First of all, welcome to 2013!
While everyone was busy writing their year end write-up, I was… well frankly I just wasn’t. I was busy. Even though it’s now halfway into January, I’d like to take the time to review the year 2012 in coffee.
I’m now embarrassed to admit I spent over half of the year working solely with espresso review and testing. Because of this, all of my notes until August are only about espresso. Essentially it looks as if I didn’t even drink anything but espresso and cappuccinos.
In reality, this was certainly not the case. Thus, I’m left with a hole because of a stubborn mistake I made. I like coffee – hell, I love coffee. So why limit my notes to espresso?
Initially I was set on finding a particular set of values – a ‘focus’ for this website. However, over the past years I’ve realized the draws to this site are: (1) Primarily Canadian content, (2)Regionally specific to coffee available on the East Coast of Canada, and (3) is my narrative and my contextual approach to coffee. I love photos, video, and contextual information. After all,
“coffee is dependant on so many things: harvest date, processing, roasting, roast dates, a narrow window of time to consume it after roast, style of brewing, length of brewing… and even situational and contextual elements.” – Matt C. Reynolds, 2012
So with all of the above in mind, here are my thoughts on 2012. I’m including some of the best coffee tested, best espresso tested, and also my top experiences in various cafes.
By far and above my most nostalgic coffee was one I enjoyed during the month of January in Nova Scotia. As a gift from the mighty East Coast coffee guru Zane Kelsall (of Two If By Sea Café in Dartmouth and Nova Scotia as well as the new Anchored Roastery) I spent each and every cold morning grinding the Kenya Kaliluni Peaberry from Ritual Coffee in my Hario hand grinder and making a small french press in my steel Frieling.
Kaliluni Peaberry, KENYA This was a real delight to drink. It was a really well balanced coffee with red fruit (raspberry and cherry) with a savoury smokiness of an oolong tea. The tasting notes on this coffee were short and succinct and very true to their actuality. I found this had a lovely acidity and most of all everything was very, very well integrated.
#1 Coffee of 2012
“La Benedicion”, HONDURAS
The second delicious Honduras coffee from 49th Parallel in mere months. They were really on fire the second half of 2012. This was purchased at Fixed Coffee and Baking after hype from the guys.
On the nose there was a medium+ intensity, I found dried sticky fruit like pineapple, honey, and red fruit like raspberries and red currant.
On the palate I found red currant, lime acidity, honey, and bright dried fruit (pineapple and peach). The finish was long with a pleasant sweetness and working into dark chocoalte.
This also would make a great everyday coffee with a nice complexity to keep it interesting to drink. Great coffee, lovely sweetness, pleasant acidity and great sweetness. Excellently balanced. THIS IS COFFEE how it’s supposed to be. Anyone could enjoy this one!
(93 /100 pts in November)
#2 Coffee of 2012
“Ethiopia Kongo”, YIRGACHEFFE
This was a really summery coffee, just dripping with strawberry flavours.
On the nose I found an obvious aroma of strawberries, citrus and strawberry pastry.
On the palate the coffee developed and changed as it aged. At 5 days off roast until about 12 days off roast I found there was a dominate warm, fresh strawberry juice, much like biting into a harvested strawberry. As time went on, I found the strawberry notes settled a little into a more subtle strawberry compote/ dried strawberry. There was also citrus, brown sugar, and a cranberry flavor and cranberry-like acidity.
Personally I found this was the best on the French Press, it really brought out the brown sugar/ pastry sweetness. I gave this a whopping 93+ points, stating it was “easily one of the best coffees I’ve had this year”. It was really and truly just a great example of what a special coffee can be, plant to cup!
(93+ /100pts in September)
#3 Coffee of 2012
Phil & Sebastian
“Isaias Cantillo”, COLOMBIA
This coffee was a selection from Steve down at Rocket Bakery. While I was down visiting, he brought this Colombia up. “First time I’ve had a tomato flavour in a coffee I’ve liked”, he explained. An a-typical Colombia is something I really love to see, shaking up some of the stereotypes that often come with Colombian coffees. This coffee is surrounded in a little mystery, as when I went to look it up for the post, it was already in the archives on the Phil & Sebastian website.
It was one of the most interesting coffees all year and really exciting. It’s really amazing how savoury notes in coffee used to be horrible (I can’t place exact dates here) but now many roasters have the nuance to actually play up these aspects in a positive way. The acidity on this was huge, and it really did show bright tomato-like acidity.
