Coffee seasonality is a curious bird. Yes: as a fruit, coffee is fresher at certain times of the year. But keeping track can be a little confusing. Between what's arriving to roasters now, countries with multiple harvest seasons, and the time it takes coffee to travel from its country of origin to the roaster, it can be hard to know what's freshest. Want to drink what's best right now? Here are a few great winter arrivals and seasonal favorites to melt those slushy blues away.
Heart Colombia Agua Blanca
Colombian coffees abound at this time of year, bringing with them all the fruity bounty of one of coffee's most celebrated producing countries. The Agua Blanca offering from Portland, Oregon's Heart is a special example. Grown at extreme elevations up to 6,000 feet, this coffee is made up of certain coffee varieties (typica, bourbon, caturra) that have fallen somewhat out of favor in greater Colombia, as hardier hybrid varieties begin to take firm hold on the landscape. This apple-sweet cup opens with a beautiful, rich red fruit fragrance and has a robust, brown sugar caramel note that will linger.
Ceremony Rwanda Gitesi
The Rwanda Gitesi is a special, delicate brew from ever-better Maryland-based roaster Ceremony Coffee. I tried it on Aeropress (using Ceremony's in-house brewing guides) to produce a honeysuckle-tea-like flavor with a punchy acidity. For those who haven't made a foray into the world of East African coffees, this would be a wonderful place to start. This coffee uncovers a new layer each time you drink it, from its sweet beginnings to its tart Granny Smith finish.
Stumptown Ethiopia Duromina
Stumptown's renowned for always having a long list of single origin coffee offerings at any given time, but even among their lengthy list of interesting coffees, there are reliable favorites. This Ethiopian coffee from the Duromina cooperative is beloved among the roaster's staff. A gentle, floral, and lovely cup, Duromina expresses the lighter side of the fruity Ethiopian flavor spectrum, with notes of stone fruit and citrus. Exceptionally easy to drink, and lively enough to put thoughts of spring in your step.
Square One Colombia Finca La Palma
This offering from Lancaster, PA roaster Square One couldn't have come under more stealth cover—a Colombian micro-lot so fresh that the only handy packaging was a black bag with black ink. It's a vibrant entry in this season's heap o'Colombian coffees. Looks like they'll be issuing it in their limited edition "Black Label" micro-lot packaging, so if you're looking for a goth-themed coffee gift this may be your go-to. In the cup? Dark currant, tangerine, brown sugar and a slightly grassy undertone. Not so dark and foreboding after all.
George Howell Kenya Gachatha AB
Back to Africa for this Kenyan coffee from Massachusetts veteran roaster George Howell. This one's sublimely sweet: juicy dark fruits, plum skin, and tart berries all call out from this balanced but notably upbeat coffee. AB grade coffee, according to Howell's website, comes from the same lots as AA, but are of a slightly smaller size—part of a sorting process based in part on a belief that larger beans have better flavor, but which is a debatable philosophy. Whether or not you believe size matters, this Kenya Gachatha lives large in the cup.
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.
Tasting samples were provided for review.