Review: George Howell Coffee Nicaragua Las Colinas (Boston, Massachusetts)

This was the second bag I recently picked up from Astro Coffee in Detroit (the first being the Andytown Colombia). I had never heard of George Howell Coffee before, but I liked the packaging and the beans were very fresh, so I decided to take a chance.

Once I finished my tasting and I started writing up this review, I realized that I must have been living under a rock, because George Howell is no stranger to the specialty coffee world. It’s worth reading his full story on the roaster’s website, but suffice to say, you don’t get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America just for making cortados. Hats off to you, sir.

Whole bean: Cherry, black tea, bright and refreshing, with a buttery aroma once ground.

French press: Smells like roses and tastes like black tea. Ultra smooth, but kind of hollow in flavor. This doesn’t really taste like coffee at all! This has a thicker texture to it than tea but if I was blindfolded, I might be fooled. Just out of curiosity, I added a splash of milk, but this ended up bringing out different flavors than I was expecting – the milk made the coffee taste more juicy, with notes of lemon and butter.

Chemex: The rose scent and flavor were more on the forefront with this brewing method. Complex, sweet, layered cup.

AeroPress: This had a lovely light, reddish-brown caramel color to it. Much lighter in color than a typical cup of coffee – I think the last time I saw a cup this color might have been the Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Panama La Milagrosa Geisha. Rich mouthfeel but unlike the OCCR Geisha, it wasn’t super flavorful, even as a concentrate.

V60: This was the best method for these beans, in my opinion. Rose, amaretto, chocolate. Smooth and sweet. This cup was a definite winner!

Summary: Lovely floral notes abound in this coffee. This is quite a light roast and may be strange for people that are used to their coffee tasting “like coffee,” but I really enjoyed it, particularly brewed in the Hario V60 due to the rich flavors and balanced nature of the cup.

From the roaster: Passionfruit, chocolate, black tea

George Howell Coffee Nicaragua Las Colinas

Review conducted at 7 days post-roast.

Review: Andytown Coffee Roasters Colombia Las Planadas (San Francisco, California)

A quick trip recently to Michigan found me seeking out local shops/roasters in the Detroit area. I had about 10 minutes to decide where I was going, and luckily for me, I found a terrific little shop called Astro in the Corktown area of Detroit. I saw several shelves of roasters, notably Heart and Kuma, but I was more interested in trying roasters I hadn’t yet tried before, so I was happy to grab a bag from George Howell Coffee and this bag from Andytown.

I first heard about Andytown via reviews from the excellent blog The Coffee Concierge. Andytown is a San Francisco-area company that bakes, serves coffee, and roasts beans all from their 600-square-foot space. Their “About” page is warm and charming, and certainly makes me want to visit the next time I’m in that area!

I also enjoyed this, printed on the bag behind the information card:

It brought to mind “I Like Birds,” by Eels. 🙂

Whole bean: Smells sweet like honey! Super fragrant.

French press: The dominant flavor was of chocolate/cocoa powder. It was less sweet than the aroma of the beans promised, but it had a lovely citrusy tang on the finish, like tangerine. Really tasty.

Chemex: Easy drinking cup that tastes like cocoa powder but it’s missing the tangerine element of the press pot cup. Not bad, but I felt this cup had less personality.

AeroPress: The citrus flavor was the most present in this cup, with a nice thick texture and bright flavors.

V60: Bittersweet chocolate flavor that had a bite to it, but it smoothed out as it cooled.

Summary: I liked this coffee in the French press best, as I felt it brought out the best balance between the chocolaty depth and the citrusy brightness. I was a tiny bit disappointed that the coffee smelled sweeter in bean form than it actually ended up in the cup, but it’s nothing a drop of honey wouldn’t cure if you swing that way!

From the roaster: Lightly floral, full-bodied, honey sweet

Andytown Coffee Roasters Colombia Las Planadas

Review conducted 6 days post-roast.

