It has been harder for me to pick-out only five coffees this year. In 2007, seven or eight coffees really rocked my boat; some because they were unusual, others because they were new to me and one or two old favourites that had enjoyed particularly good crops that year.
I am not suggesting that there have not been just as many good coffees around in 2008. The problem this year is that there are just so many really worthy candidates to choose from, and perhaps there is more of a level playing field as well. Although wonderful coffees like ‘Esme’ are still fantastic, they are perhaps not quite at the peak of a year or two ago when a handful of standouts were head and shoulders above the pack for most people. This allows a few more solid old favouites that are having a particularly good year back into the frame for me, and some of them have appeared in exciting new varietals or processing variants as well!
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive and only includes coffees that I have been fortunate enough to sample and enjoy this year. I can think of a few that I have certainly missed that would surely have made the ‘five’ had I tried them.
In no particular order:
Kenya Gethumbwini AA (from Has Bean stock)
For a long time, I didn’t take much notice of Kenyan coffees. Yes, I know that is madness, but I am unashamedly a huge fan of espresso based drinks and historically (especially if you listened to Leighton) the two simply didn’t go together. Well we all know what happened a couple of years back in the WBC, and experiments took place with espresso machines all over the world. The result here is that I have now got a real taste for decent Kenyans and this one is an absolute blackcurrent bomb in a pour over. Creaminess combined with good fruit acidity make this one of my absolute favourites of the year. I have added the note about Has Bean stock to the heading because not all Geths are equal but they all share the same name. Mileage with other Geths may vary.
Costa Rica CoE Libano Co-op
This was one of the best of the year for me. It’s typical of the coffee I enjoy in espresso based drinks. Thick and gloopy with excellent body, this has loads of golden syrup with lovely caramel undertones.
El Salvador La Ilusion CoE Number 1
A champion coffee in every way. La Ilusion remains one of my absolute favourite coffees and the current crop does not disappoint. I’ve had this prepared in a Clover, by pour over as well as in espresso based drinks, and it is great. It starts with the flavour of fruit salad chews, then has hints of sherbet. With lovely balance, sweetness and complex winey tones, it still manages to remain clean and smooth, before offering up lots of finish.
Square Mile Autumn Espresso Blend
This is the first time a blend has featured in the five, not because none have been good enough, far from it, but simply because the list started out as a single origin retrospective and it is still evolving. I absolutely couldn’t leave this coffee out because it was fantastic. Balanced with a vast spectrum of flavours and lots of mouthfeel, this had plenty of vanilla honey in chocolate caramel and massive sweetness. If you missed it, you really missed out. A big shout out to BillyT for his shots of this. Awesome!
Colombia La Manuela 2007 Crop
Now then, there have been many other fantastic coffees around during 2008 but I’m really going to left field now with the final selection. After all, this is about what I particularly enjoyed. This coffee is not even current crop, the best of which was not as good in 2008 as in previous seasons. Manuela has long since been the staple of our coffee consumption, though once again not all Manuelas, even from the same crop year, are equal. We still have several kilos of top quality 2007 crop green and it is usually home roasted, but here I am just going to reproduce a comment from our tasting log dated 9/6/08:
“Some old season stock especially roasted for us by Steve. Simply superb. Caramel, body, nutty smokiness, aftertaste, yum”.
That says it all really. Let’s hope the best of the next crop returns this very underrated coffee to it’s former standard.
Well that’s it for 2008. I’m looking forward to the great coffees that 2009 will surely bring. May your demitasse always be overflowing.