December 2013 Tasting Box

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Willoughby's Coffee & Tea

New Haven, Conneticut

For as much as we love tasting unique coffees from lesser known corners of the world, the familiar embrace of a great Kenyan brings us the comfort of returning home after a long trip. This month we’re thrilled to welcome Willoughby’s Coffee and Tea from New Haven, Connecticut to the Craft Coffee lineup with a dynamic offering from the Gaturiri Factori in Kenya. The Gaturiri Factory is one of four coffee processing mills in Nyeri, Kenya, a district with a long legacy of producing some of the country’s most expensive beans. Each of the four factories sets its own prices for unprocessed coffee cherries, and farmers, in turn, are free to take their crops to the factory that offers the highest price. It’s a competitive system that rewards growers for producing distinctive coffees. Once delivered to the factory the coffee cherries are carefully sorted by hand to ensure ripeness, then processed in the typical “Kenyan style” - an intensive process that takes over three weeks of labor to complete. This particular lot from the Gaturiri Factory was carefully selected to include only the finest beans from the dedicated farmers of Nyeri. Our expert panel is used to tasting a lot of Kenyan coffees, but we knew this one was special from the first sip. If there’s such a thing as an “instant classic” coffee, this is it.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Gaturiri Factory, farmed by 960 smallholder farmers
  • Origin
    Nyeri, Central Highlands, Kenya
  • Varieties
    SL28, SL34
  • Elevation
    1,770 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    Vibrant currant and ruby-red grapefruit acidity mellows into candied apricot sweetness, with flavors of cashews and black cherries carrying into a long, buttery finish.

Four Barrel Coffee

San Francisco, California

There’s a special little town called Agua Dulce (“sweet water”) tucked away in the northernmost corner of the Huehuetenango region in Guatemala, just a stone’s throw from the Mexican border. What makes the town so unique is that when the locals claim “there’s something in the water” it’s not just a cliched figure of speech. As it turns out, most of the land throughout Huehuetenango (say it with us - way-way-ten-AN-go) has been devoted to the production of sugarcane since the end of the 17th century. Over the years this has infused the region’s groundwater with a delicate but pronounced sweetness. As charming as the region itself, this expressive coffee from San Francisco darlings Four Barrel is a celebration of what we consider one of the most fascinating terroirs in the coffee world. The seasoned farmers of Flor de Cafe tend three separate lots of coffee across the estate, each under different growing conditions and with its own distinct qualities. Four Barrel’s head roaster Tal Mor went crazy for the youngest lot, which also happens to be grown at the farm’s highest elevation. As a rule of thumb, coffees from high elevations boast intensely developed flavors - and this one is certainly not an exception. Roasted with finesse in a vintage German roaster, Flor de Cafe is exuberant up front but gradually comes down for a smooth, sweet finish that shows off the agua dulce’s naturally enchanting character.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Flor De Cafe
  • Origin
    Cuilco, Huehuetenango, Guatemala
  • Varieties
    Pacamara
  • Elevation
    1,500-1,550 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    Juicy and dynamic, with pomegranate, red raspberry, and tamarind acidity complementing intense brown sugar sweetness and flavors of toffee and pecan brittle.

Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Like most major coffee countries Ethiopia has an intricate system of rules and standards surrounding the production of its prized coffees. This system, well intentioned as it may be, has an unfortunate side effect on the country’s smallholder farmers - the vibrant personalities that make each lot so unique are almost always obscured during processing, where size limitations lead to the mixing of lots from numerous small farms. But this microlot brought to us by Craft Coffee first-timers Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company shows that this doesn’t have to be the case. Smallholder farmer Aylele belongs to the 50,000 member strong Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, which helps the coffee growers of the Yirgacheffe district fetch premium prices for their crops. With a farm that’s more than 12 times the average size for the region, he produces lots that are just big enough to be processed individually. Coming from a country dominated by large plantation lots and blended cooperative lots, this is a rare opportunity to experience the distinguished identity of a small-producer specific coffee. Anodyne’s green coffee buyer Andy Helmkamp worked closely with one of specialty coffee’s leading importers to produce this lively coffee that crosses off nearly every item on our “perfect Ethiopian” checklist. With buoyant flavors, soothing aromas, and a savory foundation, it’s a perfect remedy for even the gloomiest of winter days.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Aylele
  • Origin
    Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
  • Varieties
    Heirloom
  • Elevation
    1,500-1,550 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, patio-dried
  • Our Notes
    Lively and well-structured, with elderflower and pineapple aromas leading into crisp lime acidity, jammy strawberry and mango sweetness, and savory flavors of matcha and juniper.

Irving Farm Coffee

New York, New York

If you’ve ever wondered why the specialty coffee world cares so much about direct relationships between farmers and roasters, you’ll find a clear answer in Los Lirios from New York City’s own Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. Coffee buyer Dan Streetman fell in love with this one in 2011 while judging a competition at the Capucas cooperative society, in the Copan region of Honduras. Smallholder farmer Jose Luis Rivera and his family took second place in the competition with this savory coffee from their hometown of Los Lirios (“the lilies”), but Dan clearly thought it was a showstopper. He purchased the entire lot through the cooperative without hesitation and has since forged a long-term partnership directly with the Riveras. It’s a true win-win scenario. Irving Farm has a steady supply of this fantastic coffee, and the Riveras were able to gain control over their coffee processing by building a small mill on their farm. We think Irving’s role in supporting the dedicated work of the Rivera family deserves as much praise as the coffee itself - and that’s saying a lot! Los Lirios has crowd-pleaser written all over it, with an uncanny ability to light up the taste buds of coffee drinkers across the board. Its dense body will easily stand up to the addition of milk and sugar, but its complexity will reveal new secrets in each cup if you choose to drink it black like we do.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Jose Luis Rivera
  • Origin
    Copan, Honduras
  • Varieties
    Caturra, Catuai
  • Elevation
    1,400-1,500 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    A dense and intricate cup, playing a pronounced lime acidity and orange-zest aromatics against flavors of dark chocolate and marzipan. A dry, succinct finish suggests almonds and rosemary.