Review: Patriot Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido (Lakeland, Florida)

From time to time, I get contacted by coffee companies who are interested in introducing me to their products, and I get pretty excited if it is a craft coffee company doing the talking. Such was the case when I got an email from Patriot Coffee Roasters, out of Lakeland, Florida. Take a look at their “About” page; I think you’ll clearly see the passion and dedication that is present in every word!

I had no idea what kind of coffee would be coming to my door (single-origin? blend?), as I don’t typically dictate gifts, but I was thrilled to open the box from Patriot to find this Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido. I love Ethiopian coffee, and the previous time I had tried an Idido coffee (from Novel Coffee Roasters), I was very impressed, so I couldn’t wait to crack this bag open.

Whole bean: hint of fruit in the aroma – raspberry? This almost smelled like perfume, in the best possible way. Definitely could smell hibiscus. My mouth was watering.

V60: This made a smooth cup with a hint of the perfume-like flavor I smelled in the whole bean form. Sweet but muted. This would make a great cup for newbies to Ethiopian coffee.

AeroPress: Very intense flavor, rich and satisfying. It was almost prismatic, the layers of fruit and floral flavor. Wowza.

Chemex: Delicate, like fruit tea. Sweet and fragrant. This had a whispery quality to it which I reveled in. If the AeroPress cup reminded me of Freddie Mercury’s intensity, this Chemex cup was more reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens’s hushed vocals.

French press: Richer flavor, but I felt this was unbalanced. Muddy texture and overall a less satisfying cup vs. the paper-filtered methods.

Summary: This coffee is delicious, and I rank it as the first real standout coffee I’ve had in 2017. I wouldn’t recommend it in a french press, but it makes a great cup when you use filtered methods. My personal favorite was the coffee that was made in the Chemex, because I really enjoy the subtle nuances of this origin, but it made very enjoyable cups in the Hario V60 and the AeroPress as well, depending on your tastes. Thanks to Patriot Coffee Roasters for the introduction – I’ll definitely be ordering from you guys again!

When I was writing up this review, I came across this entry on Patriot’s own blog regarding their cupping of this coffee. We agree that the french press doesn’t showcase these beans to their full potential, but they unanimously agreed that the AeroPress was the clear winner here. Potato, po-tah-to, if you ask me – it’s hard to get a bad cup of coffee with these beans!

From the roaster: stewed berries, hibiscus, nectarine, caramel sweetness, syrupy body

Patriot Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido

Review conducted at 6 days post-roast.

Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket.

Review: Eiland Coffee Roasters Espresso X (Richardson, Texas)

“How do you decide what coffee to buy?”

I wish I could say that I have a system for this, but I really don’t! Coffee isn’t my day job, so contrary to popular belief, I don’t spend all day thinking about it or making plans for where to get my next fix… erm, I mean cup. I do have a list on my computer of roasters that I’d like to eventually check out, and as time and finances permit, I do chip away at that list. However, about half of the time, the coffee that makes its way into my home is the coffee that catches my eye somehow while I’m out and about. Most of my coffee purchases are done directly from roasters or from specialty coffee shops. Occasionally, though, I have good luck at Whole Foods markets, as was the case with this bag.

I’ve reviewed and enjoyed Eiland Coffee before, when I got a chance to buy their Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi at Dallas Coffee Day 2015. Even though their roasting headquarters are probably only 20 minutes or so away from where I live, I keep forgetting how relatively local they are to me so I haven’t tried any of their other beans until now. This Espresso X was fresh and it had been a while since I had purchased a local roaster. Game on!

Whole bean: Super sweet. Chocolate and almond. I typically try not to look too closely at the tasting notes on bags prior to doing these reviews, but I couldn’t help but notice the words, “rock candy” on the label. They’re not kidding!

Espresso: Unlike the Ritual Day Drinker espresso, which was complex and sunny and almost didn’t taste like coffee, Eiland’s Espresso X would be what I would consider to be an espresso for everyone. This is not a frou-frou bean, but it is not dark or bitter either. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor notes, but what notes it does have (chocolate, sugar) are REALLY tasty. Smooth, sweet, and eminently pleasurable to drink any time of day.

