Author Archive: Kenneth Davids

Kenneth Davids is a coffee expert, author and co-founder of Coffee Review. He has been involved with coffee since the early 1970s and has published three books on coffee, including the influential Home Roasting: Romance and Revival, now in its second edition, and Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying, which has sold nearly 250,000 copies over five editions. His workshops and seminars on coffee sourcing, evaluation and communication have been featured at professional coffee meetings on six continents.

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Making Sense (or Not Making Sense) of Words for Roast Color

Making Sense (or Not Making Sense) of Words for Roast Color

Pawel, in a recent response to my blog “Boomeranging to Super Light Roasts,” asks whether he should order his favorite coffee, a Sumatra Takengon Gayo Organic from the Aceh region, at “City+” or a somewhat darker “Full City.” He answers his own question, quite correctly I think, by writing that there is only one way […]

By June 8, 2010 Read Article
Along the Andes: Coffees of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru

Along the Andes: Coffees of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru

The short version is simple: Three coffee origins with massive growing elevations and substantial plantings of traditional varieties of Arabica but with little to no presence in the specialty coffee world suddenly provide us with fifty-three largely impressive, often distinctive coffees. For years Bolivia, despite ideal, very high-altitude terroirs and plantings of the old and […]

Boomeranging to Super Light Roasts

Boomeranging to Super Light Roasts

It occurred to me again as we were cupping five beautiful single-origin samples from two of the leading new-paradigm roasting companies (call them third wave , fourth wave – whatever wave we’re on now) that some of these exciting, ground-breaking roasting companies may be edging toward, well, too light a roast. What an irony – […]

By June 1, 2010 Read Article
Micro to Macro: Southern California Coffees

Micro to Macro: Southern California Coffees

This month’s cupping of forty-two coffees from seventeen southern California roasters hints at a drama that is currently enlivening the coffee scenes of other American metropolises: Newer, smaller roasting companies that put more focus on medium-roasted small lots of precisely sourced coffees are pressing older, often larger companies that produce darker-roasted versions of more generic […]

Mysterious No More: Sumatra Coffees

Mysterious No More: Sumatra Coffees

Ever since specialty coffee pioneer Alfred Peet popularized Sumatra coffees on the menu of his famous Vine Street store, their pungently fruity, earthy/musty profile has attracted a loyal following among American coffee lovers. Along the way they have been regularly tagged “mysterious,” a word also often applied to the seldom-visited Indonesian island they come from. […]

Island Coffees: Hawaii and the Caribbean

Island Coffees: Hawaii and the Caribbean

This month’s reviews consider coffees from two famous island growing regions — Kona and the Blue Mountains of Jamaica — together with a handful of coffees from less famous island origins: Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, plus a scattering of non-Kona Hawaii coffees. The conclusions, rather sadly, are predictable for coffee insiders but perhaps […]

Report from Kenya: The Ruiru 11 Controversy

Report from Kenya: The Ruiru 11 Controversy

As part of a just completed trip to Kenya, I visited some farms and coops in the classic Kenya growing regions northeast of Nairobi. Before arriving at the coffee, however, we enjoyed a day’s run past giraffes, rhinos and other impossible creatures around Lake Nakuru, a lake particularly famous for the clouds of flamingos that […]

By February 22, 2010 Read Article
Coffees of Sulawesi, Bali, Java, Flores, East Timor

Coffees of Sulawesi, Bali, Java, Flores, East Timor

In beverage-world terms, coffees from Indonesia and East Timor could be considered the single-malt whiskies of coffee. Generally absent are the tart fruit and sweet floral notes of the finest pure, high-grown, wet-processed coffees of Latin America and East Africa. In their place are rich, ambiguous notes of nut, aromatic wood, sometimes earth, sometimes a […]

By February 5, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Fourteen Covers of a Classic Tune: Mocha Java Blends

Fourteen Covers of a Classic Tune: Mocha Java Blends

Around 1740 Europeans had a rather limited menu of coffees to choose from: Mocha, the world’s original commercial coffee from what is now Yemen, and Java, a recent introduction by the Dutch from their colony in the Pacific. Inevitably, these two coffees came together to form the world’s first blend. In the years following, other, […]

