Beans

Coffees of 2008

2008 - a year of stunning coffee (image stolen from Supreme Roastworks Flickr)

2008 - a year of stunning coffee (image stolen from Supreme Roastworks Flickr)

What a year for coffee 2008 was! I’ve had stunning cups throughout the year, and could probably list 20 or 30 coffees I really liked. I tried to limit myself to coffees I spent a little bit of time with, that I could go back and try again, not just one off tastes. Looking through the list, and the top 3 in particular, it’s easy enough to tell I really like the Ethiopian natural processed coffees. These coffees have changed my expectations to a certain degree about what flavours are possible in coffee, but they’ve also allowed me a better appreciation for the qualities that other processing methods can bring. I expect 2009 to be even better.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those coffee people who I’ve spoken to and done things with over the past year, it’s been a great learning experience for me, and I draw great encouragement from the communities here in Ireland, in the UK, and further afield. Coffee largely retains an egalitarian inclusive community spirit, long may it continue.

I tend to harp on a bit in many of these posts, but my harping will be kept to a minimum here. This is intended to be little more than a list.

I will make the disclaimer though that I only had the opportunity to try so much coffee this year, this is by no means an all encompassing state of the (coffee) nation type post, merely an acknowledgment of the coffees I enjoyed the most, in my little corner of the world over the past 12 months.

1. Wellega 2

I waxed lyrical about some coffees from Supreme Roastworks in a previous post. The Wellega, is yet another coffee from Supreme Roastworks, and another Ethiopian natural processed. Tropical fruit punch is probably the best descriptor, it’s an intensely sweet coffee, you could almost be forgiven for thinking sugar was added. Pineapple, strawberry, mango can all be easily identified. Nice balanced acidity, great body. The sheer intensity of the fruit flavours, and the sweetness in the Wellega made it my number one in a year of stellar Ethiopian naturals.

2. Beloya 3

This one came all the way from 49th Parallel in Canada, and again is an Ethiopian Natural Processed. It was a very close call between this and the Wellega I chose as my favourite. The Beloya reminded me of Strawberries and cream, there are other flavours in there but, to me it is the most blatant Strawberry flavour I’ve ever gotten from a coffee, and the first time with any assurity I could say – yes – cream (and vanilla cream at that)! There has been some online comment debating whether this Beloya or 49th’s other Ethiopian natural, Aricha 33, was better. For the record, having had both, my money’s on the Beloya.

3. Aricha 17

Yes, you get the picture, an Ethiopian natural processed (from Supreme in Norway). I tried this for the first time before I got my hands on the Wellega or Beloya, both on it’s own and in an espresso blend. Both were superb, bursting with a sweet blueberry flavour, and the espresso is my most memorable of the year (for the right reasons). This coffee made me use my 8-cup french press as a single serving brewer, and I had to dig out an old Starbucks Venti mug I *acquired* some years back to fit it all in one cup. The second time I tried this quite recently, either in my mind or in reality, the flavours were a little less intense, though still superb.

4. Esmeralda Geisha Lot 8

This coffee came from Terroir in Massachusetts. I had big expectations for my first taste of Geisha, and I was left seeing the point, without quite seeing God. Intensely floral, very tea-like, lots of peach and apricot flavours. Of the two Geisha lots I tasted from this year’s crop, this was the better, though I suspect the $95 bags that Stumptown bought may be worth a sampling (remortgaging in negotiations).

5. Santa Rita Natural

I’ve enjoyed so many of the Square Mile Coffees since their webshop went live, and for the sake of spreading the love, I could have chosen one of the coffees that wasn’t also a natural processed, but the truth is, more than any other Square Mile coffee, I’ve went back and reordered Santa Rita Natural time and time again. Very apricoty, sweet, kind of tea-like qualities again, though not as pronounced as the Geisha. The fact that this is from El Salvador and not Ethiopia makes it all the more remarkable.

6. Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira

A very different coffee from the rest of the coffees here, but it is also one I’ve gotten huge pleasure from, bought as greens from Hasbean, this was my best home roasted coffee of the year. That’s right – home roasted. I didn’t have any professionally roasted Cachoeira this year (though it did feature prominently in some espresso blends), no doubt that may have been even more impressive. In both filter and espresso it shines, chocolaty, nutty, sweet. I generally like prominent acidity in filter coffee (see above), but Cachoeira isn’t really about the acidity. What I love to do is make up a french press, take a big swig, and then exhale through my nose, the sensation, the aroma, it’s intoxicating.

Best Espresso
I thought about Black Cat circa June, though the profile has changed several times in the meantime, and I’ve not found it as much to my taste since. The Square Mile Winter Blend and the now replaced Flat White blend really excited me as well, and obviously the Aricha laden blend from Supreme. But if I was to pick one espresso I had this year to have in my grinder all year round it would be Joe’s (The Art of Coffee) Barrington Gold blend – a great rounded, sweet cup, with the most incredible mouthfeel and crema (I’ve never had anything like the crema on this before or since). I hadn’t even heard of Barrington roasters when I got a present of a bag of this, and it was at a time when there were several other super blends in my grinder rotation, so it’s a testament to Barrington that it stood out. I could happily gorge myself on it all day long.

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11 thoughts on “Coffees of 2008

  1. Great list Dave. I suppose the Curious Panda blend was just a few days too late for the 2008?? The beloya was def one of my faves and my allegiance to the Santa Rita is unwavering.
    I think we need us a score board for this year, kinda like Top Gear. I’ll be the stig 😉

  2. Finca Kilimanjaro from Square Mile also just arrived (in 09), I may have considered that worthy of a spot. Who knows what 09 will bring. Hopefully some surprises…

  3. Joe says:

    Great list David. I’ll be refering back here over the coming months to checck out some of the coffees [that I’ve not yet tasted] for myself.

    Thanks for all the enjoyable reading in ’08 and the very best to you and yours for the year ahead!

  4. Eugene says:

    Hi,
    great site! just came upon it through the blog awards – what about your views on less esoteric coffees like illy, ariosa, lavazza and others readily available that us amateurs can get or are they all just crap to your more educated palate…

  5. Hi Eugene, thanks for the kind words. There is nothing wrong per we with the likes of Illy or Lavazza. They have their espresso blends, and the flavour profiles you either like or don’t. The problem is that by the time they get here from Italy and sit on supermarket shelves for weeks or months they have become stale. Ariosa are a different matter, I rate their coffee very highly, and it can be readily bought fresh.
    Hope that helps.

  6. Eugene says:

    Thanks David for that. Just discovered Ariosa’s Achill blend lately and lovin’ it, got my little stovetop job on the go, must invest in an espresso machine, now, if only Ariosa made pods for Nespresso! Joke!

  7. Before going down any dark and dangerous roads (ie espresso machine) get thee a GOOD burr grinder (I stress good, because there are some commonly available terrible ones).

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