Favorite parameters for this blend: 204 degrees F, 17 grams in, 28 grams out, 28 second extraction.

With milk: I just had a sip of Shutterbug’s latte to see what I thought of this espresso + milk. It didn’t disappoint – it tasted very much to me like Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream!! Granted, there was additional sugar in the cup, but the same creamy, smooth, luscious flavor was there. If I ran a coffee shop, this would be the sort of espresso I’d keep around as a “house” espresso. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t love this.

AeroPress: These beans weren’t quite as special in the AeroPress… Not bad by any means, but I just felt it tasted like good strong coffee. A bit generic, as I was missing the chocolate flavor that was present in the espresso. However, I will say that with a bit of sugar added, the coffee tastes pretty much exactly like it smells. One common lament I hear from people is that they love the smell of coffee but don’t like how it doesn’t taste as good as it smells. I’d love to brew them some of this and see if they change their mind.

Summary: I challenge you to find a more comforting, delicious espresso shot than this. It’s simple, but done exceedingly well. This isn’t trendy – it’s a classic.

From the roaster: Rock candy, milk chocolate

Eiland Coffee Roasters Espresso X

Review: Cartel Coffee Lab Ethiopia Kochere (Phoenix, Arizona)

When you think of airport coffee, you probably think of Starbucks, right? Well, if you ever find yourself in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, make your way over to Terminal 4 to visit Cartel Coffee Lab’s PHX location. As is typical when I travel somewhere new, when I arrived in Phoenix, I Googled “best coffee roasters in Phoenix” and Cartel was a name I saw come up more than once. It being the holidays, family time was the priority so I didn’t have time to run around all over town to seek out roasters, but I was thrilled to see that Cartel had this airport location and I was hopeful that their beans would be fresh. Happily, they were!

When I took this bag of their Ethiopia Kochere to the register, I asked for a bag to carry the coffee in, because at that point I had my bags of Stumptown Sleigh Ride and Ritual’s Day Drinker seasonal espresso in my purse and I was running out of room. The barista asked what other beans I got and when I mentioned Ritual in particular, I got this reaction:

Nothing like meeting a complete stranger and feeling understood. #kindredspirits

Whole bean: Blackberry, butterscotch, nougat. Incredibly fragrant cofffee.

V60: The first wave of scent that hit me was of dog. Not wet dog, and it wasn’t unpleasant, but it definitely smelled like I was holding a wriggly puppy in my arms! As the coffee sat a bit, I got notes of floral stem, grass, and caramel. I did unintentionally brew this coffee a bit on the long side (3:50 extraction). This is a pretty dense bean – adjust your grinders accordingly.

AeroPress: Quite sweet and sugary! No dog here. I didn’t need to add any additional water to this cup – it had a complex, dry finish that was very enjoyable.

Chemex: Bright, dry, puckery coffee. Caramel and blackberry in this cup. Tart.

French press: Richer and sweeter flavor than the other coffee methods, but still bright in taste. Hard to pinpoint flavors in this cup. I will say though that compared to the AeroPress cup, the french press coffee tasted oddly watered down.

Espresso: Since I liked this coffee so much in the AeroPress, I opted to experiment with making it as a single-origin espresso. I only pulled a few shots, but I got a lovely flavor of lemon and lilac with a sugary aroma.

Summary: Loved these beans brewed in an AeroPress. Also makes a nice single-origin espresso if you’re into bright, floral flavor!

