craft coffee

News, Coffee

TBP Presents: Coffee of the Year

After graduating college in December of 2013 my girlfriend and I headed out on a month-long cross country adventure.  At this point I really didn't know much about coffee at all.  I liked espresso a whole lot and I thought I liked really dark coffee.  Throughout the trip I was on the search for the best damn espresso money could buy.  From South Dakota to Seattle I think I had eight or nine different espressos from coffee shops along the way, in a three day span.  To supplement, I was often ordering a drip coffee to go with the espresso.  At that point, I didn't know single origin coffee was even a notion, or that coffees could have actual flavor profiles.  

About halfway through the trip we were staying with some friends in LA and one morning they took us to their local spot, Intelligensia.  I was blown away waiting in line, staring at the menu. Wow, they have six different coffees to choose from? They taste like that?! Oh man, look that guy is manually brewing coffee, that's crazy. All of this excitement quickly pulled me away from my plan to find the best espresso and I ordered a V60 of a single origin from Bolivia.  I remember reading that it supposedly tasted like apples and berries (psh, coffees can't taste like fruit!)  You all really should have seen my reaction to this damn coffee.  I was blown away.  The coffee was sweet!  Without any sugar!  This is insanity!  For weeks after the trip I'd brag to my friends about how I had drank the best coffee of my life while in LA, and that it tasted like fruit, and that it was sourced from one country.

Eventually, after telling enough people, someone finally introduced me to a local coffee roaster that carried, brewed and sold these mythical single origin coffees.  Enter Georgio's Coffee Roasters of Farmingdale, NY.  Stopping at Georgio's at 9am every Saturday, before heading to the warehouse to pack orders, quickly became a routine.  Every weekend I would wake up hyped to try a new single origin coffee.  Some of my earliest memories of my intro to specialty coffee include bouncing back and forth between a Lake Toba Sumatra and Ethiopia Limu, not being able to decide which extreme of the flavor spectrum I enjoyed the most.  From the earthy richness of the Sumatra that reminded me of a classic coffee, to the bright acidity of the Ethiopian that was redefining what a coffee could taste like.  A lot of my coffee knowledge today can be traced back to Georgio and Lydia Testani, two of the most passionate coffee people I'll ever meet.  I can't thank them enough for that.

Georgio's coffee became such a crucial part of my coffee drinking life that I eventually started buying pre-ground beans to take home.  First, it was cold brew.  Then, it was using a cotton sack filled with coffee, steeped like tea.  I did that for weeks, it was ridiculous.  Eventually, I bought my first French press for $8 at Marshall's.  For the next six months or so I was strictly brewing coffee via French press and cold brew.  Not sure when the obsession truly took hold, but in the following months I managed to acquire a v60, Rok Espresso Press, another french press, a generic bee house, a mokka pot, a cold brew contraption and a cold brew tower (which I have yet to build)... you get the idea.

Long story short, in under two years specialty coffee went from completely absent to a crucial part of my life.  I'm now home brewing multiple times a day, reading as many coffee reviews and blogs as possible, and cataloging and grading every coffee I drink.  In the past 12 months, I have home brewed over 50 different coffees from 19 different roasters.  I have spent a year and a half developing a grading and cataloging system for me to keep track of everything I brew.  I'll be releasing more info on my process and structure in the next few months, as I plan to include my love for coffee into the brand more and more in 2016.

I'd like to leave you with brief look into my Top 3 favorite coffees of 2015.  Each coffee description includes original notes taken when I brewed the coffee, as well as, some additional insights specifically for our Coffee of the Year List. 

So without further ado, here is The Beaten Path Distribution's Coffee of the Year List:

Top Coffees of 2015

#1) Barkeater Coffee - Ethiopia Hambela
Roaster:  Barkeater Coffee Roasters
Coffee: Ethiopia Hambela Single Farm Natural
Country of Origin: Ethiopia
Process: Natural Processed & Sun Dried on Raised Beds
Elevation: 1,900 m - 2,200 m
Varietal(s): Heirloom
Roast Date: 08/02/15     Brew Date: 08/10/15
Brew Method: V60     Yield Ratio: 22g/360g     Brew Time:  2:45
Price: $0.93/oz ($14.95 per 16oz)

Roast: Light-Medium     Body: Medium
Aroma: Sugar, Pie, Blueberry
Taste: Blueberry Muffin, Sweet Jam, Peach
Additional Notes: Best value to date. Top 3 flavor of all time.

