It’s been an odd year. I have tried fewer coffees than usual. Although I suspected as much, it is still a bit of a shock looking through the tasting log and seeing quite a few less coffees than usual. That is strange really as 2009 has seen an abundant choice of beans available in the UK and I am certainly sad to have missed some of them. Others are still available and I’ll be looking to sample some of those over the next few weeks.
Why has this happened? For two reasons, I think. Firstly, we were working through a large stock of greens earlier in the year which meant we bought in less roasted coffee, and latterly because of a Los Amates addiction. More about that in a minute.
So, on to my favourite 5 coffees tasted in 2009:
El Salvador Finca Los Amates Bourbon Cup of Excellence 2009
This placed 11th in the El Salvadorian CoE competition and it is without doubt this is my favourite coffee of the year by some way. Not the most exotic and certainly not the most expensive coffee of the year at £4.50 a bag, this is certainly one of the best of its type. Typical of the sort of coffee I adore, Los Amates is thick and gloopy with wonderful mouthfeel. It somehow combines sweetness with dark chocolate thus avoiding the sharpness that can be associated with the latter. With a creamy yet subtle caramel undertone throughout the cup, this coffee explodes with a spicy blackcurrant flavour that makes it so special. With a long finish and lasting balanced aftertaste, Los Amates is everything that is great about El Salvadorian coffee.
Square Mile Spring Blend
It was a pair of shots, one served as a flat white and another as a straight espresso, that meant this excellent blend had to be included. Quite simply, those two shots were the best I have ever had. Simple as that. They were prepared on a machine that was clearly finely tuned by a true artisan and surely one of the finest baristas in the country. The balance in the shots was incredible. They had everything. They were subtle yet full bodied. The shot in the flat white easily cut the milk whilst retaining delicate hints of vanilla and honey. The espresso was viscose and sweet. The temperatures were perfect. This was the ultimate coming together of skillful preparation by a world class barista who got everything out of a first rate coffee.
This was a bag blagged from Steve at Has Bean of Colin Harmon’s reserve blend for the WBC. The roast was a culmination of much tinkering and it was stunning. An unusual blend of 50/50 Brazilian Cachoeira Bourbon and Hawaiian Kona, it had a big start of fresh natural lemon, then developed smooth malty chocolate and a lovely finish.
Bolivia Machacamarca BV – WBC Roast
This is a fine coffee at any time, but as part of the previously mentioned blag came a bag of the actual competition roast that Colin eventually used. Finely tuned to perfection, this was an amazing roast of beans hand sifted by Steve. Yes, that is what it takes to succeed in competition. Very balanced and smooth, with lots of sweetness, this had ample dark chocolate with caramel undertones. Rich, but not overpowering, with good body. This was coffee at its best.
Guatemala El Bosque Amititlan Yellow Bourbon
This year, Steve at Has Bean managed to source separate lots of red and yellow bean El Bosque in very limited quantity. The red was fantastic, but the yellow was just a little cleaner and very special indeed. A very smooth coffee with milk chocolate, sweetness and good grape acidity. Hints of spice, cherry and apple added to the wonderful balance. A truely lovely coffee that was a delight as espresso and in the Chemex.
I may not have sampled as many coffees in 2009 as in past years, but reading back through this list has made me realise that I certainly got to taste some of the best and rarest around this year. For that I consider myself very fortunate. Here is to 2010 and lots more coffee adventures.