By January 6, 2014 |Reviews Tasting Report

Top 30 Coffees of 2013

Coffee Review introduced 100-point reviews to the specialty coffee industry in 1997. Over the years since then we’ve cupped tens of thousands of samples and produced reviews for nearly 3,500 coffees.

We are often asked, “What is the best coffee?” To which we give the obvious answer: “There is no single ‘best’ coffee.” Of course, visitors to our website can sort through the reviews to draw their own conclusions about which coffees are best, or at least best for them. Nevertheless, we’ve concluded that it’s reasonable for readers to expect us to identify coffees we’ve tasted over the past year that we’ve found particularly exciting and worthy of note.

So, with a nod to publications like Wine Spectator, which issues a top 100 wines list annually, we are pleased to introduce our first effort to rank the top coffees we reviewed over the past year in the “Coffee Review’s Top 30 Coffees of 2013.”

More than Rating Alone

Of course anyone can search our site for the top-rated coffees, but in compiling our Top 30 list we decided to apply a more holistic approach that combined quality (represented by overall rating), value (reflected by most affordable price per pound), and a ranking of other factors that include distinctiveness of style, uniqueness of origin or tree variety, sustainable certification, and general rarity.

Why did we choose to limit our list to thirty coffees? There is no magic to the number. It just seemed about right. In 2013 we will publish reviews of about four hundred coffees. Roughly sixty of these will score 94 points or higher. Obviously all of these 94+ point coffees are exceptional. But some are more unusual or noteworthy in one way or another than others. We are very fond of Ethiopian coffees, for example, but nearly two dozen coffees from this extraordinary, seminal origin earned 94 points or higher. We couldn’t include them all on the list. Our final list of top thirty coffees includes about half of all those coffees that scored 94 points or higher over the past year. Obviously some outstanding coffees were left off the list; on the other hand, every coffee on the list is remarkable or exciting in some way.

Some Top-30 Statistics

Regular Coffee Review readers will recognize many of the roasters and origins on the Top 30 list. Eleven of the coffees were roasted by Coffee Review advertisers, though that played no role in their original scoring or in their selection to the list. The average overall rating of the coffees on the Top 30 list is 94.4. The average price is $35.00 per pound, although many coffees high on the list cost considerably less.

Not surprisingly, the most frequently-appearing origin on the list is Ethiopia, with six appearances. Other origins with multiple coffees on the list are Kenya (4), El Salvador (3), Hawaii (3), Sumatra (2), and Panama (2). Coffees from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Rwanda also made the list, along with four blends.

Roasters from only two countries appeared on the list: United States (28) and Taiwan (2). Canada was noticeably absent. We reviewed many fine coffees from Canadian roasters, most notably Fratello Coffee Roasters, but no single Canada-roasted coffee cracked the Top 30. The same could be said of excellent coffees we’ve reviewed that were roasted in Thailand, Hong Kong and Korea.

Roasters from California and Washington State dominated the rankings, with six and five appearances respectively. Other states with multiple roasters on the list were Hawaii (3), Massachusetts (2) and Wisconsin (2). Ten other states placed one roaster on the list.

The Cost Factor

The average price of $35.00 per pound for coffees on the list is certainly not cheap compared to other unrated specialty coffees on the market. However, keep in mind that one of the selection criteria for the Top 30 coffees was value, or affordability, measured by price per pound. Many of the coffees on the list are priced in line with other specialty coffees, including a dozen at $20 per pound or less. Given that a pound of coffee produces the liquid equivalent of close to one case of wine, this means some of the best coffees in the world are priced less per serving than the famous (or infamous) Charles Shaw “Two Buck Chuck” wine.

Higher scoring coffees tended to cost more:
96-point coffees = $65.19/pound
95-point coffees = $29.71/pound
94-point coffees = $28.90/pound
93-point-or-less coffees = $23.42/pound

The three most affordable coffees on the list are the 94-point Tony’s Ganesha Espresso ($13.99/16 ounces), the 94-point Mr. Espresso Ethiopia ($12.10/12 ounces) and the 95-point Velton’s Holiday Blend ($17.00/16 ounces).

Looking Ahead

We hope you will find our list of top coffees interesting, informative and provocative. We welcome your observations and opinions about the Top 30 Coffees of 2013. Please tweet us or post your comments on our blog or Facebook page.
You will find outstanding coffees, great values, emerging origins, and outstanding farmers and roasters that deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Use the list as a guide for purchasing the coffees that remain available for sale in the market this season and to seek out the origins, farmers, and roasters that deserve a first look in 2014.

2014 The Coffee Review. All rights reserved.

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About the Author:

Ron Walters, co-founder of Coffee Review, manages business operations, including, marketing, and social media. He conceived of and helped pioneer the development of 100-point reviews in the specialty coffee industry. For the past twenty years, he has been engaged in strategy, marketing, and management of specialty food and beverage businesses.

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