This time of year, indie-music snobs the world over take great pleasure in making and criticizing each others’ year-end best-of lists. I didn’t make a list of my favorite albums because I really didn’t buy very many this year (though, I do have a favorite album – “Carrie and Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens. Devastating, beautiful, haunting, poetic, redemptive, intimate… I can’t say enough about how affecting it is!), but I thought it might be fun to revisit all the coffees I drank this year to make a “best of” list of all the java I drank in 2015.
“Everyday” in this context doesn’t really refer to price, as it seems like the vast majority of craft coffee ranges between $16-20/12 ounces anyway, so it’s all pretty comparably priced. It’s more about what I would be comfortable drinking on a regular basis and serving to other people that visit.
“Splurge” coffee is coffee that I may save for special occasions or to share with other coffee snobs. It’s coffee that I may not want to drink every day since it’s so distinctive, but is exceptional when I am inclined to drink it. It might be priced similarly to the “everyday” coffees.
Favorite “everyday” espresso: Chromatic Coffee Gamut Espresso ($16 for 12 ounces)
This should come as no shock to anyone that read this review back when I published it back in August. It’s delicious both as a straight shot and with milk, but if I had to choose, I would choose this with milk, as it becomes a rich butterscotch/caramel treat in the cup. It’s managed to hold the distinction of being the only espresso blend that Shutterbug (who is not a coffee snob at all) has requested I purchase a second time. I think at this point we’ve probably purchased 4-5 bags or so and we have no intention of stopping! It’s on regular rotation at our house and it’s definitely the closest thing we have to a “house” espresso.
Favorite “splurge” espresso: Klatch Coffee Golden Bean Espresso Blend ($19.95 for 12 ounces)
This espresso came with a fair bit of hype, so I went into this tasting cautiously, but the result in the cup shattered my expectations and then some! I was really pleased with how surprisingly forgiving the beans were – at no point did I get a bad shot, and some of the shots were among the most exceptional I’ve ever tasted. It is amazingly fragrant and complex, and in my opinion it’s a shame to add milk to this. But, if you do, it creates something akin to a lavender latte.
Favorite “everyday” coffee: Cultivar Coffee Colombia La Esperanza ($18 for 12 ounces)
This was a tough category, as there were a lot coffees vying for this spot. This roast from Cultivar edged out the competition though, because the flavor of this brewed both in a Hario V60 and in a french press is soul-restoring! It helped that I had been pining for a Colombia La Esperanza since having that Ritual cup in Los Angeles back in April. Dark chocolate, plum, spice… delicious and approachable yet interesting enough to make you really focus on the flavor.
Favorite “splurge” coffee: Square One Coffee Roasters Panama La Esmerelda Gesha Boquete ($19.95 for 12 ounces)
There are more expensive coffees I’ve had this year, but I don’t think I had anything that gave me more pleasure than this coffee. Was it that I bought it in New York City on the eve of finally seeing my favorite band of all time? Was it the experience of opening it at a coffee cupping with great friends and having all four of us blown away by the complexity? It could have been either or neither of these things… I do know though that this particular bean was remarkably sweet, fragrant, complex, and hard to really capture in words. It was astounding brewed in a french press.
And here is my top 10 list for most enjoyable cups I’ve had in 2015!
10. Ascension Peruvian Silk Blend (AeroPress)
9. Counter Culture Kenya Kamavindi (Chemex)
8. Cultivar Colombia La Esperanza (french press)
7. Klatch Panama Elida Honey (Hario V60)
6. Chromatic Gamut Espresso (flat white)
5. Counter Culture Ethiopia Kochere Birhanu Zerihun Organic (Chemex)
4. Heart Kenya Kiangoi (Chemex)
3. Sterling Kenya Nyeri Gachatha AA (Hario V60)
2. Klatch Golden Bean Espresso (straight shot)
1. Square One Panama La Esmerelda Gesha Boquete (french press)
As always, these are just my opinions… If I missed your favorite coffee this year, please don’t send me hate mail – send me suggestions for things to try! Cheers to even more deliciousness in 2016!