Over the past 10 years, we become more sensible of where our coffee is grown and how the farmers who grow it are treated. Sustainable, organic Fair Trade coffee is all the varieties, and we’ve been lucky to sample some of the best coffee in the world. After our recent visit to the Atlanta Coffee Festival, we found many good companies and varietals to share:
1 DRIP COFFEE
When Tafari Belfield and his Ethiopian wife Rahel, owners of Grant Park Coffeehouse, went to Ethiopia to find of the country’s best coffee, her family spoke them about the strongly flavorful Tomoca. This family-owned brand had been passing down roasting techniques since 1953, and is generally considered the best coffee in the world. After trying it in their coffee shop, the Belfields became the American distributor for Tomoca. They later have searched a similar deal for their espresso, a Brazilian coffee from Taguatinga Norte’s family-owned Cafe Export. Both unique brands are now available in the U.S. only through the Belfields’ company, 1Drip.
A&E COFFEE ROASTERY
A&E encourages environmental stewardship and economic fairness, and their shade-grown coffees have ranked among our favorites for many years. Their Norma Lara Micro-Lot from Honduras is special, 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 incredible coffee. A&E also provides 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 (a strongly invigorating Sulawesi Peaberry grown in the Toro Tojara region).
Based in Americus, Georgia, Café Campesino was produced 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 worked. Now, this Fair Trade, organic company is linked to small-scale coffee cooperatives in more countries worldwide. Their most popular selections 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.
COOL BEANS COFFEE ROASTERS
A Marietta Square staple since 2001, Cool Beans owners Kevin and Jennifer Langill import green beans from worldwide 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 characteristic Indonesian varieties we’ve tried, with powerful notes going from sweet chocolate and strawberry to smoky spiced rum. We also liked the citrusy zing of their Rwanda Misozi and the sweet vanilla and cherry hints of their Colombia Sierra Nevada.
This direct-to-farmer line provides particular single-origin coffees from worldwide, most rated 88 points and above. The two we tested – Panama Geisha Reserve Natural and Ethiopia Koke Honey– are rated 92 and 93, respectively. The sweetly acidic flavor of Geisha (original from Ethiopia and found it in Panama in 2004) is perfected by the nutrient-rich volcanic soil of the Ojo de Agua farm. The Koke Honey is grown at the same altitude (around 5000-6000 feet) in Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe region, with an almost tea-like flavor that balances sweetness and tanginess. Both are unbelievably pleasant cups.
GRACE HIGHTOWER & COFFEES OF RWANDA
Founded in 2013 by Grace Hightower DeNiro (Robert DeNiro’s wife), this philanthropic brand focuses on a better live of Rwandans by offering locally-sourced coffees to the international market. The line features a full variety of roasts as well as their Signature Series, all hand-picked and sorted and repeatedly cupped to guarantee maximum flavor. The result is a sustainably grown coffee you can feel good about. Our preferred, the smooth Buf Café, was lightly roasted and touched with a suggestion of floral and citrus notes.
PT’S COFFEE ROASTING CO
Roast magazine’s 2009 Roaster of the Year, PT’s is dedicated to working with true artisans of coffee grown. We fell in love with the line in 2012, and were happy to test 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 our preferred is the Grand Cru Mokka grown in Colombia by Rigoberto Herrera: Typically grown in Hawaii, this 94-point coffee has a robust, sweet denseness with notes of chocolate, cherry and macadamia nut. I’d drink it more times in a day if I could afford it!
THRIVE FARMERS COFFEE
Based in Roswell, Thrive links coffee growers directly with clients to guarantee farmers obtain more money. This “farm-to-table” strategy is best represented by the small-batch variety of their Bloom line, which provide a vigorous freshness that makes their flavors pop. The San Isidro (from Costa Rica) boasts exotic, sweet fruity tones due to the natural cherry-drying process, while the Concepción (from Guatemala) has a citrusy acidity. But my preferred was their Hamilton 349 Reserve (from Brazil): Its Bourbon bean, grown in the Magian Mountains, has a darker-roasted chocolate taste with delicate tropical notes.
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