Before sharing my thoughts on the five final coffees that I tried for the first time this year I’d like to note I have yet to decide on a posting schedule for this blog. Being that my posts represent a chronicle or diary of my specialty coffee experiences my posting frequency will be heavily effected by both my feeling that I’ve had enough experiences to compile into a blog post and by my work schedule and family life.  Lastly, because the aromas and flavors that one perceives in a specialty coffee are based on more parameters that most others artisanal beverages. While I’ll be calling them reviews, my thoughts on each coffee are solely based on my experiences with brewing them with the parameters that I’ve come to prefer over time (1:12 brewing ratio using filtered tap water).

On to the reviews and updates…

Where I’ve been buying my coffees from: As noted  in my previous post the two sites that I’d be ordering from were Seattle Coffee Gear and Go Coffee Go. However, upon ordering and receiving Intelligentsia’s Celebration Blend from Seattle Coffee Gear and it having a roast date which was just over 2 weeks prior I decided to keep Go Coffee Go as my primary ordering website and start ordering any additional coffees directly from their roasters in order to ensure that I receive freshly roasted beans.

My Final 5 Coffees of 2016:

Personal photos coming soon…

Coffee #1: Intelligentsia Coffee’s Celebration Blend

dsc_1024Roaster’s Description: We built this year’s Celebration Blend with two vibrant East African coffees and one of this year’s best Latin American offerings. The result is reminiscent of a cup of hot cider – fresh crisp apple, along with red grapefruit, and sweet kiwi. More info.

My experiences with this coffee: As noted above I received this holiday blend with a roast date that was just over 2 weeks prior. Therefore, I was not able to fully experience the roaster’s intensions for this blend. Due to the characteristics listed in its cupping notes being ones that are typically derived from a coffee’s acidity I brewed this coffee with my Hario V60 ceramic cone. It’s aroma and flavor both had bright citric acidity and at times had distinct notes of grapefruit and apple. While I did a perceive moderate sweetness in the finish it came off more as honey followed by a hint of toastiness which reminded me of bread crust rather than sweet kiwi.  So while the beans weren’t as fresh as I would have liked I was still able to enjoy this blend and having had multiple memorable experiences with Intelligentsia coffees in the recent past I’m looking forward to trying their 2017 seasonal blends.

Coffee #2: Olympia Coffee’s Holiday Blend

dsc_1031Roaster’s Description: It’s hard to imagine a more versatile and table-pleasing holiday coffee than this smooth, round, and exhilarating blend. Aficionados will also find it worth seeking out for its complex expression of the classic Bourbon style. This blend consists of coffee from an heirloom Bourbon varietal grown in El Salvador and a Kenya composed entirely of the celebrated SL 34 and SL 28 varieties, which produce the finest Kenyan coffees. The El Salvador Bourbon was produced by Ricardo Ariz on his El Aguila farm from trees descended from the first Bourbon stock introduced into the region; the SL 34 and 28 were produced by Kenya’s Kagumoini Cooperative. The result is a smoothly exuberant Bourbon extravaganza. Happiest of Holidays from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.! Cupping Notes: Flavors of melted chocolate, plum, and candied citrus.

My experiences with this coffee: After enjoying two single origin coffees from Olympia there was no question whether I’d try there Holiday Blend. Though its cupping notes definitely sweetened the deal. When fresher this blend’s aroma and flavor had welcoming a note of sweet cocoa (almost milk chocolate) and a hint of plum upfront which were following my a burst of citric acidity which at first was a bit sharp, but sweetened as the coffee cooled. Then as the beans edged closer to the 2 weeks post roasting mark the chocolate notes mellowed which caused the grapefruit acidity to play a bigger role in the aroma and initial taste. So while I prefer coffees with bold chocolate notes and less acidity during the Fall and Winter I was impressed by how balanced this blend remained from start to finish.

Coffee #3 Ritual Coffee’s Hacienda Carmona, Guatemala

dsc_1087Roaster’s Description: In Antigua, Guatemala octogenarian Maria Zelaya grows Bourbon and Typica trees on her 110 hectare Farm Hacienda Carmona at elevations between 1580 and 1890 meters above sea level. Maria is fiercely dedicated to producing quality coffee and has built a beautiful beneficio.  She processes the coffee and a traditional washed manner: depulping the skin of the coffee cherry off before subjecting it to a 24-Hour fermentation process to deteriorate any remaining sugar off of the seed, and finally, sun-drying the coffee on patios. This year’s election is incredibly sweet with flavors of mission fig, peach, and chocolate covered cherries. More info.

