Coffee Awards 2019

I have had a lot of coffee this past year. Here are some of my personal favorites.

Introduction

As the year 2019 is coming to an end, I would like to look back at this newfound hobby of coffee. It has truly been a great journey exploring the world of coffee, and I love it. On the one hand, it’s wild that I have been home-brewing coffee for a whole entire year; but on the other, it’s also bizarre to me that I have been doing this for only over a year, as it has become an integral part of my daily routine, and according to many, one of my prominent characteristics. 

In this past year, I have visited many coffee shops in the U.S. and tasted coffee harvested from all over the world (well, at least numerous countries in the coffee belt: in no particular order, Columbia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Papua New Guinea). 

So this would be a list of my top five favorite coffee from this year. (Due to the lack of preparation, this would be the only award. Perhaps in the future years, there will be more categories available). Though I have been taking notes for almost every coffee I’ve tasted, I never came up with a numerical rating system. Thus, this ranking would be composed mostly based on my impressions of them from my memory. For every coffee on the top five list, I have gone through at least a whole bag of beans each, in order to have a more complete experience and perception of them.

Let’s start with some honorable mentions. 

Honorable Mentions

Guatemala San Cristobal

Origin: San Cristobal, Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Process: Washed Process

Roaster: Foggy Hills Coffee Company 

Location: Berkeley, California

This is one that sadly did not qualify to be a finalist. I have only tasted a single cup of it, from my visit to the CoRo Coffee Room. Also, this is the only one that was brewed on a Fetco automatic coffee brewer rather than on a pour-over. However, I chose to include it here as it transformed what I thought Latin American origin coffee would taste like. 

It was unique in its reminiscence to baked pastries, sugary and warm. Overall flavorful and bright, still retaining its exciting acidity with the note of green apple. This was the best filter coffee I have had and it offered a great tasting experience. 

(Full post of my visit to CoRo Coffee Room here)

Ethiopia Washed Processed

Origin: Ethiopia

Process: Washed Process

Roaster: Verve Coffee Roasters

Location: Santa Cruz, California

This honorable mention does not go to one specific coffee kind, but rather the washed processed Ethiopian origin coffee from Verve as a whole: Sakaro, Bokasso, Yukro, Yabitu Kona, and more. For this whole year on Verve’s subscription, their Ethiopian selections never once disappointed me. Whenever I opened that green box and revealed the bright red label, I knew it would be a great week of brewing coffee. The consistency in quality and flavor is unmatched by any others that I feel like I may have taken them for granted. If I just want a good cup of coffee, I think washed processed Ethiopian coffee would be my go-to choice. 

They often have a floral and herbal aroma, ranging from jasmine, cherry blossom, to mint or even basil. A perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, usually with notes of citrus fruit like lemon, orange, and tangerine; sometimes with nice additions of raspberry, persimmon, or dragon fruit. Generally tea-like mouthfeel, with the earthy notes of oolong or black tea that become more apparent as the coffee cools down. 

It may be unfair to pack them in a single mention as each of them is unique in their kind. But since I cannot give them too many spots on this list, I want them to have a mention here. 

Now, let’s reveal my top 5 choices this year. 

5th Place

Ethiopia Wicho

Origin: Dale Woreda, Sidama, Ethiopia

Process: Washed Process

Roaster: Verve Coffee Roasters

Location: Santa Cruz, California

After going over all the Ethiopian washed processed coffee, here’s another one by Verve Coffee Roasters. I feel like the Ethiopian Wicho is the one that is flavor-wise the most unique – it literally has the word “complex” as one of the flavor profiles. 

Its taste can be best described as a fruit-infused black tea, with notes of blueberry and pineapple, and an aftertaste of walnut and grapes. A complex and rich blend of flavors, but also overall gentle and rounded. 

4th Place

Colombia Maria Cristina Cordoba

Origin: Consaca, Nariño, Colombia

Process: Washed Process

Roaster: Verve Coffee Roasters

Location: Santa Cruz, California

I unlocked the “true potential” of this coffee through a happy accident. Normally I brewed coffee hot in the morning and spent the next forty minutes drinking it. However, on the first morning after I received this coffee, I was running low on time. So I decided to brew it on ice with the Japanese iced coffee method so I could carry it in a bottle with me to class. It turned out to be a wonderful decision. 