From the roaster: Black tea with subtle tropical fruit and floral qualities

Cartel Coffee Lab Ethiopia Kochere

Review: Ritual Coffee Roasters Day Drinker Seasonal Espresso (San Francisco, California)

I had my first experience with Ritual Coffee Roasters while visiting Cognoscenti Coffee in the Los Angeles area, and I was really impressed with the quality of the beans and the flavor that I received in that cup (chocolate, plum, spice). However, I have yet to order online directly from Ritual because 1) their coffee is on the pricey side and 2) their shipping is also on the pricey side. I’m not averse to paying a premium for great-quality beans, but with so many great roasters out there (many of whom offer free or significantly lower shipping costs), ordering from Ritual had fallen lower on the priority list. No roasters local to me carry Ritual, but while in Scottsdale, Arizona, I happened to walk into Maverick Coffee and they were carrying Ritual’s Day Drinker seasonal espresso. When I asked about buying beans, they kindly broke open a 5 lb bag of this stuff and put it into an unmarked 12 oz bag for me. We had a nice chat about brewing methods and tasting notes. I think the staff was kidding, but thanks for the job offer…! 😉

Here’s the espresso I was served in their shop. It took me a little longer than I would have liked to get the photo taken, so you can see that the crema on the espresso is starting to dissipate. Still tasted lovely, like milk chocolate and oranges with a slightly spicy bite to it. I couldn’t wait to experiment more with it at home, as I had a hunch that there would be even more flavors awaiting me. I was right.

Whole bean: Fresh and sweet. I was reminded of the smell of clean laundry. Dryer sheets. Sunshine. Odd but pleasant scent for a coffee!

Espresso: Lots of brightness to this blend at lower temperatures – I got a lot of orange pith in the cup until I cranked my machine up to 204 degrees Fahrenheit. Once I did that, the flavor in the cup smoothed out but still remained wonderfully complex. Sweet, chocolaty, floral, with that same note of laundered freshness that filled up my nose when I smelled the whole beans. I’ve rarely experienced an espresso like this – it reminded me quite a bit actually of Klatch Coffee’s Golden Bean Espresso that was a winner in my “best of 2015” list. This isn’t a normal espresso – I’m actually pretty impressed that Maverick was pulling this as their espresso that day since it isn’t what I would consider to be a “workhorse” sort of espresso. It’s quite special!

Favorite parameters for this blend: 204 degrees F, 17 grams in, 32 grams out, 26 second extraction.

With milk: I don’t typically have espresso with milk anyway, but I was especially averse to adding milk to this espresso. Something this complex needs to be enjoyed on its own! But, I did make a couple of lattes for Shutterbug with this stuff. His comment was that it didn’t taste like coffee. Good flavor, but definitely not a “normal” latte.

AeroPress: This was a surprise. I had expected this cup to taste like a muted version of the espresso, but the main flavor I got in the cup was of toasted marshmallow. The finish was of sweet orange, but the overall taste took me to a campfire. Not what I expected at all but hugely enjoyable!

Summary: Lots of surprises in this cup for adventurous palates. If you’re used to nutty, dark, moody espresso, this brew will be perplexing to you, but don’t knock it ’til you try it! I don’t think this is an espresso you can quaff mindlessly – it’ll make you think. And I sure enjoy thinking. 🙂

From the roaster: Rum-soaked pears, candied ginger, star anise, chocolate covered oranges

(Damn, I need to up my game in the tasting department!! I can definitely see the pear and candied ginger now that they mention it.)

Ritual Coffee Roasters Day Drinker Seasonal Espresso

 

Review: Stumptown Coffee Roasters Sleigh Ride (Portland, Oregon)

I almost never buy “holiday blends,” but this bag was a nice surprise at a Whole Foods location in Phoenix during the Christmas holidays. Impressively, it was only 4 days off roast when I bought it! That’s exceptionally fresh coffee for retail, especially considering that the nearest Stumptown roasting facility is in Los Angeles. I had to laugh a little when I saw the name of this blend, because for a freelance orchestral musician, there’s just about no other piece that evokes December and holiday craziness better than Leroy Anderson’s classic. Shaq conducting the Boston Pops in this piece is traditional viewing for me every year – I dare you to not grin while watching.

Whole bean: Scent of bittersweet chocolate and a hint of orange filled the room when I opened this bag.