Best (or Should-Be-Best) Selling Single Origins 2009

Best (or Should-Be-Best) Selling Single Origins 2009

With this month’s review we aimed to evaluate those single-origin coffees that sell best all year. We were after the sturdy, consistent coffees that make up the backbone of roasters’ single-origin programs, the coffees they absolutely need to have in bags or bins to avoid muttering customers or nasty emails. We hoped to bypass for […]

By December 8, 2009 |Reviews Tasting Report
Quality and Fair Trade Certified Coffees

Quality and Fair Trade Certified Coffees

Fair Trade certification has been on a bit of roll of late, steadily expanding both at origin and in the marketplace. Its producer programs have extended from their original base in Central America to more far-flung origins like Ethiopia and Sumatra. Fair Trade certified coffees are now sold in volume in at least one big […]

By November 6, 2009 |Reviews Tasting Report
CQI Takes on the Robusta Taboo

CQI Takes on the Robusta Taboo

Recently arrived in the mail is a certificate (suitable for framing) from the Coffee Quality Institute, the non-profit coffee research organization spun off from the better known Specialty Coffee Association of America. That I earned the certificate through some cupping in Uganda is not of much note; of late the American specialty coffee industry has […]

By October 26, 2009 Read Article
Something for Everyone: India Coffees 2009

Something for Everyone: India Coffees 2009

India is a considerably better-known coffee origin in Europe than in the United States. And even in Europe it tends to be a source whose profound coffee originality is hidden inside blends rather than foregrounded in single-origin or trophy coffees. For example, India provides some of the world’s most valuable coffee types for espresso blends, […]

Half Way to Napa? Panamas 2009

Half Way to Napa? Panamas 2009

The compact coffee growing region of western Panama, rising on the slopes of the 11,300-foot Volcan Baru, is in many respects ideally configured to develop into one of the world’s coffee versions of Napa Valley. The region is compact, ideal for coffee growing, and almost all of the production is performed by classic medium-sized, family-owned […]

By September 5, 2009 |Reviews Tasting Report
The Devil’s in the Details: Bird-Friendly and Shade-Grown Coffees

The Devil’s in the Details: Bird-Friendly and Shade-Grown Coffees

Suppose the following: You look out your window and see a suddenly appearing flock of song birds. Or perhaps you hear their familiar, melodic burbling first, then see them. For many of us this is a precious moment, particularly so because we often know that these flitting, vulnerable creatures are only making a brief stopover […]

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, […]

Animal-Processed Coffees: The Latest Contender

Animal-Processed Coffees: The Latest Contender

A favorite question asked by bored party-goers when meeting a coffee cupper for the first time runs like this: “Is it true that there is a coffee that is… uh… eaten by, and, uh … ” “Yes,” we respond. “Kopi luwak. The coffee fruit is eaten by an animal and the coffee seeds are excreted […]

By June 22, 2009 Read Article
Alternative Africas: Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania

Alternative Africas: Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania

Coffees from the mountain ranges and plateaus that parallel the east coast of Africa are among the most distinctive in the world. The great coffees of Ethiopia and Kenya are by far the best known, but other African countries also produce distinguished Arabicas. For this month’s article we review twelve coffees, six from Rwanda, four […]

McDonald’s vs. Starbucks: A Milky Skirmish in the Coffee Wars

McDonald’s vs. Starbucks: A Milky Skirmish in the Coffee Wars

The latest front in what the business press likes to call the Coffee Wars is clearly more a battle about frothed milk, whipped cream and syrup than about coffee. McDonald’s is rolling out its McCafé line of espresso-based (OK, milk-based) beverages with a national advertising assault of old-fashioned scale and intensity, while Starbucks, the Chain […]

By May 27, 2009 Read Article
American Espresso Blends: Boutique and Bigger

American Espresso Blends: Boutique and Bigger

Specialty espresso is currently in the throes of a creative explosion. I think of it as “post-Italian” espresso, a dynamic community of baristas, blender/roasters and motivated aficionados remaking espresso as a global connoisseur’s beverage with passionately contested barista competitions, non-traditional brewing innovations, and freshly conceived blend designs. The goal of this month’s tasting reviews was […]