Brian Beyke

2014 - Year in Review

Brian Beyke
2014 - Year in Review
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Hello!  I’ve decided to recap the year 2014 of coffee a bit.  Join me, if you would like.  

For starters,  I had over 275 coffees this year.  I say over because it doesn’t take into account coffees I consumed in shop, or maybe had very little samples of.  Also, there were a lot of Mistobox offerings I simply didn’t get enough time with, so some of those didn’t go into my list I keep of brew notes.  In those coffees, there were at least 106 individual roasters, you can view them all on this 2014 Roaster’s Map here.

While a large portion of those were US roasted, I did manage to try 4 roasters in Norway, 3 roasters in Australia, 2 from Sweden and Canada, and 1 each from Denmark, England, and Germany, 20 different coffees in total.  I’d love for that number to go up in 2015.

The roasters I had the most coffees from were Madcap and Ruby Roasters with 12, but that’s also sort of cheating on Madcap’s part because I had the Varietal Series that was most of that.  Other than that I had 11 from Populace Coffee, 8 from Counter Culture, and 7 from Compelling & Rich, PERC Coffee, and Kuma Coffee.  

Out of 276 coffees, 27 of them were natural processed, only 27.  I did a poor job documenting which were and were not semi-processed coffees, but I think 5-8 would be a close approximation.  

 I had made a Top 50 list, and I’ll still include that towards the end, but I kind of wanted to break down region and washed process of favorites.  

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In terms of gesha varietal, I had a lot of various ones this year, one being the Cafe Inmaculada maragesha, two natural Panama, one honey-processed Panama, Compelling and Rich’s blend of a natural and washed Panama AND his blend of a washed Ethiopia and a geisha, and 15 others from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, and many from Panama.

My favorite gesha was Verve’s Green Tip from Elida Estate in Panama.  To me, it stood out among the other geshas for it’s unique fruit sweetness and that pomelo citrus.  It had a dissolving candy sweetness that I just couldn’t get over.  Suprisingly, I think Compelling & Rich’s Holiday Blend of Los Lajones Natural and La Esmeralda Special was second in line, quickly climbing my list of favorite coffees the more I drank it.  Third, I couldn’t get over Kuma Coffee’s Panama Carmen and how explosively raspberry sweet it was. I don’t feel super comfortable breaking them down more than that, as it is easy to say this is better than that or more floral or balanced, but without getting into terroir of Colombia Cerro Azul vs a Mario plot of Esmeralda I think it would be mostly uninformed, so those would be my favorite three and we will leave it there.  

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As for washed Ethiopians, I had I believe 42 different ones this year.  I initially attributed a washed Ethiopian coffee with the Yirgacheffe region.  My general thoughts were, “lemon, playful sweetness, a bit floral.”  Once I started seeing there were more regions, more washing stations, more ways the coffees articulated I was really intrigued.  Most of my top list of coffees were washed Ethiopian coffees.  While I do love that profile, it wasn’t for any reason other than the fact that so many of them were good, and too close to really say this was better or this was better.  However, three in particular jumped out to me.

The most interesting thing I discovered while trying so many is learning the nuances of various coffees.  I found some that were heavily floral, and others very herbal.  Some of them were loaded with citrus, and others more balanced with dominant tropical juices.  From Aramo to Kochere to Ididio to Konga to Chelelektu, I really do encourage others to try and note the differences, there really is much more than “a washed Ethiopian profile.”  One goal is to find a different region and attempt the same in 2015.

The first and foremost being the washing station/region of Chelelektu.  I had this coffee from about 6 different roasters this year, and it was hands down my favorite.  Ruby Coffee first introduced the profile earlier on in the year, then passing to PERC, Bean Fruit, Supersonic.  Each one was delicious, different in their own way yet similar as well.  I believe for awhile my preference was for the Supersonic, herbal and sweet and just perfect.  Toward the end of the year I had Small Batch’s roast of it, from Australia, and it then took the crown.  It took characteristics from all the previous iterations I’d had of it, and refined into one masterfully enjoyable offering.

