In 2015, I slowed my pace from 2014 and took it easy when it came to writing reviews. Last year, I only cupped around 100 different coffees from around 50 or so roasters. I’ve compiled my 30 favorite coffees and today I present to you, Dear Reader, my Best Coffee of 2015, numbers 30-21!
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember, the coffees in this list are only coffees that I had in 2015; it is a highly subjective list and is in no way meant to be authoritative or comprehensive.)
I’ve had a lot of versions of the Ethiopia Ardi here at the Table over the past few years and, by and large, they’ve all been very, very different from each other. (It’s always amazing to me that one coffee can be so varied from roaster to roaster…) I’m very happy to report that this Ethiopia Ardi, from Brio Coffeeworks, is keeping that tradition going.
Of all the versions I’ve had of the Ardi, this was the most mellow and subdued. It wasn’t flashy or particularly lively; there weren’t any big berry bombs exploding all over my palate; instead it was on the lighter side of a medium-bodied coffee and it was characterized by creamy caramel, soft melon, a touch of citrus, and floral aromatics.
It wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be, which only goes to show that you can never truly pin down the Ethiopia Sidama Ardi.
I’ve had this coffee several times now and, I have to say… Quasar Coffee’s Ethiopia YirgZ is pretty damn tops. This coffee and I went on a weird and wild adventure together over the seven days I cupped it; seems like every day it presented my taste buds with something new: juicy, sweet, fruity, savory, spicy, floral, sugary… This one ran the gamut, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Like I said going into the cupping, I really wasn’t too sure what to expect going into this coffee. I’ve never had coffee from Limu before – only Yirgacheffe and Sidama. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m wondering why I haven’t seen more Limus here at the Table.
Beanfruit Coffee’s Ethiopia Limu Ennaria is a beautiful coffee; absolutely gorgeous. Soft, genteel, elegant, delicate, complex, and nuanced from beginning to end. In fact, as the coffee cools, it becomes more and more delicate – lighter in body, softer in texture, livelier in acidity, more nuanced in flavor profile.
The only thing that I wish was different about about this cup was the roast level. It’s not over-roasted at all, but I think there was a bit of an aggressiveness at the roaster that made the coffee a bit more developed than it should have been. As delicate and nuanced and complex as it was as is, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like with a lighter profile.
After reading my review of their Mexico Finca Muxbal, Coffee Mojo wrote to me, “In Islamic architecture, an architect would always leave a small area of the mosque without mosaics, because perfection belongs to God alone. Let the Muxbal be my small area without mosaics.”
I think that’s fair. Particularly after sampling their Ethiopia Rocko Mountain Reserve, which provided a much different cupping experience.
This natural Yirg was a great example of how a natural Yirg should taste; it was lively, sweet, unbridled, and complex and it didn’t feature any fermentation or overt berry bombs, which tend to dominate these profiles.
Forget the mug. This coffee – Bold Bean Coffee Roasters’s Kenya Thithi AA – would probably best be served in a wine glass. It perfectly encapsulated how much alike one another certain specialty coffees and fine wines can be.
Kenya Thithi is sweet, tart, aromatic, and very elegant being so fruity, floral, and honeyed… It even had the presence of oak and spices, which kind of made it similar to a mulling spiced red wine.
This is a coffee that is meant to be sipped and savored intentionally; it is a coffee that is meant to be experienced. It is an absolutely beautiful cup.
Populace Coffee definitely tapped into the old familiar line “making spirits bright” with this, their 2015 Joyeux Holiday Blend. Knowing they sourced coffees from Colombia and Kenya for this blend gave me hope that it was going to be a wild, lively, fruity explosion of flavor and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
While Ethiopia might be more known for its coffees from Yirgacheffe and Sidama, there is a third region within Ethiopia’s borders that also features some dynamite coffees: Limu. And when I try coffees like PERC Coffee’s Ethiopia Gera, I have to say that the lack of Limu-grown coffees in the market is a real disappointment.
I’ve only had a handful of offerings from that district, but each of them (this one, especially) have been as good (if not better) than offerings from its neighbors in Yirgacheffe and Sidama. This washed Ethiopia Gera is packed with complex fruits and florals, features an incredible crystalline clarity and soft, round curves, and cleanliness, and, moreover, is just a tasty, pleasurable sipping experience.
If you’re looking to expand your coffee horizons, look into selections from Limu, Ethiopia—this Ethiopia Gera is an exemplary offering from that district.
The Mexico El Eden Cooperative, from Quills Coffee, is a fantastic Mexican coffee that holds up in the company of some of the better Central American naturals and certainly outshines most of its Mexican peers—particularly in its specific region of Guerrero and extending into the more famous Oaxaca.
While I’ve had maybe one Mexican coffee that was tastier (to my liking anyway), I most definitely haven’t had a Mexican coffee that was more (or even equally, for that matter) dynamic nor complex. Truly, this natural Guerrero fires on all cylinders with plenty of sweets and spices. Furthermore, it’s a real mouthful with a weight that is light on the belly, but heavy on the palate. What it lacks in clarity, it makes up for in volume and dynamics.
When Black Cup Cafe Del Mundo agreed to submit a couple coffees to the Table for review, they were very, very excited about this particular coffee: their Ecuador Finca Las Cinco. Their excitement was twofold: for one thing, they just really like this coffee; but I think they were more excited about the fact that this is the coffee that Black Cup’s store trainer, Brian Benavente, will be competing with at this weekend’s Brewers Cup competition in Long Beach, California.
Jokingly, I told him that I’d let him know whether he stood a chance or not; seriously, though, I want to let him know that if he does his part, this coffee will certainly do its part.
This was a fantastic coffee; perfect for braving those cold Alaskan nights. Fully developed, full-bodied, fully flavored. More than all of that, though, it was just a really tasty cup of coffee.
The other day I engaged in a discussion with a few folks on Twitter about the flavor profiles of underdeveloped coffee. This conversation was initiated by some thoughts that Matt Perger has on the subject. Basically, his thesis seems to be lightly roasted coffees are underdeveloped; that coffees with lime acidities (particularly Ethiopian coffees) is a clear indicator underdevelopment. I, for one, refute this notion. Many has been the time that I reviewed a coffee that was roasted much lighter than most other roasters go for and it was incredible. Many has been the time that I reviewed a coffee with a lime acidity that I absolutely loved…
Huckleberry Roasters’s Ethiopia Zelelu, for example.
This coffee was roasted lightly and I thought it was absolutely delightful. It was elegant, intricate, and soft, but it still had well-defined flavors, crystalline clarity, a stunning acidity, and it was absolutely delicious. I was particularly delighted with its floral and citric qualities.