Grading
Aroma | Dry:
 10     Pour: 8
Taste | Initial: 9.5     Finish: 8.5
Value: 10
Overall: 9.5

Let me start by saying that I couldn't find a brew method that this coffee didn't excel in. Pour over, French press, espresso and cold brew all provided scores of 8 or higher. This coffee is one of the sweetest Ethiopian fruit bombs I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. You get the punch from the start, but as the coffee cools you really see why it's so special. You know that first bite of a blueberry muffin when you essentially are getting just the sugar coated crust? That's the best way to describe this guys flavor profile. Intense blueberry, sugar cube and black berry from start to finish.  Throughout my year of home brewing as many different coffees as possible, I've still managed to drink close to four pounds of this coffee.  That's how good it is.  Through the end of the year we will be offering a free 2oz sample of this amazing coffee when you purchase an Estrada Design for The Beaten Path Mug.  If mugs aren't your thing, you can also purchase this coffee in 12oz or 16oz bags from Barkeater's webstore.
Barkeater Coffee: Website  Instagram  Twitter

 

#2) Onyx Coffee Lab - La Palma Jose Ferero Lot 25
Roaster: Onyx Coffee Lab
Coffee: La Palma Jose Ferero Lot 25
Country of Origin: Columbia
Process: Lactic Acid Process, Fully Washed
Elevation: 1,600m
Varietal(s): Caturra, Bourbon, Typica
Roast Date: N/A     Brew Date: 03/22/15
Brew Method: V60 Yield Ratio: 11g/180g Brew Time:  1:35
Price: $1.75/oz ($21 per 12oz)

Roast: Light-Medium     Body: Light
Aroma: Apple, Jam, Acidic
Taste: Limeade, Strawberry, Cherry, Tart
Additional Notes: Amazing cooling and finish, cup transforms start to finish.

Grading
Aroma | Dry:
8 Pour: 7
Taste | Initial: 8.5 Finish: 9
Value: 8
Overall: 9

Before this coffee I had no clue that you could find something so fruity and sharp from Columbia. My previous experiences with specialty Columbian coffee always sat somewhere from medium to heavy body with typical chocolate, caramel and nut flavors. This coffee was far from that. When I purchased my first bag I laughed at the idea of "cherry, limeade, strawberry" on the flavor profile. They nailed it. Best way to describe this guy is the strawberry-lime Rickey that you'd get at Friendly's as a kid. Such a strong, pleasant acidity and the strawberry flavor is overwhelming. I purchased this coffee multiple times in the dead of winter, yet still brewed it v60 over ice nearly every time.  Absolutely outstanding coffee, but unfortunately this coffee sold out over the summer.  Crossing my fingers that Onyx can snag another amazing lot from Mr. Ferero again in 2016.
Onyx Coffee Lab: Website  Instagram  Twitter

 

#3) Indaba Coffee - Guatemala Acatenango Gesha
Roaster: Indaba Coffee
Coffee: Guatemala Acatenango Gesha
Country of Origin: Guatamala
Process: Washed
Elevation: N/A
Varietal(s): Gesha
Roast Date: 10/13     Brew Date: 10/17
Brew Method: V60 Yield Ratio: 10.6g / 181g Brew Time:  2:18
Price: $2.5/oz ($20 per 8oz)

Roast: Light-Medium     Body: Medium
Aroma: Seaweed, Aloe, Cocoa, Yam
Taste: Yams, Marshmallow, Cinnamon, Coco, Floral, Hibiscus, Cooking Chocolate
Additional Notes: Fiji Water mouth feel.  Super complex.  Best gesha to date.

Grading
Aroma | Dry: 9 Pour: 8.5
Taste | Initial: 9 Finish: 9.5
Value: 8
Overall: 9

I had my first gesha less than six months ago. With all the hype surrounding this elusive coffee, my expectations were obviously pretty high. Great coffee, but my mind wasn't blown. Since then I've had four other geshas and all were about the same. Good tea, floral, jasmine flavor but nothing mind blowing; until this guy. I had been following Indaba on social media for a while and loved everything they were doing with their brand. As I was going through my list of roasters to check out, it was finally time for me to knock these guys off my list. I was skeptical at first with this coffee, but a 6oz bag for $15 had me sold. The coffee I brewed from this bag was unlike any other gesha I had tasted. The mouth feel was something I had never seen in any coffee before, think Fiji Water silkiness. Then, the way that the flavor profile slowly but so clearly transformed from a nice raisin, nut at the first sip, to an amazing, smooth sweet potato pie in the finish. Yes, sweet potato pie, that Thanksgiving treat with cinnamon and golden marshmallows. All of it. After having a few cups I had to invite some friends to try this coffee to make sure I wasn't completely losing my mind. Thankfully, they all agreed that this coffee was truly something else. Indaba still has some of this wonderful coffee left over at their web store.
Indaba Coffee: Website  Instagram  Twitter

 

Beyond these three there were plenty of other super solid coffees.  Some of my favorite coffees consistently came from the likes of La Colombe, Georgio's Coffee Roasters, Madcap Coffee and Forty Acres Coffee.  If you've made it this far, thanks a ton for reading.  Really looking forward to doing more coffee write-ups, reviews and products in 2016.  Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season!

