The end of 2011 is hurtling towards us like a doomsday meteor, and as is what happens every year I'm reminded of some of my favorite coffees to cup/drink/roast from the last year. One of the exciting parts of the coffee trade is that the most amazing coffee experiences are fleeting and of the moment. We don't have "vintage" in the sense that we can go back and taste a coffee from a particular year, but one of the features of Coffee Shrub and Sweet Maria's that I appreciate immensely is the archive section. We can go back and remember these coffees, and the memory of taste and aroma is one of the most evocative. So here's my top 5 coffees of the last year, it would be oh so swell if any of you wanted to also share your top 5's, they can be shrub or otherwise. By the by, these are listed in no particular order as I liked each coffee for their own particular reasons, and since it's the year end list I'm allowing myself to get crazy with the descriptions.
Colombia Tolima Florestales - Maximino Gutierrez
Each and every lot of this coffee that comes in is just so vivid and exciting. I've never put this coffee (from any crop) in front of someone without their eyes growing two sizes bigger. I get a big goofy smile when I think about this coffee, it's just so versatile in so many different brew methods and roasts up like a dream. One of the sweetest roast aromas ever, and just so beautifully even.
Honduras Beneficio San Vicente
So great to see this coffee from Honduras this year. This is a cup profile that you would see in the Hondo COE that just never made it here to the US for whatever reason. I tasted a few different coffees from this area/mill this year and was super impressed at the preparation and the the way the cup maintained it's quality well in to the fall. You keep hearing that big things are coming for Honduran coffee, and if this is any indication then I'm super ready. This was just a really lovely cup of coffee.
Kenya Nyeri AA Kangocho Coop
Everything I want in a Kenya. A jewel of a coffee amidst some really stellar coffees that came through the SM/CS system this year. The only other Kenya that totally matched it or beat it in my mind this year was the Kenya Nyeri Ngunguru AB (http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.africa.kenya.php?source=side). So, I'm counting these two together. Vibrant and sparkling and balanced. These are the coffees that come across the table that make you think that maybe you know what lasers taste like, or if deep red and purple neon bled into each other and tasted how you imagined they could taste. I like coffee
Nicaragua Mozonte - Un Regalo de Dios Maragoype
This coffee might have been the fastest one out the door of any shrub offering before. And with good reason. It was an exotic profile right at the right time. Tons of complex sugar sweetness, and pungent in it's rich floral fruitiness. This was like folding pink and orange play-doh into eachother and then cracking the egg open to find a glowing deep crimson core.
El Salvador Finca Manzano, 3 Way Processing Experiment
What can I say about Emilio and this coffee? So much went into putting this together this year and every end. Was so amazing to be there while it was picked and processed, and then watch people roast it and cup it at the Roasters Guild Retreat and elsewhere and just have their eyes opened to the possibilities presented. One of my favorite moments of the year was watching Emilio do his presentation at the Retreat and to see the reaction from roasters, importers, but mostly other coffee producers. Yes, of course I have a different sort of attachment to these coffees, but even in the cup I just can't stress how unique it is to be able to see this variance under so much control. I really loved the way it helped small roasters make connections to coffee farming and processing, and presented itself in a way that made that instantly translatable to their customers. A truly unique opportunity.
Now, that's 5 and I haven't even talked about the stellar offerings that have come through from Ethiopia, or even the Guatemala Antigua Red Bourbon which might be the most perfectly balanced cup that I can remember, so all in all it has been an amazing year! I want to thank all of the producers, mills, exporting and importing partners, all of the roasters out there in shrub land, Josh Housh and the crew at Sweet Maria's in Oakland, and I want to say an embarrassingly gushy thanks to Maria and Tom for the opportunity to have this amazing coffee trek each year.