My experiences with this coffee: While many of the Guatemalan coffees that I’ve tried have had their cocoa and or chocolate notes upfront this coffee had them primarily in the finish. As a result each sip presented two experiences. The first being bright acidity with notes of citrus, fresh mission figs, and a bit of honey sweetness. This was then juxtaposed by the warming semi-sweet chocolate that I was looking for upon reading the cupping notes prior to ordering this coffee. In order to bring more balance to coffees of this sort in the future I will use water that is a bit cooler so that the acidity will not take away from the balance of the overall drinking experience.

dsc_1238Coffee #4: Pablo’s Coffee’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Worka Co-Op (Natural Process – Organically Grown)

Roaster’s Description: A classic fruit forward naturally processed Ethiopian with strawberry, raspberry and hints of blueberries, with a creamy body and excellent sweetness…We’ve been on the hunt for a nice naturally processed Ethiopian coffee for a while now and are thrilled with this coffee from the Work Co-Op from the district of Gedeb in the south of Ethiopia. The coffee is from a group of family farms which are part of the Co-Op, which is in turn part of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. This larger Co-op supports sustainable coffee production for its more than 45,000 members. More info.

My experiences with this coffee: Over time I’ve developed a love for naturally processed Ethiopian coffees. While many of them taste similar despite differences in origin (Yirgacheffe, Sidama, etc) and roaster, I’ve greatly enjoyed everyone that I’ve tried and this one was no exception. Bursting with blueberry and strawberry aromatics and flavors this coffee was a joy to drink. When ground a setting finer than I usually grind for pourovers, the berry notes took on some added sweetness and took on a jam-like intensity. With this being the second naturally processed Ethiopian coffee that I’ve tried from Pablo’s Coffee I can confidently recommend their naturally processed coffees to all those who enjoy fruit forward single origin coffees.

Coffee #5: Pablo’s Coffee’s Guatemala Huehuetenango La Encenedas

dsc_1235Roaster’s Description:

Rich velvety dark chocolate tones define this fine Guatemalan coffee, along with a slightly tart cherry and lime zest finish, which balance the cup and leave the palate wanting more. This coffee is grown by 11 family owned farms located within the municipality of San Pedro Necta in the department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Through the careful attention of Luis Pedro, whose family has over 100 years agricultural experience, the farmers have improved drying and processing protocols.  Their attention to detail really shines in the roaster, resulting in consistently chocolate tones, clean citrus acidities, with no under ripe artifacts or astringent flavors. Recommended Brew Method: French Press

My experiences with this coffee: Having become accustom to light to medium coffees I at first was taken aback when I saw that this coffee was roasted a bit darker. However, after reading the description on the bag the roaster’s intentions for this coffee made complete sense. As recommended I brewed this coffee in my French press and true to its cupping notes this coffee had a full body and was packed with cocoa and chocolate in both the aroma and taste; though I did not pick up on any distinct cherry or lime zest acidity. Of note, I would recommend drinking this coffee as fresh as possible as once the beans approached the 2-week post roasting mark I picked up some stale coffee notes in the finish.

Blending Coffees: Because I was the juggling 3 single origin coffees and had 2 more ordered from a roaster that I had yet to try I decided to blend 2 coffees at a time, brewing the blend in my French press. I first blended both Pablo’s coffees using 45g of Guatemala and 15g of Ethiopia. While enjoyable, I think doing an even split would work better. Next, I blended the remainder of my Ritual Coffee beans with some of the Ethiopian from Pablo’s using a ratio of roughly 2:1 Ritual to Pablo’s. This was blend was the winner, the peach and mission fig notes of the Ritual combined really well with the natural processed berry notes of the Pablo’s. So much so that once the coffee cooled down and the blend’s nuances became more apparent, I was taken aback by how complex and unique its flavors were.

First Coffees of 2017: Columbia El Horno and Ethiopia Kochere from ReAnimator Coffee Roasters (Philadelphia, PA).