Interviews, Coffee

TBP Interviews: Beachcomber Coffee

The Beaten Path is adding a new series to it's blog roll arsenal: TBP Interviews.The series will focus on other smaller brands, bands, and artists that I personally admire for the hard work that they put into their passions.This isn't just filler, this is me reaching out to those who inspire to hear their side of the story.Check out the interview below and be sure to let us know what you think.

A few months ago I was scrolling through coffee hashtags on Instagram and all of a sudden the packaging for Beachcomber Coffee caught my eye.  Intrigued, I did some more research on the company and found out that they're a small startup specialty coffee brand based out of Vancouver, BC that boasts a unique blend and flavor profile along with a super energy efficient small-batch roasting process.  Over the past few weeks I've had the chance to finally taste the coffee along with speak with owner Martin DesRosiers about his brand.  Check out the interview below where Martin does an amazing job in giving an inside look into their roasting process, packaging, bean selection and more.  


- What's your name, location, and role at Beachcomber Coffee?
Martin DesRosiers, North Vancouver, and I'm the founder of Beachcomber Coffee Co.

- What's your work background in?  How has that played a roll in the brand?
My background is diverse in that I went to school for general business/marketing and ended up pursuing a more technical path. I've been in the Managed IT Services business since 2006, had a small IT services business acquired in 2009, and have ventured out to build a few online projects including a social media/digital marketing consulting business. Having launched a few projects/startups I've been able to learn along the way and I've always wanted to build a product. With a strong passion for the coffee culture, I started working on Beachcomber last June and officially launched January 2015.

- How long have you been into specialty coffee?
I'm completely new to the industry - an official certified rookie with limited knowledge. With that being said, I'm tapped into the coffee culture scene on a few levels and have been working closely with an existing craft coffee brand which has helped me a lot along the way so far. I believe part of being new prevents me from over analyzing everything and allows me to go with my gut on many decisions, I feel like I'm learning something new every week and mostly everyone I've encountered that has a passion for coffee, has been positive and friendly.

- Can you talk about the energy efficient roasting that Beachcomber does as well as how much it plays into the marketing of the brand?
After doing extensive local research and watching a TED Talk on coffee roasting (from one of the guys behind the roaster) I realized that a lot of coffee roasters lack differentiation. I felt that the sustainable aspect of the coffee roasting process aligned well with the source of my vision/brand as the Beachcomber moniker comes from growing up in a small town outside of Vancouver of around 3,000 people. It's a coastal community that's really tapped into the environment and nature and I was really intrigued by the eco-friendly aspect of the roaster and was surprised by the consistency of the roasted coffee beans as well as the aroma. The roaster outputs 20x less the CO2 emissions compared to traditional roasters and is 20x more energy efficient but it's not just about being eco-friendly, the roaster creates a consistently delicious coffee bean, it's really a win-win.

- The Beaten Path is a lot like Beachcomber in the way that it's pretty much a DIY operation.  What's your favorite part of doing this by yourself?  What are your greatest struggles?  What fuels you to keep going as a small operation?
In terms of the marketing, business development, and hustle aspect, it's definitely a one-man show (me, myself, and I). As it stands right now, I am working directly with the team behind the roasting technology (roaster) to help with a few steps on the supply chain. This is a phase 1 thing for me as Beachcomber is not my full-time gig. Phase 2 involves stepping things up a bit but I can't share too much of what that phase looks like as it currently doesn't exist in Vancouver (can't give away too much of my secret sauce). My favourite aspect of going about this solo is the complete freedom for creativity but also taking a vision/idea and turning into something real, something that people enjoy and go out of their way to tell me how much they love the coffee,  that is pretty amazing in itself. Going into this you never know what the outcome will be in that you may like it yourself but will other people drink it? will they like it? will they tear it apart? I'm shocked that in 5-months of putting coffee out there, I've only received 1 negative review - that's to be expected though and it doesn't phase me one bit. One thing that really confirmed for me that I was on the right track was sending my coffee out to coffeereview.com for their blind-cupping tests and to essentially put my 'baby' through the gauntlet. It's a pure dice roll in terms of what these specialty coffee industry experts will come back with and they scored it 91/100 - there are coffees that score much higher (typically single origin) so the fact that my blend scored in the 90s and it being my first foray into specialty coffee was really a "thumbs up, you're on the right track". My greatest struggles are time; the time and bandwidth associated with being a one-man show - it's definitely hard to scale this business (probably impossible) being solo, so I know that will have to change over time. A passion for business development and coffee culture are what fuels me and converting people from regular pre-ground coffee drinkers or k-cup drinkers to people that grind their beans on a daily basis are what drive me.

