipanema Farms.

 

When I first opened a specialty café in Berkeley, California 40 years ago, a Brazil always appeared among the standard whole-bean coffee offerings in the 10 or so glass-fronted bins that held our whole-bean coffees. All of the popular and glamorous coffee origins of the time were there: Guatemala Antigua, Kenya AA, Costa Rica Tarrazu, Sumatra Mandheling, Colombia Supremo, and the new, game-changing Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. Brazil Santos, as we liked to call it (all of these origins had to sport at least one secondary qualifying name), was usually down at the end of the row, largely looked past when customers ordered a pound of Kenya or Guatemala.

But some customers did buy Brazils. I remember one particularly coffee-savvy young employee who skillfully worked our Gaggia two-group piston espresso … Read more

Darker-Roasted Coffees: Not Just Old-School Anymore

 

Coffee plants growing at Finca Cruz Loma in Ecuador. Courtesy of Simon Hsieh.

 

Every few years, we at Coffee Review like to survey the dark roast landscape. Dark-roasted coffee is a daily staple for some coffee drinkers and anathema to others. But there appears to be a sweet spot that appeals to a wide range of coffee-drinking styles that’s not too light and not too dark, making equal space for those who drink their coffee black and those who doctor it with dairy, nut and oat milks, coconut cream, etc. As with everything we consume, personal preference rules, and it was nice to learn, by way of cupping for this month’s report, that there’s a great deal of range offered by today’s darker-roasted coffee profiles.

Of the 14 coffees we review for this month’s report, four were purchased as benchmarks for the darker-roasted category. They include two widely … Read more

Interview: Kenneth Davids Discusses His New Book, 21st Century Coffee: A Guide

Kenneth Davids’ new book, inside and out. Courtesy Kenneth Davids.

 

“When my first book about coffee came out in the 1970s,” Coffee Review editor Kenneth Davids says, “people I met at parties used to wonder how I managed to find enough to write about coffee to fill a whole book on the subject.” Given the explosion of coffee innovation and change since then that Davids describes with affectionate yet thorough detail in his latest book, 21st Century Coffee: A Guide, coffee insiders today may wonder how he managed to get away with writing one new book this time rather than two or three. Nevertheless, he appears to have gotten most of the latest innovation and excitement in coffee into his latest volume, enriched by a perspective afforded by his over forty years of active engagement with the specialty coffee world.

The book offers particularly detailed chapters on … Read more

Reflections on the Art of Coffee Blending: Daily Drinkers With Personality

Diedrich IR-7 coffee roaster at Old Soul Co in 2006, used to roast the original Whiskey Dreams Moka Java Blend. Courtesy of Andri Tambunan.

The idea of the coffee blend is a long and winding road. Blends give roasters an opportunity to create a coffee that evokes specific sensory properties, and blends are often designed to give consumers a consistent experience over time (much like a Champagne house approaches the non-vintage brut). But before consumers began insisting upon knowing the origins of what’s in their cup, it wasn’t all that common for roasters to label blend components on the bag, or even necessarily indicate that a coffee is a blend.

In this month’s report, we consider the “house blend,” a full 25 years after Kenneth Davids, co-founder of Coffee Review, wrote this publication’s first-ever report, which happened to be on this very topic. Embedded in that first report … Read more

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