The 2015 calendar listing our cupping/tasting articles for the coming year has been finalized. Some highlights from the first half of the year:
Our long-delayed survey of recent developments in the race to capitalize on consumer interest in convenience capsule-brewing will appear in February (The New World of K-Cups and Competitors, February 2015). How does the froth-capped six-ounce cup produced by the new, pressurized Nespresso VertuoLine brewing system measure up to the cup produced by the familiar Keurig line of capsule brewers? The patents protecting the K-Cup have lapsed sufficiently to permit an army of competitors to march onto shelves and websites challenging the single-serve hegemony of Keurig/Green Mountain and its licensees. Will any of these new Keurig-compatible capsules out-rate the best of the familiar Keurig/Green Mountain lines? And what about the new clone-killing Keurig 2.0 system?
We are happy to see the splendid performance of very small, expensive, coddled lots of precious coffees in Coffee Review ratings. One of the reasons our publication exists is to encourage excellence and distinction no matter what the size of the lot or the cost of the coffee. But we also want to encourage excellence in larger lots of coffee that may be available to consumers for less money and over longer periods of time. To that end, our March article will focus on what we are calling “Macro-Lot” coffees – coffees roasted from lots of at least one hundred 130-to-150-pound bags in the possession of the submitting roasters at the time of the cupping (Macro-Lot Single-Origin Coffees: Coffees Roasted from Lots of at Least 100 Bags, March 2015). The 100-bag stipulation deliberately handicaps this cupping in favor of large- to medium-sized roasters, just as our regular cuppings are essentially handicapped in favor of smaller roasters whose scale of business allows for sale of tiny, rare lots of very exceptional coffee.
In April we visit one of the West Coast’s favorite origins, Sumatra, Indonesia, but with a slightly different focus than usual. Our April cupping (submissions in March) is open to any coffee from the islands of Indonesia or East Timor that has been processed by what we now call the wet-hulled or giling basah method (Wet-Hulled Coffees of Indonesia and East Timor, including Sumatra, April 2015). The wet-hulled variation on traditional fruit-removal and drying is responsible for most of Sumatra’s exceptional coffees, as well as for other interesting coffees from the region, including many from Sulawesi, Flores, and the independent country of East Timor. For this particular cupping we will not consider conventionally washed coffees or natural or dried-in-the-fruit coffees from the region, but will be focusing only on coffees processed by the wet-hulled method. Although we expect many of the highest-rated samples will originate in Sumatra, we are hoping for some surprises from elsewhere in the archipelago.
Espresso blends are the staple of many roasting companies. The composition of these signature espresso blends are usually carefully guarded secrets, and incorporate often shifting configurations of origins that, despite changes, always aim to re-embody a familiar profile that customers may have been buying for years. Our May article (Open Source Espresso Blends, May 2015) focuses instead on those espresso blends that dispense with secrecy and openly proclaim their provenance. This relatively new development in coffee blending and marketing is in many ways an extension of the recent emphasis on the precise identification of single-origin coffees. Except here, rather than identifying one coffee, two or more are identified and celebrated as contributing to a blend that may last for only a few months rather than for the life of the roasting company.
Later this year we will introduce our other tasting articles, which range in focus from big box coffees from companies like Costco and Sam’s Club to the always stunning coffees of Kenya to Fair Trade certified coffees.
The planned cupping calendar for 2015 is shown below:
January – Top 30 Coffees of 2014
February – The New World of K-Cups and Competitors
March – Macro-Lot Single-Origin Coffees: Coffees Roasted from Lots of at Least 100 Bags
April – Wet-Hulled Coffees of Indonesia and East Timor, including Sumatra
May – Open Source Espresso Blends (espresso blends in which the components are explicit and made public; limit one blend per roaster)
June – Big Box Value Coffees
July – Blends Composed of Two or More Origins (for brewed coffee applications only; limit one blend per roaster)
August – Decaffeinated Coffees for Brewed Applications
September – Coffees of Kenya
October – Traditional Central America Coffees (washed process only, no Geshas)
November -Fair Trade Certified Coffees
December – Seasonal Offerings for the Holidays (special blends and single-origins for sale only during this winter holiday season with availability through Jan 31)
The window during which we accept coffees for these review articles is the generally the tenth day through the twentieth day of the month prior to publication. For example, we will test coffees for the May article during the period April 10 through 20. However, professional travel or other distractions may lead to modifications of the 10th through 20th schedule, so we request that all roasters submitting coffees for a given article first query Jason Sarley at Jason@CoffeeReview.com before sending their samples.