- How did you come up with the name for Beachcomber Coffee? 
The Beachcombers was one of the longest running, if not the longest running TV shows here in Canada. It was filled in my hometown where I grew up and everyone and their dog was an extra in the show. The Sunshine Coast BC and Gibsons in particular has always been synonymous with the Beachcombers. I wanted to tap into my roots of growing up in a small coastal community, spending endless summers on the beach so the name Beachcomber Coffee Co. made perfect sense.

- One of the main things that personally drew me into your brand was the beautiful, vibrant packaging.  Who is behind the branding, packaging and online marketing of Beachcomber?  Do you feel that the visual identity of the brand has played a noticeable part in overall sales to this point?
Honestly, I developed the idea/vision and ultimately the strategy behind the packaging and branding. The fact that you call it beautiful is such a compliment as again, you never know what people are going to think. I wanted to do something different after analyzing the various brands sitting on the shelves - I also wanted to articulate (via some form of infographic) why Beachcomber is different. I took all these ideas and worked with a local design firm to help bring this thing to life and I am extremely happy with the end result. Outside of the taste of the coffee, people always go out of their way to talk about the packaging which is great.

- Can you talk about how you began sourcing your beans and eventually ended at the blend this is now Beachcomber Coffee?
In collaboration with our partner (the one who imports the green beans) we had the luxury of taste-testing almost every bean out there, initially to determine what flavour profiles I felt would complement each other. Over a 4-month process I finally landed on the Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala combo which is now Beachcomber Coffee. Honestly this started with personal taste and like anything (beer, wine, etc) everyone leans towards something they personally prefer - ultimately I wanted to love and drink the coffee on a daily basis, if it's not something I loved, how would I sell it to the world? Sure, I could have gone with single origin, or a more popular bean such as Ethiopian but I wanted a blend that I could easily replicate and that I felt was consistently delicious.

- It seems like a huge trend in specialty coffee right now is a lighter roast profile, even for blends.  Can you talk about how and why you eventually wound up at the roast shade you have deemed as "dusk" ?
I'll be honest in that the 'dusk' tag is more of a marketing play as the blend is not light or dark but somewhere in between. Oddly enough we've had a few people say it's on the lighter side, and others say it's on the darker side which simply confirms that everyone has a different taste palette - I knew full well going into making a product, especially one that you drink, that there will be lots of raving fans and those that don't like it at all. The beauty of Beachcomber is its versatility in that it works as an espresso (coffeereview.com scored it 91/100 as an espresso) but I personally drink it in drip format on a daily basis. I know others that do the french press and love it, and some that go the cold route - the versatility is consistent with Beachcomber not being too light or too dark.

- Beachcomber Coffee is only a few months old yet you seem to be getting great feedback from all angles.  How do you feel about where the brand is at right now and where do you see the brand going within the next year?
Right now I think the brand is basically a baby that's crawling, not yet walking etc. It's really early in many areas and there are lots of improvements to make and LOTS of opportunity for growth. This year my goal is to build a foundation of key partners (grocery, specialty retailers, cafes, etc.). I need to create additional brand awareness to the point of people going into a few places asking for Beachcomber by name, I need to great the demand and continue to build the digital/online community.

- Any plans for expanding into more blends or single origin offerings?
Right now no, but I don't want to say I'll never deviate from the blend. Part of being unique is that Beachcomber is Beachcomber in that the blend you taste now is the brand/coffee. I know that I am eliminating a percentage of the market as some people like a french roast for their espresso and some people only buy decaf. I'm not here to take over the market including all of the coffee options - I really want to stick with what has been working for me and to maintain the uniqueness of Beachcomber by sticking to a single blend that took so long to perfect.

- I know that Beachcomber doesn't have an e-commerce site yet.  Are you planning on launching a web store or will you be focusing more on the wholesale side of the brand? 
Yes, that's definitely in the plans, we did a quick pivot and decided to change our bag, format, and price. This delayed getting our store live but it should be going live in May or at the latest June. Having a store is great but at the same time can be a headache in terms of logistics, shipping, all that jazz but it's definitely a must-have.

- If someone reading this wanted to give Beachcomber a try where would they be able to pick up a bag locally?
If you live in Vancouver you can buy it from Buddhaful-Cafe or Griffins Boxing & Fitness. If you live on the Sunshine Coast you can buy it from IGA Gibsons, IGA Wilson Creek, the Friday Café at the Gibsons Public Market and Spin Cycles. If you don't live near these locations you can shoot me an email (martin@beachcombercoffee.com) and I can see what I can do!


You can find out more about Beachcomber Coffee at their website, and keep up with what Martin is up to via Twitter and Instagram.And as always, if you dig this interview or have anything to add to the conversation, feel free to reach out to me by email or on social media (@btnpthny)Thanks for reading!