Each year brings a host of fresh treats as new, high-quality coffees reach stores and cafes across the country for our drinking pleasure. Although certain growers, roasters, and even regions of the world are famed for the quality of their produce, there is always a mix of newcomers in among the most delectable options.
We put together this list of five of our favorite coffees using a number of key ranking factors. Above all, we consider flavor, smoothness, and ethical growing.
Flavor: of course, good flavor lies in the preferences of each drinker. Some of us like milder coffees, others like richer notes. Some like the taste of sumptuous caramel and others prefer a fruity twang.
What we can all agree on though is that certain undesirable flavor defects can ruin an otherwise decent coffee. These undesirable flavors can be introduced at any point from growing to roasting to preparation. They may also be caused by companies who don’t follow best practices when storing and transporting their product.
Common issues with flavor include over-fermentation, mold, and scorching caused by exposure to excessively high heat during roasting.
Smoothness: the experience of a “smooth” coffee can of course also be subjective. Nevertheless, many of our readers cite this somewhat non-specific preference among their most important.
A pleasant coffee should be well-balanced. What we mean by this is a finished cup that provides little in the way of nasty surprises. Unpleasant kicks of acidity can spoil the drinking experience. Even unbalanced flavors such as those in an excessively sweet coffee are able to derail overall quality.
Ethics: this criterion is highly important and largely self-explanatory. Most of us want to know when we drink our favorite coffee that the people who worked to make it possible are being treated fairly. It’s also important that growers use sustainable practices that respect wildlife and fragile ecosystems.
Certifications like those of Fair Trade USA and the Rainforest Alliance are a useful barometer when making these selections but it also pays to dig a little deeper when choosing where to buy.
Many of the best coffee growers in the world have shown that coffee and good ethics can go together, but there’s still lots of work to be done. After all, happy workers and a thriving environment can go along way toward ensuring the coffee is made in the way it should be.
When is Coffee Harvest?
We must confess that the subjective nature of coffee tasting and the rapid emergence of new fantastic roasts mean that the best coffees in the world are in constant flux. Our top picks below happen to be among our favorite coffees available to purchase and taste right now.
In fact, new coffees are being harvested and roasted from different regions of the world all year round. Of course, this means there is endless scope for the discovery and enjoyment of delicious coffees.
Central American coffee cherries, such as those from Guatemala and Costa Rica, are typically harvested between fall and early spring. Brazilian coffees meanwhile are harvested during the American summer. On the other hand, African coffee cherries are largely harvested during the American winter.
We’ve spent plenty of time setting the scene, so let’s get down to the coffees themselves, presented in no particular order:
#1 Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, Clifton Mount Estate
Sometimes a coffee’s reputation proceeds it. Jamaican blue mountain produce certainly falls into the prestige category and it has a price tag to match. Of course, big expectations inevitably follow on from a brand, or even an entire coffee region, that has garnered so much critical acclaim.
Clifton Mount Estate doesn’t disappoint. This medium roast has a full and fruity flavor with floral and chocolate notes. Perfectly balanced, the coffee is roasted to order and available in a selection of grinds.
As a single estate coffee, customers can pinpoint the exact source of the beans they order. Remarkably, Clifton Mount has been producing coffee for over 200 years. The expertise and experience their team has developed over two centuries shine through with every sip, making their coffee a true ‘must try’.
#2 La Papaya (Ecuador), Lexington Coffee Roasters
Lexington coffee roasters have built a following among coffee connoisseurs and it’s easy to see why. Their team is one of the most accomplished in the industry and their sourcing and roasting methods are second to none.
La Papaya stands out for many reasons, not least because it originates from an Ecuador estate that has produced multiple award-winning coffees. Cocoa, vanilla, and spicey notes combine to create a sumptuously smooth drinking experience.
This lightly roasted coffee carries peach and cherry flavors that give way to a gorgeous praline aftertaste. Sampling La Papaya leaves you wanting to savor the taste long after the cup is finished.
#3 Rwanda Hingakawa Women’s Co-op, Temple Coffee Roasters
The story of this particular Rwandan coffee is truly remarkable. The women’s cooperative behind its creation strives to empower and improve the lives of members. Proceeds help toward the creation of new community centers; the purchase of shared farmland; and the distribution of livestock.
The coffee produced the co-op will also leave your tastebuds tingling. A silky, smooth body gives way to delicious cranberry and vanilla flavors that persist on the palate for maximum enjoyment.
#4 Devon 9 (Karnataka, India), Barrington Coffee
When selecting our favorite coffees we endeavor to present readers with a diverse range of selections. Devon 9 is a perfect candidate for coffee lovers looking to broaden their horizons and enjoy something uniquely fascinating.
India may be famed for its tea production but the Devon Estate of Karnataka bucks the trend and has created a truly special coffee in the process.
This medium roast has a compelling floral aroma and intense flavors of nut and cinnamon. Barrington is the only supplier of this particular batch and they have landed a winner.
The farm is managed with ecological best practices firmly in mind and all the Devon Estate coffee comes from land free of pesticides and synthetic chemicals.
#5 Brazil Primavera, Ferris Coffee
Primavera is a worthy inclusion in this list. The light roast oozes with sweet lemon and nougat flavors.
Furthermore, the farm is famed for its sustainable and ethical approach to growing. In fact, Primavera is a significant contributor to reforestation in its surrounding area.