For the past couple of years, I’ve been counting down my favorite coffees of the year. For historical perspective, you can check out my favorite coffees of 2012 and 2013.
(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, we’re closing in on #1! We’ve cracked the top ten! I present to you, Dear Reader, my Best Coffees of 2014, numbers 10-6!
10. DETOUR COFFEE ROASTERS // COLOMBIA EL TRIUNFO
Detour Coffee’s Colombia El Triunfo is an amazing coffee; one that is incredibly vibrant and very intense with really bright and juicy tropical fruit flavors, but never strays into the sour or undrinkable.
09. NEW TOWN COFFEE ROASTERS // ETHIOPIA MESELE HAILE
A couple weeks ago, I boldly made the prediction that, while 2013 was the year of the stellar Ethiopian coffee, Kenya will receive the bulk of the spotlight in 2014. Now, we’re not that far into 2014 so this might be a case of 2013 spilling over into the new year, but Ethiopia is still making a massive impression on me. The Ethiopia Mesele Haile, from New Town Coffee Roasters, is certainly no exception.
What a classy and elegant coffee the Mesele Haile is. It is a real delicacy of a beverage with its soft edges, rounded corners, and refined features; a very silky mouthfeel and a delicate flavor profile make this a sophisticated coffee – one that I’d put forth as an example in the “is coffee as culinary as wine?” debate.
Now, in a misguided effort to appeal to Scottish readers, the thing I really want to say about the Ethiopia Mesele Haile is: “A pure like it!”
08. TERMINUS COFFEE // COSTA RICA LAS LAJAS
What a dynamite coffee. I remember having this coffee last year, from a different roaster and under a different name, and it was easily one of my favorite coffees
of the year since I built the Table; so I was obviously very, very excited when Terminus Coffee sent me their take on the Costa Rica Las Lajas.
I’m not going to pick a favorite between the two, because, even though they’re the same coffee, they’re two totally different cups; but I will say Terminus’s roast of it was incredibly complex and dynamic, constantly shifting, never being the same sip twice. Really, the cup immediately post-brew and the cup at room temperature are two totally different coffees in the same cup! It goes at from silky, floral, and purple to bright, bubbly, citric, and yellow.
If you’re looking for a coffee that shatters boundaries and goes beyond the veil, this is it.
So we’ve tried this coffee and we’ve loved it. Now, here’s the big reveal at the end of the show: this coffee was home-roasted on a Huky 500 by none other than our very good friends and coffee blogging compatriots, the Puristas: David and Mae Clark. Readers of the Table will know that I am a huge fan of their work (and of them) and have supported them since the very beginning. I saw a great future for them in the coffee blogging world, but I don’t think I ever would have saw them setting themselves up a legitimate coffee roasting operation.
David and Mae—I’m really proud of and happy for the two of you. Many wishes for success! To get to know the Puristas a little better, you can read my interview with David and Mae from earlier this year here.
You know, I could say “This is a good coffee… for a home roast,” or I could say “This is a good coffee… for a first time roaster,” but, really, it’s just a damn good coffee on its own merits.
07. PHIL AND SEBASTIAN COFFEE ROASTERS // KENYA KIAWAMURURU
Phil and Sebastian’s Kenya Kiawamururu is in an echelon of coffee unto itself – there is none other quite like it. A completely and utterly singular coffee that requires a myriad of qualifiers and intensifiers and exclamation points to accurately summate it (i.e., “Kenyan coffees are oftentimes unique, but this coffee is crazy unique even for a Kenya!”).
Yes, describing this coffee will turn any writer’s copy into an editor’s worst nightmare.
While the Kiawamururu is dense, deep, and intricately layered, it is also wild, unrestrained, and sharp; however, from beginning to end, it manages to maintain its clarity and, more importantly, its balance. There are aspects of it that have unrefined edges and come to a point (the sharp acidity and bright fruits), there are aspects of it that are gritty and chewy (the tannins and the wood), and there are aspects of it that are smooth and refined (the supple and velvety texture and juicy, fleshy fruits).
All coffees are different, but there are none that come to mind that even compare to the Kiawamururu.
06. THE BARN COFFEE ROASTERS, BERLIN // KENYA KIAWAMURURU
THE BARN’s Kenya Kiawamururu… Well, what can I say about this coffee? It’s a coffee that left me speechless – nay, dumbfounded. Every sip was something of a sensory overload and I’m fairly certain my palate is now broken.
What’s particularly confounding about this coffee is how enjoyable it is in contrast with how complex it is. That is to say, for a coffee that’s complex, dynamic, challenging, and is worthy of any cupper’s intensely scrupulous dissection, it’s also just a damn good cuppa Joe. This is a coffee that follows the lines of Nordic roasting styles and the product is a well-rounded cup with tremendous balance, crystal clarity, sparkling acidity, perfectly defined flavors, and curved angles (no sharp, pointed, or blurred edges).
There is one thing, though, that I didn’t like about the Kiawamururu – there wasn’t enough of it. The flavor of the coffee kept me coming back for more, the accessibility of its profile made it enjoyable to drink, the lightness of its body made it all too easy to consume too quickly, and the crispness of its finish made the experience seem too short. Every time I got to the bottom of the cup, I felt the urge to exclaim, “Wait, that’s it!?”
Then I refilled my mug with the tears that streamed down my cheeks.
Then I cleansed my palate with my own tears as penance for finishing such a delicacy too quickly.
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.