V60: Light-bodied cup that tasted of chocolate but with a pleasant bite to the finish (not overly sweet). I wrote in my notes, “really good with vanilla ice cream.” Take that as you will. 😉

AeroPress: Hint of black cherry along with chocolate. Overall flavor is a bit edgy, not very sweet.

Chemex: Sesame seeds?? This cup smelled like tahini paste. Weirdly savory and confounding flavor – what a left turn from the whole bean and the other methods. And yes, my Chemex was clean…

French press: Smooth scent and flavor of dark chocolate with a bit of powdery brightness on the finish. This was my favorite method for these beans.

Summary: For a blend, I was surprised at the flavor variation produced by the different methods. I think brewing it in a French press produces the best cup, as I like the comforting richness and fuller body of this method (it reminds me a little bit of hot cocoa!), and it seems to feel right for wintertime. However, if you like a “cleaner” cup, try it in a V60. And have a nice dessert with it!

From the roaster: Sleigh Ride will bring warmth and joy to your holidays. This cup will take you on a journey with rich notes of chocolate and cherry accented by a touch of marzipan and baking spice to evoke aromas that remind us of holiday celebrations.

I undoubtedly got this bag of Sleigh Ride at the tail end of its availability (right before Christmas), and it’s not on the Stumptown website. However, here’s a link to their current coffees for sale. I can personally vouch for their Hair Bender!

Stumptown Coffee Online Store

Review: Blue Bottle Perfectly Ground for Pour Over (Oakland, California)

When I bought Blue Bottle’s Kenya Embu Gikirima in whole bean format, I placed an order at the same time for the same coffee in Perfectly Ground, ground for pourover. Perfectly Ground is the name for Blue Bottle’s new line of coffee which has been ground and then directly sealed in individual oxygen-free bags so that the coffee will taste just as fresh as freshly ground coffee once you tear open each bag. On their website, Blue Bottle has a short video introducing the concept, featuring their founder James Freeman. In it, he claims that despite his own skepticism (he called pre-ground coffee an “abomination”), in multiple cuppings, he and his staff could not taste the difference between the Perfectly Ground and freshly ground coffee, and I was intrigued enough to give it a shot.

You can choose to buy Perfectly Ground pre-ground for AeroPress, French press, pourover, or auto drip machine (coffee maker). I chose to get Perfectly Ground in pourover since I find that pourover is the trickiest of the manual methods to get right, as both the grind size and freshness of the coffee really make a difference in how the coffee flavors are extracted. Immersion methods like the AeroPress and french press are more forgiving because the grind size isn’t quite as critical to the brewing process. If this pre-ground coffee gets good results as a pourover cup, that bodes quite well for all of the other grind sizes.

The Perfectly Ground coffee arrived a couple of days before my whole bean coffee, but unlike the whole bean coffee, I didn’t have to worry about consuming them within a two-week window; this pre-ground coffee will reportedly remain fresh until April 10, 2017. It came in an attractive box which housed 5 packets.

This booklet is the first thing you see when you open up the box.

I have to say, this box is quite sturdy. Yes, there was a bit of wasted space, as the five packets don’t take up the whole box and they had to add that light blue cardboard buffer to keep everything snug, but the packets arrived in perfect shape. Nothing is going to crush this box, especially since it was shipped inside another box!

The back of each envelope has step-by-step instructions on how to brew pourover coffee for anyone new to the process. For each packet (22g of coffee), they recommend 350g of water. My usual Hario V60 proportions are 25g coffee to 400g water so the ratio is the same (1:16).

During the brewing process, the first thing I noticed was that the bloom was notably absent compared to when I brewed fresh beans. Usually, the bloom will start to settle down around the 30 second mark, but with this cup of the Perfectly Ground, the bloom was poor and the bit of water I used for the bloom sifted right through the beans within 15 seconds. Visually speaking, this was not a great sign of freshness. But, the total brewing time, start to finish, took 3:10, which is right in the ballpark of where I usually end up with this method. A promising sign, as this means the grind size was correct.

