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[Photo: Liz Clayton]

We like to take a moment every now and then at Serious Drinks to acknowledge the decaf drinker, and when better than the holiday season, where meal after meal after meal is upon us?

Whether you want to serve a warm cup of something that actually tastes delicious to your non-caffeinating friends, or simply want to be able to close out a festive meal perfectly without being kept up late, we've selected five great decafs that actually taste like the great coffees they're made from. Better still, they're all decaffeinated using natural caffeine-displacement methods.

Olympia Coffee Roasters Asterisk Blend

A blend that's not currently a blend, the single origin Guatemalan organic Asterisk decaf coffee is decaffeinated by Mountain Water Process and is meant to be versatile enough to be served as espresso as well as filter brew. We tried it as pourover and found it was a deliciously drinkable, character-filled cup with dark syrup sugar notes and a hint of cherry pie fruitiness on the nose. A great example of what decaf can and should be.

Blue Bottle Coffee Decaf Noir

Don't let the name fool you: Blue Bottle's Decaf Noir blend isn't intensely dark. The blend of Mexican and Sumatran beans has a lovely fruity, cherry-rich aroma and comes out smooth in the cup with a slightly nutty, toasty, red fruit finish. Would pair well with savory meals, or a touch of cream.

Kuma Coffee Decaf Guatemala USUVIM

The name of this coffee comes from the Guatemalan cooperative behind this single origin, who together with Swiss Water Process decaffeination have put together a tremendous decaf from Seattle's Kuma Coffee. One of the nicest things about a successful decaf is when the dimensions of acidity and liveliness are preserved, and this tart-fruit, tangy and nut-smooth-finishing coffee is not just a good decaf, but an interesting coffee in and of itself.

Gimme! Coffee Colombia La Primavera Decaf

The La Primavera single origin decaf from the Caldas state of Colombia is, unlike some coffees, decaffeinated at origin by its exporters, Virmax. While many decaffeination solvents use water, this method is based on a sugar cane molasses. It's not the most subtle decaf we tried—in fact, it's roasted pronouncedly darker than most specialty decafs or even Gimme's usual line of single origins—but it's got a soothing quality to it, and at $15.00 for a 12-oz bag, the price is right if you're laying in one extra bag of coffee for a crowd.

Sightglass Coffee Roasters Ethiopia Jimma

Another Swiss Water Process offering, this decaf Ethiopia Jimma from Sightglass is the freshest and lightest of the decafs we sampled. It's gently acidic with a lemony finish, but has a round, creamy mouthfeel—no sharp edges here. It's a sweet and graceful, but complex coffee, and wouldn't be out of place set down next to someone's end-of-the-evening wine glass.


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.

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