The not-so-big city at the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Lancaster already had Square One Roasters—apparently, there's room for yet another great. Founded by a Blue Bottle/Parlor vet with local roots, this roaster's sensitively-mod retail operation sits just off Penn Square, across a very charming alleyway from the city's historic market hall. Carefully sourced coffees are fascinating, sometimes quite unusual, service can be downright gracious—this is one of those places everyone ought to come to take notes, to see how it's done.
Promising review for the Original blend: "Every so often, you come across a company that builds their products for the right reasons: 1) to make money (of course), 2) to make the best possible product on the planet without taking shortcuts, proving that quality is their priority, 3) to make the world a better place by enhancing the lives of others. Most companies stop at the first reason, but Bulletproof embodies all three. Everything I have tried from Bulletproof is top notch, and some of the best possible products on the planet." —Storm
Finally, the timing of this report perhaps favored coffees produced north of the equator, where the main coffee harvest takes place earlier in the year, rather than south of the equator, in countries like Tanzania and Uganda, where the harvest starts near the end of the year. When choosing the optimum time to organize a tasting report, we often struggle at Coffee Review with these sorts of timing trade-offs.
On the other side of the caffeinated spectrum, the Canadian brand, Kicking Horse Coffee has been creating organic, Fair Trade coffee for several decades now. Proud of their place of business, they roast these premium beans to perfection, three-thousand feet above sea level, near the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River. Whether it’s the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains or the altitude, something about their process delivers incredible flavors.
Something that kept coming up in our research was “conscious consumerism,” or awareness of the impact your coffee makes on the community, environment and overall quality of life of those who harvest and grow it. Campaigns for products free from animal testing, bee friendly pesticides, compostable packaging and sustainable farming are all part of conscious consumerism.
Another great choice for anyone looking to experiment with coffee from different roasters, MistoBox offers a highly personalized subscription. When you sign up, you’ll be asked about your personal coffee preferences. Based on your answers, MistoBox will select a variety of coffee for you to try and send it to your door. How often you get new coffee is completely up to you, as you can customize every part of your subscription experience with them.
The deity-level status of a coffee roaster hailing from Kansas' snoozy capital used to take the less-informed by surprise; nowadays, it seems less unusual that an operation as world-class as this should be found in such a place. No brash upstart, this—direct trading, single origin-loving PT's has been around since the early 1990's, and is still considered one of the finest source-erers in the land, last year snapping up another roaster with a similar reputation for quality, San Diego's Bird Rock Coffee. Lately, the company has given its retail operation a modern makeover, adding more modern shops in the college town of Lawrence, as well as Kansas City, Missouri.
However, Haden Polseno-Hensley, co-owner of Red Rooster Coffee Roaster, whose Ethiopia Kayon Mountain scored 93, pursues a business model committed to organic certification. He observed that organic-certified coffees are often of higher quality than those not certified. He says, “When we started in 2010, we were 100% organic. This was based on philosophical choice, but also marketing strategy. Large grocery store chains, especially ‘lifestyle’ chains, want organics. They want to press the ‘easy’ button when it comes to showing their customers that they have quality goods. Ethiopia is a strange bird, though. While it may be true that most Ethiopian coffees are de facto organic, we’ve actually come to find that the certified coffees are often of a higher quality. Is this because the producers are more attentive to cultivation and processing since they are paying for certificates?”
What discussion of organic (fair-trade, vegan, gluten free) coffee beans without Portland’s own Stumptown coffee making an appearance. Stumptown Holler Mountain Coffee is the signature organic blend that lends to their popularity since the roasters humble beginnings. This popular organic offering uses peak conditioned Latin American and East African coffees to maintain a balanced, elegant and consistent profile throughout the seasons.
Over the course of the year, we reviewed fewer than a dozen darker roasts. Most were medium-dark at best; some barely that. The majority of darker roasts we reviewed were sent by roasters in Taiwan and most were espressos, reflecting both the time-honored espresso practice of emphasizing chocolate and sweetness through moderate dark roasting, as well as, perhaps, a preference in Taiwan for more traditional styles of espresso as opposed to the lighter-roasted, brighter style of espresso now popular with the leading edge of North American roasters.