Quills Coffee

Louisville, Kentucky

From the rare monja blanca (“white nun”) orchid and the brilliantly colored quetzal to the cloud forests that shroud the mountainous terrain year-round, the famed Coban region of Guatemala has an ethereal feeling about it. Add fertile limestone soils, mild temperatures, and ample shade into the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for an environment where coffee trees don’t just grow - they thrive. Like the protagonist of a classic story, though, this coffee was born into struggle. Over the past few years a disease known as coffee rust has increasingly threatened farms throughout Central America. Fortunately, the vigilant growers of the Chiyuc community in Coban came prepared for a fight. With the support of an innovative new importer, they’re armed with the tools they need to continue producing world-class coffees through this difficult time. While we sample plenty of Guatemalan coffees, it’s been over a year since we’ve tasted anything from Coban. However, it came as no surprise that brothers Nathan and Gabe Quillos from Quills Coffee would be the ones to break the dry spell with an undiscovered gem. We featured the Louisville-based roaster in our September box, and we’re happy to have them on board again this month with another unique and exciting selection. In our eyes this elegant Coban proves that, in coffee as in life, some of the best things are worth waiting for.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Group of producers in the Chiyuc community
  • Origin
    San Cristobal, Coban, Guatemala
  • Varieties
    Caturra, Bourbon, Typica
  • Elevation
    1,400-1,470 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Honey processed
  • Our Notes
    Round, apple-like acidity and dense caramel sweetness balance against flavors of bell peppers and cedar, over a rich, coating and slightly sticky mouthfeel.

Klatch Coffee

Upland, California

Within the Spanish-speaking world, Colombian Spanish is widely known for its exceptional clarity and refinement. We think the same could be said about this lively, approachable Colombian brew from Klatch Coffee in Upland, California. Taza Cafe de Antioquia, grown by Jose Arcadio Rueda, blew away the judges at this year’s prestigious Colombian Cup of Excellence. Not only did it place 7th overall in a competitive field of more than 2,500 coffees, but it also took home the silver medal among the coffees from Rueda’s home region of Antioquia. You could say Rueda was destined to become a distinguished coffee grower. Growing up in the rural village of Urrao, he developed an intense passion for coffee from working on his parents’ farm. Although his parents are still active producers, Rueda decided to establish his own farm in the lush mountains of Antioquia. And now, with the help of his wife and 14-year-old son, he’s become one of the most recognizable faces leading the charge to put Antioquia on the map as a world-class coffee origin. Rueda’s memorable showing at the Cup of Excellence may have taken the judges by surprise, but we’re certain Klatch Coffee founder and roastmaster Mike Perry could have seen it coming. Perry is as knowledgeable as they come about the wealth of coffees produced throughout Colombia’s diverse growing regions. In fact, he recently helped launch a program called Roasters United, which aims to find the country’s finest coffees by building innovative long-term partnerships with farmers. If Taza Cafe de Antioquia is any indication of what’s to come from Colombia, we think Kenya and Ethiopia should be prepared to make some room at the top.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Taza Cafe de Antioquia, farmed by Jose Rueda
  • Origin
    Antioquia, La Sierra, Colombia
  • Varieties
    Caturra
  • Elevation
    1,500 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    Clean and elegant, with flavors of grapefruit, plums, and wine grapes segueing into a sweet, malty, and pleasantly tannic finish.

Tony's Coffees & Teas

Bellingham, Washington

The Mchana Estate in Kenya’s Ruiru District sits in the gradually sloping highlands above the Eastern Rift Valley. Over millions of years, the powerful forces that forged the Rift Valley also blanketed the region with a layer of fertile volcanic soil. Reminiscent of perfectly ripe coffee cherries, this vibrant red soil provides ideal conditions for growing the complex and intense coffees that so often bring the blue ribbon home to Kenya. All coffee at Mchana is hand picked during the peak of the growing season and then processed entirely on-site, which we love. This coffee received the coveted AA grading, reserved for only the biggest and highest quality beans in Kenya - you can tell just by looking inside the bag that you’re in for a treat. As the largest single coffee plantation in Kenya, the Mchana Estate takes an active interest in providing healthcare and education to its farmers as well as the surrounding community. Halfway around the world in Bellingham, Washington, Tony’s Coffees & Teas echoes this commitment to exceptional coffees and good business practices. Now in its 42nd year of operation, Tony’s continues to set new standards for eco-friendly coffee, all the way from the farm to your cup. We’ll drink to that.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Mchana Estate
  • Origin
    Ruiru, Kenya
  • Varieties
    SL28, SL34, K7, R11
  • Elevation
    1,766 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    Bright green-apple and lemon acidity give way to dense, sweet cocoa and delicate caramel flavors, layered over a soft, creamy body.