This month’s reviews fall neatly into two categories: first, five exceptional holiday blends; second, an assortment of fine single-origin coffees offered only for the holidays that range from versions of familiar names to three holiday splurge coffees likely to satisfy money-is-no-object gift-giving and holiday impulsiveness. Starting with the holiday blends, the most striking finding of this
Dried-in-the-Fruit Refinement: Ethiopia and Yemen Naturals
At this moment I am drinking a cup of a coffee labeled “Ethiopia Amaro Natural.” It was sourced and roasted by Old Soul, an artisan baker and small-batch coffee roaster in Sacramento, California. Aficionados and regular readers of Coffee Review know that “natural” is the latest name for coffee dried inside the whole fruit, rather than after the fruit residue has been removed, as is the case with
Rejoice at Low Coffee Prices? What about Fair Trade?
On Monday, the LA Times ran an article titled Coffee drinkers rejoice: Price of beans hits four-year low. Now, we're glad that favorable weather conditions are helping increase coffee production. And, you certainly can't blame consumers (or the LA Times) for welcoming lower prices. However, keep in mind that lower green coffee prices can adversely affect the financial well-being of
Single-Lot, Single-Variety Excitement
In the new world of high-end specialty coffee, botanical variety of the tree has become one of the crucial ways to differentiate and describe small lots of fine coffee. Grape variety has long been a differentiator in wine, of course, and increasingly dominates description and selling of certain fruits and vegetables. But botanical variety also has become an increasingly intensely explored path to
Preview of October Article and Reviews
In the new world of high-end specialty coffee, botanical variety of the tree has become one of the main ways to differentiate and describe small lots of fine coffee. Grape variety has long been a differentiator in wine, of course, and increasingly dominates description and selling of certain fruits and vegetables. But botanical variety of coffee tree also has become an increasingly intensely
Agtron Numbers: A Sweet Spot?
An Agtron machine reflects light on a sample of coffee in order to objectively and accurately assign a number to the beans' roast color. The smaller the number, the darker the roast. If you're interested in some additional background, refer to a blog we posted in 2010: http://bit.ly/1b7fLNR. The reason that I started thinking about Agtron readings is that it seemed like a lot of recent
Suave and Idiosyncratic: Coffees of Guatemala
The thirty Guatemala coffees we sampled for this month’s article overall were remarkably true to form for this storied and celebrated origin. For the most part they were beautifully structured and balanced, yet surprising and original in detail. Most likely it is the traditionalist nature of Guatemala coffee production – the often unpredictable mix of traditional varieties of Arabica making up
Guatemala Cupping: Sneak Peek
Sneak peek from the lab... According to Kenneth: "We have cupped about twenty Guatemalas with about ten more to go. We've encountered a very wide and impressive range of cup profiles, particularly in the way they reflect the cup tendencies of various botanical varieties of Arabica, from deep, meaty Pacamaras to intense, high-toned, perfumy Geshas. Highest rating so far is 95; lowest is 85. The
Is Coffee Bad For Your Health?: “Better is More”
This week, the highly respected Mayo Clinic published findings that suggest excess coffee consumption, defined as more than four cups per day every day, increases the likelihood of early death in people under the age of 55. The study concluded, in part: "On the basis of these findings, it seems appropriate to suggest that younger people avoid heavy coffee consumption (ie, averaging >4 cups per
A Focus on the Classic: Coffees of Honduras
With this review of coffees from Honduras the excitement may reside more in the story than in the cup itself. The story is how this Central American nation, long considered mainly a source of low-to-decent quality, commercial-grade coffees, has stepped up over the past five years or so and is producing significantly better coffees and more of them. Of the eighteen Honduras coffees we were able to
Sneak Peek: Honduras Cupping
Our August issue, featuring specialty coffees from Honduras, should post tomorrow, Sunday, August 4. The cupping is complete. Nine coffees scored 90 points or higher. We'll include all of them in the article. If you can't wait until tomorrow to read about Honduran coffees, there are 4 dozen Honduran coffee reviews on the site as well as numerous articles that reference Honduras.
What’s the Deal with Decaf?
We haven't published an article about decaffeinated coffee since July 2010. At the time, the samples we cupped "tested my optimism," to quote Kenneth Davids. Only one of the 50 decafs we cupped earned a score of 90 points, namely Decaf South America Blend by Cafe Valverde. However, it appears that decaf drinkers in 2013 have reason to be more optimistic. Over the past three years, we have
Three New Capsule Espresso Systems
Convenience-first single-serve coffee brewing devices are on a roll in North America, fueled by the success of the Keurig and its K-cup capsules. In Europe, where espresso rules, the Nespresso espresso system has had similar blockbuster success. Both systems use rigid capsules rather than tea-bag-like paper pods that characterized earlier (and less commercially successful) single-serve systems. As
How Does One Rate Milk!?
We’re currently testing new capsule espresso systems for July's featured article. There are three: the Starbucks Verismo, the Keurig Rivo (with coffee capsules produced by Lavazza), and a dark horse, the Singolo, with machine and capsules produced in Italy and imported by a Canadian company with distribution in the United States. We are benchmarking these three systems against the dominating diva
What’s the Best Hawaiian Coffee?
Perhaps as we approach the All-American holiday of Independence Day, it's appropriate to consider what the "best" American coffee is. And, given that Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows commercial quantities of coffee, it might naturally lead to the question "What's the best Hawaiian coffee?" That is a question raised in a recent reader search on CoffeeReview.com. First of all, as
Single-Serve Coffee and Espresso Reviews
Machines that utilize a pod, capsule, or K-Cup packed with ground coffee to brew a single serving of coffee (or espresso) are very popular. According to the latest data from the National Coffee Association, thirteen percent of the U.S. population drank coffee made in a single-cup brewer. We first evaluated coffees brewed on single-serve machines in our January 2004 article - At What Cost
Low Acid Coffees
We track the search terms that readers use to find CoffeeReview.com. Recently I noticed quite a few readers looking for information about low acid coffees. One reader was even trying to find out what acid was added to coffee. Well, to answer the question, acid is generally not ADDED to coffee. It occurs naturally and actually provides what Kenneth Davids calls a "sweetly tart spark" that
Hype Meets the Cup: St. Helena Sandy Bay Estate
Some interesting green coffees have come into the lab recently. These were green samples, but you can probably find roasters who offer them via an Internet search. Those who have some history probably are aware that St. Helena, a tiny island located in the middle of the South Atlantic roughly between Brazil and Africa, is famous as the final exile place of Napoleon I (and also, in travel
What Does a 96-Point Coffee Taste Like?
What does a 96-point coffee taste like? Well, you can find out for yourself. Three coffees in 2013 have received ratings of 96 points... and at least two of them are still available from the roasters. Our blind assessments of these remarkable coffees appear below. La Esmeralda Mario Carnaval 2012 Panama by George Howell Coffee/Terroir Coffee "Delicate but lush; piercingly sweet. Honey,
Top-Rated Espressos from the First Half of 2013
As we approach the mid-way point of 2013, we decided to take a look back at the top espressos from the first half of the year. Six espressos earned 94 points, the highest score for an espresso so far in 2013. Three of these coffees are from U.S. roasters: Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co. by Momma Bear Espresso, $17.00/12 ounces. Tchembe Single Origin Espresso by Barrington Coffee Roasters,