Our annual “Top 30” ranking of the thirty most noteworthy coffees of the year has attracted considerable attention over the past two years. As several readers have pointed out, however, our rankings have tended to favor high-scoring coffees produced from botanical varieties of Arabica with striking sensory properties: coffees of the Gesha/Geisha variety, coffees from the distinctive traditional Ethiopian varieties, etc.
We expect coffees produced from such distinctive-cupping tree varieties to continue to be prevalent in our Top 30 list in 2015. However, going forward, we decided to create additional categories that will focus attention on fine coffees from other parts of the world and/or produced from less celebrated botanical varieties, coffees that may not attract a rating of 95 or 96, yet still merit recognition for their excellence.
After considerable internal debate throughout 2015, we ultimately settled on the following categories:
- Alternative Africa Coffees (for brewed coffee applications)
- Asia-Pacific Coffees (for brewed coffee applications)
- Central America/North America Coffees (for brewed coffee applications)
- South America and Caribbean Coffees (for brewed coffee applications)
- Blends (for brewed coffee applications)
- Darker Roasted Coffees
- Certified Coffees (certifications include Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Utz, Smithsonian Bird Friendly)
- Espresso Blends
- Espresso Single-Origins
- Decaffeinated Coffees (both for brewed and espresso applications)
- Best Value Coffees (both for brewed and espresso applications)
Note that we refined the categories and definitions over the course of 2015, and even as recently as late November, as we dealt with the practical matters of selecting coffees for recognition. For example, we modified the Africa category to recognize what we call “Alternative” African coffees. Had we not made this change, the category would have likely recognized Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees to the exclusion of coffees from other African origins such as Burundi and Tanzania.