How did it taste? Well, I was stunned by how complex the coffee was in the cup. I tasted sweet white wine, green grapes, and caramelized sugar. It was pleasantly tart and vibrant, with notes of lychee and kiwi on the finish. What a powerhouse of flavor!! I may not have been impressed with how the bloom looked, but I sure was impressed by the taste of this coffee. This is like no other pre-ground coffee I’ve ever encountered – I definitely think I would have been fooled in a blind tasting.

Interestingly, despite being the same varietal, the tasting notes for this bean differ on the Perfectly Ground box (Riesling, marmalade, candied ginger) vs. the bag of whole beans (cacao nibs, tea, citrus). I do think the notes on the box were a very fair representation of what was in the cup. I DID taste a difference between this and the whole bean version of this coffee in that the Perfectly Ground cup was more tart and the freshly ground cup I made in the V60 was more sweet/bitter, but both tasted fresh. If I was served the Perfectly Ground cup in a coffee shop, I would have no complaints.

This box of 5 single-serving packets of Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground coffee is $17.50 with free shipping, which averages out to $3.50 per bag. Is it worth it? Well, if you’re someone that enjoys craft coffee but doesn’t want to spend money/counter space on a grinder, this could be one way for you to get your Blue Bottle fix anywhere you like that has hot water (and a brewing device). It’s convenient, portable, and long-lasting (6 month shelf life). Now, if you consumed this particular coffee weekly (Monday-Friday at a packet a day, $17.50 a week), it would certainly add up quickly! I personally would recommend investing in a quality grinder before spending $70/month on pre-ground beans, even ones of this quality. But, for the right circumstance, this is a terrific option to have on hand. You can take great coffee on your travels without packing a hand grinder. You can keep really good quality decaf around for guests (or for those times when you might want an occasional cup yourself!). Perfectly Ground isn’t something I’d choose to have regularly, since I have two great grinders and I intend to use them, but I could easily see myself ordering another box of Perfectly Ground, this time for AeroPress, so that I can have fresh-tasting craft coffee with me anywhere I might travel. Hats off to you, Blue Bottle!

Summary: It defies all logic and just about everything I thought I knew about coffee, but this pre-ground coffee from Blue Bottle is not just good for pre-ground, it’s a coffee that’s worthy of the Blue Bottle name. This changes my whole perception on what pre-ground coffee can be!

The Story of Blue Bottle Perfectly Ground

Blue Bottle Perfectly Ground – Online Store

Review: Blue Bottle Kenya Embu Gikirima (Oakland, California)

Technically, I purchased this coffee at the end of 2016 and wrote up notes on it very soon after purchase, but I wanted to save the review to start the new year off with a bang, and Blue Bottle seemed like a good roaster to start this blog off on the right foot in 2017! This Blue Bottle review will actually be in two parts, as I bought this varietal both in whole bean form and pre-ground (gasp!). Yes, I broke the rule of just about every coffee geek and bought pre-ground coffee, but for a very good reason, as I wanted to see for myself if Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground really could live up to the taste of freshly ground coffee. More on that later, but for now, here are my notes on the whole bean version of this Kenya Embu Gikirima!

Whole bean: Honestly, I kind of forgot to observe this coffee’s notes, as it smelled great right out of the box and I was excited to start brewing. Oops! But it was quite fragrant, like caramelized sugar and tea and all sorts of good things.

V60: This brewing method made a cup that tasted like toasted marshmallows, with a slight “pithy” flavor like lemon pith. Not a very tart cup, but it had just a little bit of citrus bitterness to it. I did brew this on the long side (3:45) so perhaps a shorter brewing time would mitigate the pith.

AeroPress: A surprisingly smooth brew!! Caramel scent and flavor dominated this mug, with a tart finish like lemon candy to keep the taste buds interested.

Chemex: Grapefruit. Very tart and dry. My mouth was puckering.

French press: Very silky mouthfeel. Rich, sweet flavor with just a hint of brightness and tartness to keep things lively.

