January 2014 Tasting Box

This box has come and gone, but you can still sign up to receive our next shipment. Don't miss out!

Subscribe Now

As low as $19.99/month with FREE Shipping

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.

Blueprint Coffee

St. Louis, Missouri

We’re always on the lookout for coffees that are unique for their origin or surprise us with interesting and unexpected qualities. Sometimes, though, we fall in love with a coffee simply because it’s a perfect example of what we expect from a growing region - a “breed standard” if you will. This month we’re thrilled to introduce Blueprint Coffee to the Craft family with a bright, balanced offering that embodies everything we’ve come to know and love about Kenyan coffees. In the Kirinyaga district south of Mt. Kenya, the skilled farmers of the Rung’eto cooperative society grow Kenya’s prized SL28 variety in nearly full shade, leading to beans with exceptional clarity and depth. This specific lot was graded AA Top, a rating reserved for the country’s largest and highest quality beans. Overall we think that Andrew Timko, Blueprint’s green coffee buyer and head roaster, sums up this coffee best - “It is so beautifully classic ‘Kenya’ that I simply love to drink it and think about the coffees this country produces and how they bring the best out of their coffees.” But you don’t just have to take Andrew’s word on it. This showstopping Kenyan recently helped Blueprint’s own Kevin Reddy and Nora Brady snag third and sixth place, respectively, in national barista competitions hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Blueprint Coffee, hailing from St. Louis, is a relatively new name, but their coffee roots run deep with connections to longtime St. Louis institution Kaldi’s Coffee. If this sparkling Kenyan is any indicator of what’s to come from Blueprint, we’d say there’s a new rising star on the scene.

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
    Karimukui Washing Station
  • Origin
    Kirinyaga, Kenya
  • Varieties
    SL28
  • Elevation
    1,300-1,900 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Intense and juicy, with grapefruit acidity cutting through delicate tangerine flavors and dense shortbread sweetness.

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.

Mountain Air Roasting

Asheville, North Carolina

Throughout the coffee-growing world significant strides are being made to promote direct relationships between farmers and roasters. In certain countries, though, these efforts remain difficult because of strict rules regarding how coffee can be sold for export. In Ethiopia, individual farmers that are not members of cooperative societies have only one option - sell their coffee through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. This system makes it impossible to know any coffee’s specific origin. On the other hand, this guarantees high wages for exceptional coffees, such as this captivating selection from the Sidama region brought to us by Mountain Air Roasting. So while it would be great to know the names and faces of the farmers behind this coffee, you can feel good knowing that the unparalleled quality of these Grade 1 beans has been recognized with premium prices. This is the second coffee we’ve featured from Mountain Air Roasting, a micro-roaster based in Asheville, North Carolina. The man behind the operation, Marshall Hance, brings a rather unorthodox perspective to the art and science of coffee roasting, with a background in textile materials science. His proprietary air-roasting technique produces coffees with a kind of sugar development we’ve never experienced before; it reminds us of the crystal texture of cotton candy, but without the sticky coating all over your mouth. We can’t pretend to understand the technical aspects of Marshall’s process, but with coffees as delightful as this Ethiopian gem, we can bet that other roasters are taking note and trying to capture some of his magic.

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
    Various smallholders
  • Origin
    Sidama, Ethiopia
  • Varieties
    Heirloom
  • Elevation
    1,800-2,100 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Strident flavors of kiwi, lime and white grape settle into golden toast sweetness and a delicate finish like dried lavender.

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.