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’ve come to the end of the road. I present to you, Dear Reader, my Best Coffees of 2014, numbers 5-1!
05. RUBY COFFEE ROASTERS // SULAWESI TOARCO PEABERRY
One word can summarize the Sulawesi Toarco Peaberry, from Ruby Coffee Roasters: BALLER.
Choosing a Sulawesi to debut a roasting operation was a risky gamble for Ruby Coffee; Sulawesis are really weird coffees and, not only are they tricky in the roaster, they’re tricky in the cup too. Choosing a Sulawesi as one of your company’s first offerings, in a way, makes a bold statement about the company—that it’s going to be dedicated to producing nothing but the most interesting coffees it can find. Ruby’s motto—”Colorful Coffees”—is certainly accurate, especially in the case of this Sulawesi.
So I have to give a lot of credit to Ruby’s founder, Jared Linzmeier—the payoff was worth the calculated risk. This coffee packed a punch from beginning to end
04. 나무사이로 (NAMUSAIRO COFFEE) // LOVE LETTER
This coffee had me exclaiming WOW! in italics from the very first sip. In fact, it was difficult to even take a second sip, a third sip, a fourth sip, and so on because I had to keep picking up my jaw from the floor.
When I bought this coffee, I was expecting a lush, silky, floral and fruity/winy affair and I expected that for two reasons: the Kenyan component and the name of the blend itself, “Love Letter“—I don’t know, that name just sort of conjures up that imagery. And I got that. I got a lot of that. And it was fantastic. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was how savory/spicy/herbaceous/starchy Love Letter was.
Namusairo Coffee blew my mind with their Love Letter almost as much as it broke my heart when I finished it off. Truly, an exceptional coffee.
03. SLATE COFFEE ROASTERS // ETHIOPIA ARICHA
If I had to choose, I think my favorite thing about reviewing coffee is trying the same coffees over and over again, but from multiple roasters. It’s like finding the band that covers Bob Dylan best; all of these really talented roast masters doing their best to highlight a particular coffee’s best natural features while simultaneously stamping their own unique signatures on the roast – it’s actually a pretty special and sacred act when you really consider it.
I think this is the fourth or maybe even fifth different version of the Ethiopia Aricha that I’ve had, and I have to say – while it is consistently an amazing coffee, the Ethiopia Aricha from Slate Coffee Roasters is head and shoulders above the rest.
This particular cup was incredibly unique, and incredibly sweet to boot; the perfect treat for the coffee drinker with both a sweet tooth and an adventurous palate. This Aricha was very dessert-like with its sugary, confectionary qualities and it was bright and somewhat tart with juicy berry liveliness. I’m honestly very surprised by its profile, both in terms of flavor and clarity, considering it’s a natural Ethiopia – no fermentation, no mustiness, a berry bomb, sure, but one that quickly subsides and gives way to, borrow a phrase from friend of the Table, Nick Brown, of Daily Coffee News, “sugar confections/yum yums.”
Outstanding coffee. Just outstanding.
02. KUMA COFFEE // COLOMBIA VUELTA BONITA
Great googly moogly.
I’d just like to point out that every time I try a new coffee from Kuma Coffee, I publicly exclaim, “This is the greatest coffee ever!” I know, I know—I’m becoming the Boy Who Cried Kuma. But, here’s the thing—each coffee I try from Kuma is incredible. In the three years I’ve been reviewing coffees, I’ve tried a lot of Kumas and I’ve never had one that was “just meh.” Each and every coffee they’ve sent me has been amazing.
Wouldn’t you know it—their Colombia Vuelta Bonita is no different. In fact, this coffee may very well be the best I’ve had all year. And, to echo a famous political debate, “There [I] go again…”
HONORABLE MENTION. GOOSE ISLAND BEER COMPANY & INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE // 2014 BOURBON COUNTY COFFEE STOUT
I wouldn’t normally include a beer in my list of “Best Coffees of 2014,” but 2014’s Bourbon County Coffee Stout is nothing short of a revelation.
As delicious as the beer is, what impressed me most about this beer was this: how remarkably well the coffee component complemented the beer and how both components came together to create the overall profile.
I think 2014 marked a sea change in how craft breweries approached the way they create coffee beers. Before 2014, it seems that breweries weren’t really looking for coffee profiles that complemented their beers; they were just looking for nuances of “that generic coffee flavor” as an individual note in their beer and, really, we tasted coffee predominately being used in stouts and porters. In 2014, though, craft breweries and craft coffee roasters teamed up for a wide variety of beer styles—even IPAs!
While this is obviously a coffee stout, its profile shows there’s plenty of room to innovate in the style and a definite shift in the way coffee stouts are approached. It really speaks to the consideration that went into the collaboration between coffee and beer.
And, now, without any further ado, I present to you my favorite coffee of 2014…
01. De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters // Butterfly Kiss
In terms of profile and texture, this coffee is exactly what I was hoping it would be in light of its name. It is light, airy, soft, gentle; the word that Felix Cha used to describe his blend was “charming”—it’s certainly fitting, and an accurate summation of the coffee.
Moreover, however, De Mello Palheta’s Butterfly Kiss is absolutely delicious and a near-perfect sipping experience; just about as close to perfect as a coffee can come, really.
It is very charming. And it is very lovely. And it is very likely the best coffee I’ll have all year.
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.