This month we had our first ‘Themed Rating’ here at Roast Ratings. For this inaugural session we wanted to taste coffees from Africa, as they are fresh in season and a great representation of high quality coffees. We had tons of submissions with coffees from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Malawi on our table which was quite exciting!
In the end we narrowed down the submissions to our top 10 favorites based on our rating score. A total of 8 submissions received a 5-Star score, which makes them highly recommended. African coffees tend to be bright and acidity forward, which means that you should expect lively and vibrant flavors from the following top scorers. Think fruit juice and a zip across the tongue rather than more deep and chocolatey flavors with these coffees.
Pick from any of these coffees for a great experience and you won’t be disappointed!
A solid Ethiopian offering from Sweet Bloom Coffee in Lakewood, Colorado. This coffee was bright and snappy with a nice floral complexity, making it a good example of the origin. Pick up a bag if you are interested in bright and tea-like characteristics in a coffee.
From the Brew Review: The aroma is richly sweet reminding us of baking bread and caramel. The body is nice: clean, smooth & juicy. In the flavor, the highest tones dominate with bright lemonade and raspberries, anchored a bit with sweet maple and caramel and some floral hints. Chocolate and nuts round out the lower tones, reminiscent of a Darjeeling tea. The finish is mostly dominated by a tart orangey glow with a little dark caramel sweetness. This coffee in three words: Clean – Bright – Complex
A distinct Kenyan offering from Greenway Coffee in Houston, Texas. This coffee was a dichotomy of bright acidity and low toned complexities. When they come together they create intrigue on the palate, though they can be a bit intense at times. Grab a bag if you want a roller coaster of a coffee, with multiple flavor aspects all in one cup.
From the Brew Review: In the mug we find scents of juicy plum and sweet florals, leading to a light, juicy body. The flavors have the wide range and balanced complexity found in the traditional Kenya profile: subtle berry tones with candied sweetness, all brought into balance with some earthier notes of oak and nuts. The linger is a little dry, fading into the lower toned flavors of earth and oak. This coffee in three words: Earthy – Fruity – Light Body
Our first 5-Star coffee comes from Onyx Coffee Labs in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This Ethiopian coffee had a rather balanced acidity and loads of floral complexity which created a pleasurable drinking experience. Smoothness in the brew kept us pouring another cup. Get a bag if you want a nice easy-drinking coffee that still offers the intrigue of the Ethiopian origin.
From the Brew Review: This coffee was sweetly aromatic, reminding us of berries and cinnamon. The body was light but juicy in texture, and overall really smooth which made it very easy to drink. A fruity citrus acidity was present in a balanced and satisfying intensity, which kept us coming back for more. There was a muted caramel-like sweetness, but more notable was a floral and buttery complexity that lingered long with harmonious flavors. In three words we call this coffee – Juicy – Floral – Balanced
A distinctly floral Ethiopian coffee from Square One Coffee in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. An unexpected cup that starts bright and tangy, but changes into an intensely floral experience that reminded us of roses and jasmine. Check out this coffee for an excellent example of the floral complexities that are not always easy to find in coffee.
From the Brew Review: As a brew this coffee smelled fruity and sweet and tasting came with an ever changing experience. The body started juicy and smooth, and turned slightly tannic and dry in the back of the mouth. Acidity came forward with a strong brightness that overpowered the fruity sweetness at times. Tons of floral character was in this cup, becoming so elegantly perfumed that it created a slight dryness in the finish. Still very clean and delicate in waves throughout the experience. In three words this coffee is – Floral – Juicy – Fruity
Our first submission from Beanfruit Coffee Company in Jackson, Mississippi did not disappoint! This Kenyan peaberry was incredibly smooth and low in bitterness. The primary flavor distinctions were in the first second or two after taking each sip, with a punchy fruit acidity that quickly rolled over into sweet and smooth chocolate. Grab a bag if you want a coffee that sparks the imagination, but is still super smooth and drinkable.
From the Brew Review: As we took in the aroma we noticed all sorts of intriguing scents, from fruity, rich and decadent to some reminiscent of baking spices. The mouth feel was silky smooth and lush, which made for a really pleasant cup. The acidity was distinct immediately, tasting of citrus and juicy fruit, though it faded to a sweet chocolatey glow soon after. There was very little bitterness in this cup, and what was there reminded us of dark chocolate and slightly dry tannins in the finish. In three words we call this coffee – Smooth – Chocolatey – Citrus
The only naturally processed coffee on out top ten list comes from Blueprint Coffee in St Louis, Missouri. This coffee offered us a bit more complexity than the average natural coffee, with tons of sweetness to boot. The standard berry notes turned into wine-like flavors in a cream-like texture. Get yourself a bag if you want lots of fruit and berry flavors even if you don’t normally care for naturally processed coffees.
