(EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember, the coffees in this list are only coffees that I had in 2014; it is a highly subjective list and is in no way meant to be authoritative or comprehensive.)
In 2014, I cupped around 175 different coffees from about 75 different roasters. I’ve compiled my 50 favorite coffees and today I present to you, Dear Reader, my Best Coffees of 2014, numbers 50-41!
The Bolivia Wilfredo Castro, from Populace Coffee, is one delicious, dynamic, and complex cup of coffee. This coffee was fantastically well-rounded and balanced, with terrific clarity and a bright, transparent acidity.
Sweet, fragrant, creamy, juicy, deep, long.
The Suke Quto, from Tony’s Coffee, is a beautiful and elegant Ethiopian coffee. Silky, delicate, sweet, tart, somewhat effervescent. Just a really dynamic coffee.
Venia Coffee’s Ethiopia Danch Meng is a fine, elegant coffee. Furthermore, it is dense, dynamic, complex, and very intricate. Beyond all of that, though, it is delicious. That’s really the final word on this coffee.
I was struck by the amount of pop the coffee had; from the very first sip the very last drop, the Danch Meng is a really gorgeous, flavorful coffee.
I don’t know how they did it, but Joe Coffee managed to find the PNG that doesn’t taste like any other PNG I’ve had before. Joe’s Baroida Estate is a dense, velvety, full-bodied coffee that is equally bright, tangy, tart, and refreshing. In my experience, most PNG’s are full-bodied, a little earthy, spicy, and zesty; when I think of a standard PNG, I think “earth, cedar, coriander, cinnamon, lemon peel.” Joe’s PNG, on the other hand, taste of “salted caramel, honey, brown sugar, cranberry, nuts.”
One thing that really surprised me about this Baroida was how similar to an El Salvadoran coffee it was. If I were blind-tasting this coffee and told to guess what growing region it came from, I probably would have guessed either Santa Ana, El Salvador or Huehuetenango, Guatemala. And I would’ve looked like an idiot.
But in my defense, this cup was very accessible – “user friendly” – and sweet all the way through; I honestly don’t think I’ve ever used the term “sweet” to describe a coffee from Papua New Guinea – or “accessible,” for that matter. Indonesian coffees stand in stark contrast to coffees from the rest of the world, and even the coffees from regions within Indonesia stand in stark contrast to one another: Sulawesis, Sumatras, and Papua New Guineas – while having similar themes running through that tie them together – are completely unique and utterly singular. So it’s unusual to me that this Papua New Guinea seems to be declaring, “Hey, I have notes of caramel, honey, and cranberry – I’m just like the rest of the you!”
PT’s Coffee has been on my radar for quite a while now. They’re widely considered one of the best roasters in the country—certainly one of the most popular. Their El Salvador La Avila was a great introduction to the company.
El Salvadoran coffees are classic—medium altitudes producing a nice balance of high- and low-end notes, sweet and delicious. As a coffee reviewer, “classic profiles” don’t necessarily pique my interest the way they used to. So when an interesting and dynamic coffee like this one comes along—particularly when it’s from El Salvador—it grabs my attention.
The Sumatra Wahana Natural has made a couple appearances here at the Table, and each time it has been a complex and unconventional coffee—all coffees from the Lake Toba region of Sumatra are incredibly unique, but the Wahana is in a class unto itself. This lot,roasted by Carabello Coffee, was certainly no exception.
Dynamic, full-bodied, and absolutely packed with flavor, this coffee is explosive as it is transfixing and mesmerizing.
It’s been a while since I last had a really, really great Rwandan coffee (that is in no way a comment on Rwandan coffee – it’s a comment on time). The Karengera Cyivugiza, from Mojo Coffee, made me regret the amount of time in between.
This coffee was wild and adventurous, but sweet and delightful as well. It was equal parts pastry shop and Carmen Miranda headwear with its bedrock of cocoa and brown sugar and its bright, explosive tropical fruits.
The Karengera Cyivugiza really took me by surprise.
A couple weeks ago I was chatting with Peter Giuliano about the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange and he mentioned that, when the ECX was first established specialty coffee were fearful that Ethiopian coffee quality would greatly diminish. To their surprise, though, Ethiopian coffees are better than they’ve ever been. Of course, the ECX could improve greatly in some areas (namely, traceability), but the coffees are doing just fine.
The Ethiopia Yirgacheffe ECX Auction Lot, from Temple Coffee, is a prime example of just how incredible and diverse Ethiopian coffees remain despite the ECX takeover.
This coffee was fine, delicate, and simply gorgeous. However, it is also an assertive coffee that really impresses itself upon the palate.
Those of you who have been readers for a while will know that Bolivian coffee will always have a soft place in my heart, so I approach each Bolivian coffee that is sent to me with a balance of anticipation and trepidation. I’m always excited to taste really good ones, but equally nervous that the sample’s going to taste not really good (which is very disappointing for me). Luckily, that didn’t turn out to be the case with Amaya Roasting Company’s Illimani Bolivia.
This coffee was supremely decadent and, if not for its full bodiedness, would be best enjoyed as a dessert; I mean, it tastes like a deconstructed ice cream sundae anyway—why not enjoy it like one?
A lot of weight is put into a name of a thing, so a lot of thought has to go into naming the thing. Like a bank; if you own a bank, it has to be called something like “First American Trust and Reserve Holding Company” – you can’t just call it “Bob’s Bank,” nobody will take you seriously! “Hi! I’m Bob! This is my bank. Give us your money! We’ll put it, uhhh… over here!” The same goes for the naming of a coffee company and, even, a coffee blend!
I must confess – I sort of snickered out loud and retorted, “Yeah – we’ll see about that!” when I saw that Compelling and Rich Coffee had a blend called Cat’s Pajamas. But you know what? This is what. The name of the company is fitting – I had two coffees from them this week and, wouldn’t you know it, both were rich and, indeed, compelling. And today’s coffee? If a cat were to own a pair of pajamas, this blend would be it.
This was a refined, flavorful, dynamic, elegant, voluptuous, decadent, and, while not straight-forward, accessible coffee; it was fairly complex, but not unapproachable. For as much as it challenged my palate, at no point did I throw in the towel and say, “This coffee is just too much.” It kept me hooked and on the edge of my seat – I just couldn’t wait to see what the coffee would do next.
And if that’s not “compelling,” I don’t know what is.