The second of those washed Ethiopian coffees is Counter Culture’s Olke Birre, the single farm from the Haru cooperative.  This coffee was absolutely amazing, and at times I thought IT would be my favorite coffee of the year.  It reminded me of Chelelektu, it reminded me of Kuma’s Panama Carmen, and it reminded me of Idido or Kochere.  Essentially, it had elements that reminded me of just about every good quality from every washed Ethiopian coffee I’d had all year.  It survived for a long time as well, I believe at one point brewing 42 days off roast and still being as enjoyable as the George Howell San Jose gesha.

The third washed Ethiopian I loved this year was Idido.  I had it from both Kickapoo and Counter Culture, but it was Kickapoo’s Good Food Awards winner that really left me impressed.  Sweet, balanced, silky and complex.

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Out of those natural coffees, three were really stand out.  Those three in order would be Spotted Cow’s Wanago, OC Coffee’s Nigusie Lemma Estate, and Indaba’s Aricha.  The reason these three stood out to me is not necessarily because they carried more characteristics to the washed Ethiopians as much as the didn’t leave me with the “strawberry/blueberry/chocolate/done” progression that I feel so many naturals from Ethiopia have left me with.  There was tropical fruit sweetness, juicy decadence, vibrancy, and overall delicious saturation from all of them.  

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Kenya was an interesting region this year.  It was one I wasn’t all too familiar with, but I remember the tail end of 2013 going into 2014 finding some profiles that really resonated with me.  I think of all regions, Kenya has some of the best coffees offered.  It definitely seemed true when I first encountered Tim Wendelboe’s Kapsokisio.  For most of this year, that coffee was the one.  It was sweet and for some reason reminded me of gesha- floral, fruitied, tingly, articulate and complex beyond I could comprehend at the time.  While I’d say this was my favorite washed Kenya of the year, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how difficult it was to dial in at times.

For that reason, my second favorite washed Kenyan was Black Oak Coffee Roasters’ Kabatha AB.  While it wasn’t exactly like the Kapsokisio, it deliciously reminded me time and time again what I loved about that coffee, while being much more consistent in giving me the desired results.  

While several Kenyan coffees come immediately close following, I think I have to give it to Compelling & Rich’s Karatina Peaberry for the third place.  Like I mentioned in the review though, It’s hard to nail down exactly what was exceptional about the cup without going back through its entire profile.  

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I was only able to try a handful of other coffees, be it Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador even Colombia.  I think I had more coffees from Rwanda and Burundi than any of those regions, and I still didn’t absolutely fall in love with a Costa Rica this year, which I was really hoping to.  

As far as surprises go, I really found myself loving coffee from the region of Sulawesi and from Congo this year.  Ruby’s Sulawesi Peaberry in the beginning of the year was really eye opening, and I could say the same for some of Kickapoo’s Congolese offerings.  

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Now, for a few various moments in coffee this year that were particularly nice.

First off, I would probably say the blend of Ruby Coffee’s first two offerings, the Sulawesi Peaberry and Colombia Aguacate.  You can find the write-up about it in my Aguacate review, but it was quite an enjoyable cup, a blend that I’d probably still say I could drink every day.  

Towards the beginning of 2014 I not only had in shop but bought some bags of Carabello Coffee’s Java Sundra and Yemen Mocha.  In shop they were doing Clever Dripper pour overs blended 50/50.  The cup experience is something I really can’t explain in words, rustic, warming, really an incredible cup of coffee, and it was one of the best coffee memories of 2014.

Thirdly would be taking in some of Tim Wendelboe’s Kapsokisio to local Cheapside Cafe and having them brew it up for us.  Quite possibly the best cup of coffee I had all year, but it’s really really hard to narrow it down to best cup when I brewed all of these coffees so many different ways.

The best cappuccino I had all year was also at Cheapside Cafe, and it happened to be with the first iteration of Supersonic’s Concorde Espresso.