From the Brew Review: Alluring in its aroma, this coffee reels you in with smells of sweet berries and rich chocolate. The body is smooth, creamy and lush, dancing well with the balanced berry and dried fruit notes throughout. Sweetness of toffee candy bridges nicely to the lower tones of earthy chocolate. It all leaves you with a long wine-like linger, laced with tea and caramel. This coffee in three words: Berry – Earthy – Creamy
A super fresh Kenyan coffee from Klatch Coffee Roasting Co. in Rancho Cucamonga, California. They have won numerous awards over the years, including last year’s Golden Bean North America competition. This coffee brought us numerous complexities and a great overall cup. While the acidity was distinct, the fruit like flavors didn’t overpower the sweet elements which is a great thing in our book! Get yourself a bag if you like a nuanced coffee with a big, full body and powerful flavor elements all in the same cup.
From the Brew Review: Complex right out of the gate, the aroma presents stone fruit, caramel and florals mixed with baking spice. The body is full, round and juicy, harmonizing nicely with its bright, snappy citrus. The sweetness brings to mind light fruit with a drizzle of caramel. Rich in depth, we find a wide ranged flavor balance anchored by cocoa, nuts and hints of floral baking spices. In three words this coffee is: Bright – Jucy – Complex
Greenway Coffee had a hit in our top three with this Ethiopian Gedeb. This offering was quite balanced with a pleasantly tamed acidity profile to match the sweet complexities. The flavors were deep and warming while still being harmonious with the various aspects in the cup. Grab a bag of this coffee if you like a well balanced and richly spiced drinking experience that goes down smoothly.
From the Brew Review: In the mug the very first impressions come accross with a nutty brown sugar in the aroma. The body is on the lighter side of the spectrum- tea like and smooth. The acidity is soft and mellow citrus and berry, fitting nicely with a gingerbread sweetness with a decadent milky caramel. More complex than it is bitter, we find florals and spices reminding us of that bergamot flavor in a nice earl grey tea. The finish is clean and delicate with more of that gingerbread and caramel, keeping you coming back for more. This coffee in three words: Citrus – Mellow – Clean
A surprisingly sweet Kenyan coffee from Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co. in St Louis, Missouri. This coffee made our mouths happy with its distinct fruit-like acidity and fruit juice like sweetness. Rarely do we find coffees that remind us more of a cup of fresh squeezed juice than roasted coffee, but this is one of them. The trick to a great fruity coffee like this is to ensure the acidity doesn’t overpower the cup, and Kaldi’s has done an excellent job of balancing the experience. Buy a bag of this coffee if you want fruity flavors, intense sweetness, and a very non-typical coffee drinking experience.
From the Brew Review: The aroma was enticing, with deep and sweet scents beckoning us to drink deeply. On the first sip a heavy and juicy body took over the palate, creating a rather decadent drinking experience. On the brighter side of acidity, fruity flavors showed up and ultimately transformed into a sweetness that reminded us of a rich mulled wine. This coffee was highlighted by intense sweetness and complexity, which kept us sipping. Little to no bitterness was present, and a long, rich aftertaste kept us satisfied. In three words we call this coffee – Full Bodied – Fruity – Baking Spices
The final coffee on our top ten from Sweet Bloom Coffee really blew us away, and we just couldn’t stop drinking it! This Kenyan peaberry was distinct, complex, sweet, and impressively balanced. Everything from the texture to the acidity to the sweet, sweet finish left us wanting more. A rare find, with a myriad of flavors easily identified, the cup was dynamic and never left a bad impression. If you want to know just how good a coffee from Kenya can be, this is a great choice to try. Hurry and get a bag for yourself, as this one will likely sell out soon!
From the Brew Review: This coffee was one of the best brewed cups we have tasted. Sweet, fruity aromatics were distinct and enticing. The body delivered a smooth, clean, and lush mouth-feel. The acidity was distinct, but balanced. Fruit like acids and citrus were countered by a highly sweet presence that reminded us of candy. Virtually no bitterness delivered an impressively drinkable cup that lingered long after each sip with a sweet toffee reminiscence. In three words we call this coffee – Balanced, Sweet, and Clean
We hope you have found our first Themed Rating insightful. The above selection is what we found to be the best, but you should always shop based on your own preferences. If you are a coffee roaster, or know one who you think has great coffee, please consider submitting for our future tasting panels. We would love to taste your very best!
A big thank you to everyone who submitted coffees for our tasting panel! The offerings we tasted from various countries in Africa were excellent examples of high quality specialty coffee, and our taste buds are doing happy dances still from the experience.
What do you think about our top ten? Feel free to sound off in the comments section and start a discussion, and stay tuned for our next Themed Rating coming soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get up to date information about coffees of all types.