It had a very exciting acidity with notes of orange and grapefruit. Its citrus flavor shined best when brewed on ice. Delicious and refreshing. The best iced coffee I have tasted. 

3rd Place

Ethiopia Chelba Natural

Origin: Yirgacheffe, Gedeo, Ethiopia

Process: Natural Process

Roaster: Cat & Cloud Coffee

Location: Santa Cruz, California

This coffee came from another coffee roaster in Santa Cruz, the Cat & Cloud Coffee. At the start of the summer break on my way back to LA, I stopped by Santa Cruz to visit two of my favorite coffee roasters, Verve and Cat & Cloud. A kind barista at the shop helped me to select this coffee. (Side note: I have something written about my journey to Santa Cruz. Sadly, I never got to finish the draft. Maybe one day I will). 

This is perhaps the most aromatic coffee I have brewed. From whole beans to ground coffee, then to the finished product of liquid drink, it maintained a strong dark chocolate scent with the blueberry aroma becoming increasingly pronounced at each step. The combination of these two flavor notes made the tasting a wild ride. Every sip brought out the bright blueberry note, then it slowly dried out leaving a bittersweet winy and chocolaty aftertaste in the mouth. The bitterness was ]stronger than most other light roasted coffee, but I enjoyed that special dark chocolate-like bitterness. 

2nd Place

Elida Estate Green Tip Gesha

Origin: Boquete, Chiriquí, Panama

Process: Washed Process

Roaster: Verve Coffee Roasters

Location: Santa Cruz, California

Gesha coffee is one of, if not the most well-known, sought-after, and expensive coffee in the world. It gained popularity first in 2004 in the Best of Panama auction with a record-setting bid for its unique aroma, flavor, and sweetness. The Elida Estate later discovered the green tip mutation that produced superior flavor to other Gesha plants. The Elida Estate Green Tip Geisha subsequently won the highest bid two years in a row in 2018 and 2019 at the Best of Panama auction. 

I have been anticipating for Gesha coffee for the entire year as it only harvests in winter from December to February. When it finally became available, I instantly purchased it as a birthday gift for myself. And it did not disappoint. 

It had a jasmine-like aroma. A blend of green apple and sweet pear, with a hint of peanut butter. The flavor notes were wild. Common fruit notes like apple, orange, and pear, with traces of carrot, dried mushroom, mint, champagne, and a caramel aftertaste. Juicy, balanced, low acidity and bitterness with a smooth texture. A flawless cup. 

1st Place

Misty Valley Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

Origin: Yirgacheffe, Gedeo, Ethiopia

Process: Natural Process

Roaster: Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters

Location: Boise, Idaho

What can top a $60 Gesha coffee? Beating out the Gesha is not an easy task, but I’m glad that there is one that has achieved that. While the Gesha may be perfect, it lacked intensity and excitement in the flavor. 

Here is the number one coffee on the list, my favorite coffee of the year: a natural processed coffee from Misty Valley in Yirgacheffe. The first I have ever tasted from this famous coffee-producing town of Yirgacheffe, and it exceeded my expectations. 

An appealing apricot and peanut aroma. The primary notes were grape, wine, blueberry combine with a hint of honey. Interestingly salty, giving it an unusual taste of green olive. Just like washed processed Ethiopian coffee, it maintained that light and clean body of tea. After cooling down, the blueberry and grape-related notes were even more noticeable, leaving a strong grape and brown sugar aftertaste. It was also amazing to brew for Japanese iced coffee. The grape and blueberry notes provided the right amount of acidity and excitement that are perfect for iced drinks. It was something truly exotic and special. 

(Full post of my trip to Boise here)  

Conclusion

Quick overview. Verve Coffee Roasters has the most appearances here on the list, which does not come as a surprise since I do get my weekly coffee subscription from them. Ethiopian origin takes away three out of the top five spots with an additional honorable mention, which also shows that it is indeed my favorite coffee origin country. I am glad that Latin American origins made a few appearances here with the Colombia Maria Cristina Cordoba and the Panama Gesha. I have enjoyed many Kenyan origins this year, but sadly none of them made the list. One final observation, two of the top three spots are taken by natural processed coffee from Yirgacheffe. I would love to explore more coffee from there next year. 

Anyway. Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for following this blog, and I will try to keep it updated in 2020. 

1 thought on “Coffee Awards 2019”

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