This was good on both the french press and the clever. I found the clever to edge out slightly, as the press tended to muddle the flavours a little.
On the nose I found it had a nice cinnamon spice component, apple, brown sugar, and baking apple pie.
On the palate I found it had a huge tomato-lime acidity, with some cherry and plum, with a chocolate/ caramelized sugar finish. While the stone fruit showed some typicity, the huge tomato-lime acidity was really special, almost searingly high. This would have be fun to play with as a food pairing coffee.
(91 /100 pts in September)
#1 Espresso of 2012
“Red Brick Espresso” (March Parameters)
All I have to say is here is complexity.
This was a really wild coffee and it really threw me for a loop. Experimenting with this blend I found I was able to highlight certain aspects of each particular coffee, and after some tinkering I hit a sweet spot. Really amazing!
Think red fruit, toastiness, stone fruit, amazing acidity and just an overall very complex espresso.
#2 Espresso of 2012
“Los Pirineos”, EL SALVADOR (Single Origin)
I was pleasantly surprised with this coffee. I’ve had nothing but mediocre coffees from El Salvador the past few years. However, this year there were some really new and exciting things happening there with lots of experimentation. This includes “experimentation with 45 different varietals of coffee trees on [the Los Pirineos] farm… to find which varietal of coffee tree results in the best cup profile when grown at his elevation, with his soil conditions, in his ecological conditions. This is NOT normal protocol” (via Fratello Blog). Fratello has a great post on their blog about the farm and more here.
El Salvador as an espresso!
This had some great fruit, structure and winey characteristics. The nose had a medium intensity with blackberry and cherry.
On the palate it had a nice body (winey mouthfeel), sour cherry, berry, blackberry, and a crisp green apple acidity. Overall, an interesting coffee with a nice complexity.
#3 Espresso of 2012
Phil & Sebastian
“Zelaya”, GUATEMALA (Single Origin)
This coffee was a workhorse when we used it at the cafe.
I found it really great typicity as a Guatemala and it worked very well as an espresso.
Notes were spice, amaretto, red fruit, plum, amazing acidity and honey sweetness. Yum!
#1 Cafe of 2012
Fixed Coffee & Baking
There is really no competition or comparison when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of cafes in this city… the best coffee.
This is the best coffee in the city. No question.
Not only that, day in and day out it is consistent; that is an amazing thing!
In November I had one the best cappuccinos of the year. It was early one morning before I headed off to the farmers market. The light was pouring across the floor from the huge front windows of the Fixed Cafe, and Jon served me up a cappuccino. It was delicious. Great sweetness, perfect temperature and silky milk. The Epic popped through the milk wonderfully bringing a great brightness of orange, spice and red currants. As I stood at the bar and chatted with Jon, I made mental note this was probably one of the best spro drinks of the year.
I’ve also had some amazing coffee here, including a fantastic Panama and two delicious (different) regions in Honduras.
#2 Cafe of 2012
Post Espresso Bar
Clean, crisp and minimalist is the Post Espresso bar.
I usually limit my orders to an espresso or a macchiato here. The espresso is especially good off that industrial Synesso machine.
I’ve also had two really excellent coffees here via a chemex dripper. However, they were “Guest Roasters” – a special coffee they run in very, very limited quantity.
That being said, I had perhaps the best coffee of the year here from the the legendary Tim Wendelboe!
It was a Kenyan coffee and I had it via a pourover method, which at Post is a Hario V60. I spend a few minutes nosing the coffee as it cooled: wild berries and spice. The first sip was intense. It was incredibly juicy (acidity). Tons of red fruit, winey, baked goods spices, fennel seeds… but most of all the mouthfeel was wild! Very special indeed. The body was nice, and compared to the acidity it was great. As the cup cooled I found raspberries, red currant and a snappy red apple acidity. A memorable visit indeed!
#3 Cafe of 2012
Coffee & Company
From time to time, I love to pop into Coffee and Company early in the morning to chat with the manager Brad Burness and grab an espresso or a macchiato.
There is always a hustle and bustle of people going in and out, and it’s right in the center of downtown.
On the last day of the year I popped in to grab an espresso and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Nice chocolate base, medium+ acidity, cranberry and lemon zest.
After a chat with Brad, that killer ‘spro, and a few minutes to warm up, I walked out with a big grin on my face.
SHAZAM. Year’s over!!
There it is! A full year in coffee!
Keep sipping and keep note of those special experiences.
Happy 2012 and best of luck in 2013!