Over the past 5 years, we’ve become much more conscious of where our coffee is grown and how the farmers who grow it are treated. Sustainable, organic Fair Trade coffee is all the rage, and we’ve been fortunate to sample some of the best coffee around the world. After our recent visit to the Atlanta Coffee Festival, we found lots of great companies and varietals to share:
When Tafari Belfield and his Ethiopian wife Rahel, owners of Grant Park Coffeehouse, went to Ethiopia in search of the country’s best coffee beans, her family told them about the intensely flavorful Tomoca. This family-owned brand had been passing down roasting techniques since 1953, and is widely considered the best coffee in the world. After trying it in their shop, the Belfields became the American distributor for Tomoca. They later worked out a similar deal for their espresso, a Brazilian bean from Taguatinga Norte’s family-owned Cafe Export. Both exceptional brands are now exclusively available in the U.S. through the Belfields’ company, 1Drip.
A&E promotes environmental stewardship and economic fairness, and their shade-grown coffees have ranked among our favorites for years. Their Norma Lara Micro-Lot from Honduras is exceptional, both for its complex chocolate-berry flavor and its backstory: Norma, whose husband died in 2010, started a farm on a one-acre plot her father gave her. This year she produced 20 bags of amazing coffee. A&E also offers Special Reserve Coffees from Costa Rica (a sweet, creamy varietal grown in the Tarazzu region by Carlos Alvarado García) and a micro-lot from Indonesia (an intensely zesty Sulawesi Peaberry grown in the Toro Tojara region).
Based in Americus, Georgia, Café Campesino was created after a trip to Guatemala in 1997 with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program opened the co-founders’ eyes to how little coffee farmers made. Now, this Fair Trade, organic company is linked to small-scale coffee cooperatives in a dozen countries around the world. Their most popular varietals include a light, citrusy Ethiopia Yirgacheffe grown by the YCFCU co-op; a smooth, sweet Colombia French Roast grown by the Fondo Paez co-op; and a fruity, nutty, well-balanced Guatemala Full City Roast grown by the APECAFORM co-op.
A Marietta Square staple since 2001, Cool Beans owners Kevin and Jennifer Langill import green beans from all around the world and micro-roast them in-house. Their ever-popular Bali Kintamani Natural, grown in the volcanic soil of Bali’s highlands, is one of the most distinctive Indonesian varietals we’ve tried, with potent notes ranging from sweet chocolate and strawberry to smoky spiced rum. We also enjoyed the citrusy zing of their Rwanda Misozi and the sweet vanilla and cherry hints of their Colombia Sierra Nevada.
This direct-to-farmer line offers rare single-origin coffees from around the world, most rated 88 points and above. The two we sampled– Panama Geisha Reserve Natural and Ethiopia Koke Honey– are rated 92 and 93, respectively. The sweetly acidic flavor of Geisha (indigenous to Ethiopia and discovered in Panama in 2004) is perfected by the nutrient-rich volcanic soil of the Ojo de Agua farm. The Koke Honey is grown at a similar elevation (around 5000-6000 feet) in Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe region, with an almost tea-like flavor that balances sweetness and tanginess. Both are incredibly enjoyable cups.
Founded in 2013 by Grace Hightower DeNiro (Robert DeNiro’s wife), this philanthropic brand focuses on improving the lives of Rwandans by offering locally-sourced coffees to the international market. The line features a full range of roasts as well as their Signature Series, all hand-picked and sorted and repeatedly cupped to ensure maximum flavor. The result is a sustainably grown coffee you can feel good about. Our favorite, the smooth Buf Café, was lightly roasted and boasted a hint of floral and citrus notes.
Roast magazine’s 2009 Roaster of the Year, PT’s is committed to working with true artisans of coffee cultivation. We fell in love with the line in 2012, and were delighted to sample three new varietals. Sidama Guji is an Heirloom from the Guji Cooperative of Ethiopia, with a honeyed sweetness balanced by citrusy acidity. Tana Toraja AA is similar to A&E’s Sulawesi Peaberry, with an earthy flavor and vanilla and toffee notes. But my favorite is the Grand Cru Mokka grown in Colombia by Rigoberto Herrera: Typically farmed in Hawaii, this 94-point coffee has a strong, sweet denseness with notes of chocolate, cherry and macadamia nut. I’d drink it every day if I could afford it!
Based in Roswell, Thrive connects coffee farmers directly with consumers to ensure growers make more money. This “farm-to-table” approach is best represented by the small-batch varietals of their Bloom line, which offer a robust freshness that makes their flavors pop. The San Isidro (from Costa Rica) boasts exotic, sweet fruity tones thanks to the natural cherry-drying process, while the Concepción (from Guatemala) has a citrusy acidity. But my favorite was their Hamilton 349 Reserve (from Brazil): Its Bourbon bean, grown in the Magian Mountains, has a darker-roasted chocolate flavor with subtle tropical notes. – Bret Love