Cupping with Ken

Single-Variety Coffees: Aficionado Fun

Single-Variety Coffees: Aficionado Fun

This month’s reviews give consumers an opportunity to sample fourteen retail-roasted coffees that express a range of the cup character associated with specific botanical varieties of Coffea Arabica. The Arabica species, of course, produces virtually all of the world’s finest coffees. But within that species hundreds of distinct commercial varieties have developed. Coffea arabica is […]

By December 5, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report
Brandy and Surprises: The New Naturals

Brandy and Surprises: The New Naturals

For those unfamiliar with the emerging language of fine coffee the title of this article may be a puzzler. What’s a “natural” and what makes some of these “naturals” “new”? Natural is a positive name marketing-savvy Brazilians came up with some years ago to describe coffees that until that time were called “unwashed” or “dry-processed.” […]

By November 4, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Summer Selections: Coffees of Note

Summer Selections: Coffees of Note

Coffee writers need vacations too. What we offer here in place of our usual monthly tasting report is a set of reviews of exceptional coffees that came into the Coffee Review lab during July 2010. The article originally scheduled for August (Tall Milk Espressos) will appear next month. In a sense, this fill-in-for-Ken’s-vacation article is […]

By August 11, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Botany and the Cup: The Bourbon Conundrum

Botany and the Cup: The Bourbon Conundrum

We know that the species of the tree that produces our coffee profoundly influences how it tastes. And we know to the point of cliche that the arabica species produces all of the world’s finest coffees. But what about the various botanical varieties of arabica, the coffee equivalents of wine grape varieties like the Cabernets, […]

Papua New Guinea: Promise Only Partly Fulfilled

Papua New Guinea: Promise Only Partly Fulfilled

Three or four years ago I was looking out the window of a small airplane banking into a short (very short) grass airstrip serving a coffee-growing village of Papua New Guinea. Everything that makes the highlands of Papua New Guinea one of the most promising coffee growing regions in the world was spread out beneath […]

Decaffeinated Single-Origins: A Slow Tour with Limited Stops

Decaffeinated Single-Origins: A Slow Tour with Limited Stops

How deep a flavor rut are coffee drinkers stuck in if they give up caffeine? Are they eternally condemned to token decaf blends at the end of the counter, or can they tour the world by cup, or try to save it by cup, like their caffeine-consuming colleagues? Based on this month’s cupping of decaffeinated […]

2007 Prize-Winning Coffees from Central America and Colombia

2007 Prize-Winning Coffees from Central America and Colombia

This month we review ten prize winners from green coffee competitions held this year in Central American countries and in Colombia. These competitions, “during which a jury of international cuppers spends several well-caffeinated days slurping, spitting and obsessing over a gradually narrowing group of fine coffees from a given growing country,” to quote my own […]

By October 5, 2007 |Reviews Tasting Report
Fair-Trade Coffees: The Controversy and the Cup

Fair-Trade Coffees: The Controversy and the Cup

There are likely to be two categories of reader for this article: Those who know something about Fair Trade coffees (and who probably hold strong opinions on the subject) and those who don’t. For those who don’t, Fair Trade certification is an assurance from an internationally recognized third-party certifier (in the United States the certifier […]

By September 4, 2007 |Reviews Tasting Report
Alternative Africas: Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Alternative Africas: Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Most specialty Africa coffees sold in North America are from Ethiopia and Kenya, the two most distinctive coffee origins in the region and arguably in the world. However, coffee is grown in substantial quantities all along the string of mountains and plateaus extending south from Ethiopia and Kenya. Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and […]

Undervalued Beauty: The Coffees of Papua New Guinea

Undervalued Beauty: The Coffees of Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, the country that occupies half of the enormous island of New Guinea just north of Australia, is certainly one of the least known and least acknowledged of major coffee producers. Many major specialty roasting companies do not offer a Papua New Guinea coffee, and those that do tend not to feature it. […]

Not for Beginners: Prize-Winning Latin American Coffees 2005

Not for Beginners: Prize-Winning Latin American Coffees 2005

The eleven coffees reviewed this month are all prize winners from the various green coffee competitions that took place earlier this year across Central and South America. These competitions, during which a jury of international cuppers spends several well-caffeinated days slurping, spitting and obsessing over a gradually narrowing group of fine coffees from a given […]

By October 1, 2005 |Reviews Tasting Report
Ethiopia and Kenya: The World’s Most Distinctive Coffees

Ethiopia and Kenya: The World’s Most Distinctive Coffees

It’s something of a no-brainer to claim that Kenya and Ethiopia are the world’s two most distinctive (in other words, most different-tasting) coffee origins. Most cuppers would find it difficult to confidently identify the country of origin of a high-grown Central American coffee without a little help. (“A little too soft for a Costa Rica […]

By October 1, 2004 |Reviews Tasting Report
Fragrance and Weight: Winter Coffees from the Pacific

Fragrance and Weight: Winter Coffees from the Pacific

The coffees reviewed this month all offer the sort of heartily complex cup that suggests fires, throws, and warm, rich kitchen recoveries from the elements (or, in warmer climates, recoveries from holiday traffic jams). And most originate on the gigantic islands of southeast Asia: Sumatra, Sulawesi (Celebes), Timor and New Guinea. They are an altogether […]

By December 5, 2003 |Reviews Tasting Report
Roasters’ Choices

Roasters’ Choices

After having cupped excellent reader-nominated coffees for the last two issues of Coffee Review, I thought it might be a good idea to give the professionals who actually buy the green beans and roast them a shot at picking the coffees for a review, unhampered by the usual theme-oriented restrictions — this month we are […]

By February 28, 2003 |Reviews Tasting Report
Brewing Espresso at Home

Brewing Espresso at Home

Coffee is a beverage that invites, even demands, obsession, and, of all coffee acts, brewing espresso can be the most obsessive. Two or three more seconds of dribbling out of the brewer can dramatically alter the cup, and the finest espresso coffee in the world can be utterly ruined by one or two careless gestures. […]

Sulawesi Coffees, a Cup on the Wild Side

Sulawesi Coffees, a Cup on the Wild Side

Creative Coffee Abuse Ironically, these virtues only prevail when the coffees have been subject to the unorthodox procedures for fruit removal and drying prevailing among small growers in the traditional coffee regions of Indonesia. After the thick red skins have been removed from the coffee fruit, the slimy fruit flesh is only partly washed off […]

1999 Papua New Guineas, Timors, and a Lone Java

1999 Papua New Guineas, Timors, and a Lone Java

An assortment of intrigues and questions animate this month’s panel cupping of coffees from the eastern islands of the Malay Archipelago: Papua New Guinea, Timor, and Java. Among those questions and intrigues: Papua New Guinea estate-grown coffees are among the up-and-coming challengers in the world of fine coffee. How good are the best estate-grown Papua […]

By February 1, 2000 |Reviews Tasting Report
Best Sellers

Best Sellers

The coffees that sell best in the American specialty marketplace often are not the same coffees that American specialty coffee professionals (and reviewers) would like to see sell the best. It occurred to me to ask a selection of regional roasters for the coffees their customers prefer, as opposed to the coffees they prefer as […]

By October 1, 1998 |Reviews Tasting Report
Straight Coffees from Africa

Straight Coffees from Africa

A good East African coffee has the disconcerting capacity to make coffees from other parts of the world taste rather tame. The robust wininess of a Kenya or the startling floral tones of an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe are among the grand gestures of coffee. Few East African coffees can be accused of timidity. But what do […]