(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 40-31!
This coffee—Kickapoo Coffee’s Honduras Esteban Madrid—is an unexpectedly wild and complex coffee that I just plain didn’t see coming.
After the few sips of the cup, I was thinking “Just your typical Honduran profile; nothing to see here, folks.” But, then, from out of nowhere, this coffee exploded like a time bomb; once the clock hit zero, boy oh boy. Fireworks.
An absolutely intense coffee; not for the faint of heart.
Barefoot Coffee Roasters’s Costa Rica Tres Rios is an interesting and complex coffee; intricate, intensely flavored, bright, lively, dynamic, nicely balanced, but not necessarily a coffee with great clarity. Which, of course, isn’t to say that it’s not a delicious coffee to sip—because it is. It just happens to be a coffee that doesn’t have any clear, obvious flavor notes; it’s a brightly colored menagerie of sweet and tart sugars, confections, savories, and tropical fruits.
And, to be honest, this coffee is something of a rarity for Costa Rican coffees; while a lot (notall, but a lot) of Costa Rican coffees are nuttier and collapse into soft, mellow fruits and sugary confections, the Tres Rios jumps all over the palate, dancing and sparkling over the taste buds.
And in an era when Central American coffee farmers are struggling not only to produce really high-quality crops, but any crops at all, Costa Rica’s Tres Rios was a real treat.
Here at the Table, we’re obviously huge fans of Ethiopian coffees; and, luckily, we’ve received quite a large number of them over the past 18 months. Ethiopia’s recent output has been absolutely incredible, and incredibly varied—from juicy and fruity to silky and floral to sweet and sugary, Ethiopia has been proving itself to be home to the most diverse coffees in the world.
The YirgZ, from Huckleberry Roasters, is another in a long line of really great Ethiopian coffees. It was sweet, tart, incredibly juicy, super clean, and brimming with flavor from first sip to last drop. Furthermore, this was a tremendously refreshing coffee—particularly over ice or cold-brewed on these hot, humid summer days.
I was very, very impressed with the Ethiopia Kilenso Natural, from Novel Coffee Roasters. While the coffee does suffer some of the traits that are considered downfalls for natural Ethiopias (like the fermentation), it more than makes up for it with its incredible flavors and dynamics.
This Kilenso is the quintessential natural Ethiopia—blueberry bomb, cocoa, mixed berries, fermentation, a diluted finish, etc. But the middle of the cup is just so damn tasty.
2013 was the year of the baller Ethiopian coffee, and the Ethiopia Aricha was at the top of the heap. So, it came as no surprise to me that my good friends at Passion House Coffee Roasters took the Ethiopia Aricha to a whole nuva level.
This coffee’s profile felt reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe – bright, vivacious, and lively meets voluptuous, beautiful, and classy. Its flavors were so intense, so distinct, so absolutely poppin’! A real beauty of a coffee that challenges the palate as much as it entices the palate.
The Ethiopia Aricha (whether from Passion House, Fratello, Lone Pine, or whomever) quickly became one of my favorite coffees of 2013 – I’m curious to see if I’ll feel the same way about it later in 2014.
Nothing against the company, but I have to admit that I was a little trepidatious about trying coffee from Bold Bean Coffee Roasters; with that name, with that huge exclamation point in the logo, I assumed that the coffee was going to be overroasted—the beans are “bold” after all, right?
I am very relieved and very happy to report that this was not the case at all. Bold Bean Coffee Roasters sent me two coffees this week and each of them were so light, delicate, complex, and, most importantly, so flavorful. Their Costa Rica Alto Encino was a beautiful coffee.
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 the Beatles 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 consider it.
The Ethiopia Aricha has long been a favorite here at the Table. Each time I sample it, it becomes my new favorite version of it and, each time I sample it, I can’t even imagine that I’ll ever sample a better version of it. It’s a beautiful, delicious cycle. The Ethiopia Aricha, from Roseline Coffee, was certainly not an exception.
With its cleanness, crystalline clarity, well-rounded balance, massive amount of flavor, and the amount of punch it packed, this coffee left me absolutely dumbfounded, stupefied, and utterly gobsmacked. Yep—those are the three adjectives I’m going with as I try to pick my jaw up from the floor.
I have never tried such a complex, dynamic, and intricately layered coffee from Zambia; the few Zambias I had in the past were, well… Well, quite frankly they were terrible. The Zambia Ljulu Lipati, from Intelligentsia Coffee, on the other hand…
This coffee was really unique and extremely flavorful.
Wow! What a coffee. What a truly incredible, unique, wild, crazy coffee.
Tandem Coffee’s Rwanda Rulindo is one of the strangest, most wonderfully bizarre coffees I’ve had all year. It was a coffee that didn’t make any sense whatsoever, but somehow managed to not only work but to actually taste fantastic.
This coffee is definitely not for the faint of heart, but will reward the adventurer.
The Colombia Villa Martinez, from Black Oak Coffee Roasters, is the coffee for the consumer with a sweet tooth; it is so decadently sweet and delicious from beginning to end. We’re right around that time of a new year when people start giving up on their New Year’s resolutions – if your resolution was to give up candy and you’re starting to falter on that decision, don’t do it! Instead, buy a bag of Colombia Villa Martinez – I guarantee that it will satisfy your cravings.
Having said that, though, it would be remiss of me to let its decadent sweetness override its elegance; after all, nobody puts baby in the corner.
The Villa Martinez is a wonderfully elegant and complex coffee that holds its cards close to its chest. Instead of throwing itself at your palate all at once, it slowly peels away layer after layer, teasing and revealing only what it chooses to reveal in any given sip. It is curvy and full-figured and voluptuous, absolutely brimming with beautiful flavors: soft florals, mellow winey acidity, sacchariferous confections…
Really, truly – an incredible coffee.
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.