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Okay, so, I don’t really know what else to say, so if I needed to order the top 18ish% of coffees I had this year, it would probably look something like this.  Thanks for a great year all, and a special thank you to Craft Coffee and Mistobox, as several of the selections on the list below were in their sample sets.  Some reviews haven’t been posted yet, and I completely apologize for that.  Hopefully those links will trickle in soon and at some point in the future (past) it will have a completed link list.  Also a special thank you to many of the roasters who sent me coffees this year, be it for review or otherwise.  It was quite an unexpected year in coffee as I grew in my preparation and knowledge, and I hope to only grow and refine further in 2015. Also keep in mind, the order to this is strictly coffees that I had and under my preparations, it isn’t intended to be anything but a subjective look at those coffees.  

50.PERC Coffee - Costa Rica Flor de Cafe

49.Roseline Coffee - Amaro Ethiopia

48.The Barn Berlin - Kochere, Ethiopia

47.Ruby Coffee - Kochere, Ethiopia

46.Novel Coffee Roasters - Gedeo Konga, Ethiopia

45.Indaba Coffee - Aricha, Ethiopia Natural

44.Ceremony Coffee - Borboya, Ethiopia

43.Kuma Coffee - Aramo Woreda, Ethiopia

42.Herkimer Coffee - Kochere, Ethiopia

41.Kuma Coffee - Borboya Ethiopia

40.Temple Coffee - Yirgacheffe ECX Lot, Ethiopia

39.Tanager Coffee - Kiang’ombe, Kenya

38.Kuma Coffee - Gaturiri, Kenya

37.Panther Coffee - Kapac, Bolivia

36.Spyhouse Coffee - Santiago Joven, Colombia

35.Spotted Cow - Panajachel, Guatemala

34.OC Coffee Co -Nigusie Lemma Estate,  Ethiopia Natural

33.Spotted Cow - Wanago, Ethiopia Natural

32.Mountain Air - Sidama, Ethiopia

31.Temple Coffee - Gachika, Kenya

30.Supersonic Coffee - Kirangano, Kenya

29.Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Muungano, Congo

28.Onyx Coffee Lab - Msawa, Rwanda

27.Seven Seeds - Hacienda La Esmeralda, Panama

26.Stone Creek Coffee - Hacienda La Esmeralda, Panama

25.Blue Bottle Coffee - Cerro Azul, Colombia

24.The Coffee Collective - Hacienda La Esmeralda Special (Lino lot), Panama

23.George Howell - La Esmeralda Mario San Jose, Panama

22.Ruby Roasters - Cheers Blend

21.Slate Coffee Roasters - Lycello, Panama

20.Kuma Coffee - Carmen Gesha, Panama

19.PT’s Coffee - Sihereni, Papua New Guinea

18.Ruby Coffee Roasters - Kamwangi Peaberry, Kenya

17.Ruby Roasters - Rukira, Kenya

16.Olympia Coffee - Holiday Blend

15.Counter Culture - Aida’s Grand Reserve, El Salvador

14.Supersonic Coffee - Ndumberi, Kenya

13.Compelling & Rich - Karatina Peaberry, Kenya

12.Stone Creek Coffee - Kayanza, Burundi

11.Black Oak Coffee - Kabatha AB, Kenya

10.Populace - Aricha, Ethiopia

9.Ruby Coffee Roasters - Toarco Peaberry, Sulawesi

8.Kickapoo Coffee - Idido, Ethiopia

7.Workshop Coffee - Mahembe, Rwanda

6.Counter Culture - Olke Birre, Ethiopia

5.Compelling & Rich - Yirgacheffe Koke Coop, Ethiopia Honey Processed

4.Tim Wendelboe - Kapsokisio, Kenya

3.Small Batch - Chelelektu Ethiopia (Also Ruby Coffee, PERC, Bean Fruit, Supersonic)

2.Compelling & Rich - Holiday Blend

1.Verve Coffee - Green Tip Gesha, Panama

Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.