Serious Eats: Drinks
5 Great Holiday Coffee Blends
The holiday onslaught is officially upon us, and whether you're looking for something new to sip after a gigantic meal, on a sleepy post-gigantic-meal morning, or simply deciding what to pack to survive at your tea-only relatives' house, America's boutique coffee roasters have heard your silent call. These limited-time seasonal blends are balanced for taste and packaged for giving as gifts, and we've selected a few of the finest to ease—or propel?—the stress of the holiday season.
Olympia Coffee Roasters Holiday Blend
This annual warm-up blend from award winning Olympia Coffee Roasters is comforting but lively: sweet, mellow notes from the Colombia San Sebastian coffee are given punch and power from the tart fruit components of the Costa Rican Llano Bonito. Tasting notes emphasize cherry and port wine, but we get a little brightness and spice as well, and a long long chocolate finish. The roasters have found a lovely way to make comforting winter-weather flavors feel fresh and not heavy.
Counter Culture Coffee Holiday Blend
Counter Culture's holiday offering delivers an approachably pleasant coffee in a high-concept feel-good package: the recycled-material, plant-based-ink-printed box holds a Latin American/Ethiopian blend (in a valve bag) and will donate $1 of each pound sold towards producers in Burundi who are working toward shifting their processing practices to more sustainable, organic methods. The handy box also encourages you to use it as a bank, perhaps to save up to improve your own East African coffee washing station. We love the charitable angle and handsome package as much as we love the balanced, dark-fruity, smoothly sweet coffee, but lest you think a whole $1 of your $14.25 purchase goes directly to the charitable contribution, bear in mind—these boxes are only 12 ounces.
Intelligentsia Coffee Celebration Blend
For years, coffee snobs caught up in the reverence for single origin coffees have guiltily mumbled to me that Intelligentsia's holiday blend is really wonderful this season, and this year's no different, even if you're not typically a drinker of blends. But really, why wouldn't you be? Roasters know what they're doing when they build a carefully balanced recipe of beans meant to evoke an end picture that hits all the targets. Intelligentsia's 2013 Celebration Blend does that once again, marrying two East African coffees with one from Costa Rica to bring out a combination that's zesty-sweet and spice-filled but comforting: think a goal of cozy but not too weird—just how you prefer your holidays, right? Bonus points for easily being the best looking package of the season. Way to make an X look festive!
Equator Coffee Holiday Blend 2013
Marin County roaster Equator gets better and better and better, and this year's holiday offering lives up to their trajectory. Roaster Ted Stachura has been creating the holiday blend for Equator for the past three years, and says that this year the blend features coffee processed in three different methods: natural, washed, and honey process. "I could go on about how the blend is better than the sum of its parts but, honestly the coffees in the blend actually taste really great individually and easily stand on their own," says Stachura. But give them a try together before, during, and after your holiday festivities and see how nicely this hits the mark.
MadCap Coffee Holiday Fusion
Grand Rapids and Washington DC roaster MadCap take things just a step further than the usual holiday blend and offer this "fusion" (how '90s!) that's 80% composed of a bright, pleasingly acidic, complex Kenya Gatomboya and 20% of a lush and smooth chocolatey tart-berry-forward coffee from Guatemala. It's a delicious winter-weather meeting of lively East Africa in a cozy little Guatemalan coffee mitten. Food pairing suggestions on the bag include mixed nuts, and I'll take their word for it.
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 the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop, is the New York City correspondent for Sprudge.com, and contributes to other outfits worldwide.