Looking to develop a sophisticated coffee tasting palate? Sadly, there is no shortcut—tasting, tasting and more tasting is the only way to develop your flavor chops. But nowadays there are more and more options to help ease the path of your journey, in simple, sample-sized baby steps, via tasting subscriptions like those offered by MistoBox.
Much like other mailorder coffee-tasting flights that have come before, Misto aims to deliver a curated, rotating selection of coffees from roasters around the land, in wee teeny tiny bags to allow you to experience a diversity of offerings. The boxes—which currently come in one-time ($15), six-month ($14/month), or twelve-month ($12.50/month) subscriptions—showcase four different coffees from four different roasteries (February's box includes two Colombian coffees from Pennsylvania's One Village Coffee and Seattle's Caffe Lladro, an El Salvadorean coffee from Los Angeles roaster Demitasse, and a Sumatra from Madison, Wisconsin's Johnson Brothers). The 50 gram bags are enough to make a pourover or two of coffee—and just enough to pique your curiosity about trying more, or moving on.
Besides being a venue to showcase smaller roasters, these kinds of subscription samplers fill a distinct need in specialty coffee: in a food-fetish landscape where coffee has risen in public consciousness, access to a wide selection of different coffees remains the province of the few, and usually those concentrated in urban centers. And even in big cities, the entry fee to taste a little bit of a lot of different coffees remains prohibitively high. (At upwards of $17 for a 12 ounce bag of beans, the comparative tasting process is going to move glacially slow for most of us.)
Thus the growing landscape of subscription boxes like Misto and online retailers that strive to offer a broad selection of coffees from multiple roasters (Go Coffee Go is a good example) in order to lower the geographic and conceptual barriers to learning about, and tasting, delicious coffee.
Misto's own online store serves as a broader version of its tasting boxes: each coffee featured in the boxes is available on the webshop, with monthly shipping specials. But beyond the coffees included in the sampler is a staggeringly large, and dare I say egalitarian, selection of all kinds of coffees: from single origins from boutique roasters like Chicago's Bow Truss or Washington state's Olympia Coffee Roasters, to dark roasts to flavored coffees.
We liked this month's honey-sweet, dark berry Colombia Agustino Forest from Caffe Lladro the best of this box—and we also liked that if Seattle is too far to visit, ordering it from Misto's website gets a fresh roasted bag shipped to you directly from the roastery. This drop shipment method allows Misto to maintain a huge virtual inventory of coffees from their partner roasteries while making sure you actually get fresh coffee. For roasters, this growing trend is a way to gain exposure—and palate share. Vive la difference!
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop this spring.