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
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.
Aroma | Dry: 10 Pour: 8
Taste | Initial: 9.5 Finish: 8.5
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
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.
Aroma | Dry: 8 Pour: 7
Taste | Initial: 8.5 Finish: 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
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.
Aroma | Dry: 9 Pour: 8.5
Taste | Initial: 9 Finish: 9.5
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!