Summary: This coffee tasted best to me in the immersion methods, with the French press being my personal favorite, as I felt it had the best balance between sweet and tart.

Check back in a few hours for more on this coffee, this time made from Blue Bottle’s Perfectly Ground beans (their version of pre-ground coffee).

From the roaster: Cacao nibs, tea, citrus

Blue Bottle Kenya Embu Gikirima

The best of 2016

It’s that time again! I had fun recalling the last 12 months of coffee adventures, though I realized that my coffee consumption was down from this time last year. In 2015, I was generally aiming to write two bean reviews a week, but I found that schedule to be unsustainable; in 2016, I was pretty lucky to get one review a week done, not counting the periods of hiatus I took for travel and tea. Still, I count myself fortunate to have had some incredible coffees this past year, and here are my personal favorite selections from 2016.

Favorite espresso: James Coffee Company Night Owl Espresso Blend

This particular coffee was an unexpected surprise that I encountered on my travels to San Diego, and the flavor of the Americano that I had in that Lexus car dealership (of all places!!) will never leave me. Even though I couldn’t quite recreate that flavor at home, I got pretty close, and this espresso is an exceptionally delicious one both straight and in milk. I was impressed enough with James’ coffee that I went the extra mile and bought one of their T-shirts (which is rare for me)!

Favorite coffee: BeanFruit Coffee Co. Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry

Unlike last year, I chose not to categorize my coffee selections into “everyday” and “splurge.” It just didn’t seem necessary to make that distinction this year. This probably made it even harder to choose a favorite, and I waffled quite a bit between my top two on my list, but ultimately BeanFruit’s coffee won out. BeanFruit was a new discovery for me this year, and I was pretty unprepared for the explosions of pleasure that hit my mouth on the first sip of their coffee, and I was REALLY unprepared for the fact that it just kept getting better and better. This is a roaster to watch, people.

Favorite coffee drink that I didn’t make myself: Flight Coffee flat white, made with their Ethiopia Gutiti single-origin espresso

A new category this year. I basically created this category solely to be able to talk about this particular flat white I had in New Zealand. This is terribly unfair to visitors of this blog, as 99.9% of you don’t live in New Zealand and will probably not have the joy of visiting Flight Coffee’s “hangar” (cafe) in Wellington to experience this drink, but it was a revelation. I love Ethiopian coffee (both washed and natural-process), but I don’t tend to make it as espresso because 1) I find it too intense and bright to consume straight, and 2) it’s often fruity (particularly the berry sweetness of the natural-process Ethiopians), and I thought that fruit + milk would taste weird. Well, I have been proven wrong. If I remember correctly, this particular coffee bean’s notes were purple grape, passionfruit, and Christmas cake, and I was astounded at just how good it was with the few ounces of milk of the flat white. It was sweet, lively but not off-putting, and incredibly interesting to the palate. I don’t know what Christmas cake is, but I definitely tasted a fruity flavor like raspberries mixed with the addicting aroma and taste of vanilla and butter cake. What an enchanting cup. I can still taste it. I talk about this flat white a bit more in my review of Flight Coffee’s Kenya Rutuma (with pictures).

These are the coffee beans (that I brewed myself) that gave me the most pleasure in 2016.

Full top ten list, 2016 (in reverse order):

10. The Missing Bean Unbirthday Blend (AeroPress)

9. Tweed Foxtrot Blend (V60)

8. Evocation Micro-Coffee Roasters Peru Cajamarca (french press)

7. Madcap Ecuador Pepe Azul (french press)

6. Batdorf and Bronson Dancing Goats Blend (espresso)

5. Roseline Kenya Othaya (AeroPress, Chemex)

4. James Coffee Company Night Owl Espresso Blend (espresso)

3. BeanFruit Ethiopia Sidama Guji (Chemex)

2. Roseline Coffee Ethiopia Gera (french press)

1. BeanFruit Kenya Nyeri Chinga Peaberry (AeroPress)