I seem to drink an inordinate amount of coffee, which I enjoy collecting and sampling from trips around the world (mostly North America and Europe). I try and choose a different blend every few days and usually have around a dozen to choose from, depending on my travels. I thought it would be interesting to keep track of the ones I’ve tried and see how they all compare.
Blue Bottle Coffee
One of San Francisco’s most popular and well known coffee houses. Unfortunately for UK folks, the name conjures up large unpleasant house flys! Thankfully the coffee redeems them.
- Bella Donovan – this has a lot of similarities to Three Africas; a creamy taste to the coffee and a similar look when blended. Although pleasant, I think this is not a morning coffee, perhaps more suited to after dinner with a sweet dessert or mints. (link) (Purchased June 2017)
- Night Light Decaf – yes this is a decaffeinated blend but it still stands up to scrutiny. In fact this is a great morning coffee. It’s smooth, bright and drinkable. Worth the purchase. (link) (Purchased June 2017)
- Three Africas – a blend of two coffees from Ethiopia and one from Uganda (so their website tells me), hence the name. Comes across to me as creamy vanilla tasting, which is nice, but I’m not a massive fan of cream. Will need to try without milk and see the difference. This was acquired with some others during a recent trip to San Francisco; I was up at 7am at the Ferry Building to buy it. (Purchased June 2017)
- Flagstaff Blend. I picked up this coffee on a recent trip to New York. This is pretty good; a nice standard blend for any time of the day. Tasting notes say Cocoa Nib, marzipan and molasses (link). (Purchased September 2016)
- Flagstaff Drip Blend. Presumably this is meant to be used for cold drip coffee, all the rage in the US at the moment. I haven’t done that but used normally in a coffeemaker (hot water filter machine). The results have been less than optimal and I’m disappointed with this, which is meant to have a toasted almond, vanilla and milk chocolate overtone. I’d agree with the milk chocolate, which is not my favourite idea of coffee taste. Possibly one for other people! Beans are sourced from Brazil and Colombia (Purchased August 2017)
Chromatic Coffee Co
- Gamut Espresso. This is a blend introduced to me by Sean Derrington (link). It’s a rather delicious blend from Chromatic that claims tastes of chocolate and creamy butterscotch. I always struggle to visualise some of the definitions, however this is great coffee and well liked in the Silicon Valley offices of Exablox (purchased February 2016)
- Kirkland Colombian Supremo. Another of Costco’s own brand coffees (link), which is actually quite good. This offering is classed as a medium blend, although does have a deep, almost burnt roast to it. This is one I’d recommend as a good backup coffee, although it wouldn’t appear in the top 10. (Purchased November 2017).
- Kirkland Guatemalan. This is Costco’s own brand and comes, unsurprisingly in large bags. The roast level is medium to dark and the coffee for me is just a little to heavy on the roasting side. I’d also describe the blend as a little rough, with not a lot of subtlely. Unlikely I will be buying again. (Purchased December 2016)
Dark Woods Coffee
I discovered Dark Woods Coffee from the Liberty purchase in August. As a result, I thought it would be interesting to try these coffees directly.
- Good Morning Sunshine. French toast on a summer morning – allegedly. Actually this is a nice refreshing blend for the morning and easily drinkable. Enjoyable and worth re-ordering. (link, Purchased August 2018, beans)
- Under Milk Wood. This is an espresso blend and aimed at complementing coffee with milk, which it undoubtedly does. The result is a caramel taste, which is smooth and enjoyable at any time. This could become a new favourite and will definitely get ordered again. (link Purchased August 2018, beans)
- Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Classed as floral and citrusy, this is a nice regular coffee. The Yirgacheffe beans are supposed to be quite classy. In my experience they’re OK, but I’ve had better. (link). (Purchased April 2018)
- El Salvador La Providencia. This was another purchase (link) in Seattle, from Fonté on 1st Avenue in Seattle. This particular blend has a rich deep but at the same time refreshing taste. I really like the Fonte blends and wish I’d bought a few more. Perhaps I can justify another trip to Seattle! (Purchased June 2016)
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum’s is well known as a groceries emporium, with a wide range of products that include tea, coffee and preserves like jam and honey.
- Akbar Blend – Sadly, Fortnum doesn’t have an online list describing their coffees, with literally no detail on the packaging other than name. However, I did take a picture of the in-shop guide, which tells me this is a blend from Central and South America and Kenya. It’s a really pleasant smooth blend, with good depth. (Purchased August 2018, beans)
This is a new company I found while in New York in August 2017. It’s more of a pastry and chocolate company than coffee specialist, however now has branches all around Manhattan. I think we visited the original shop, which is a hybrid of Swedish and NYC culture.
- Brew – this is described as Fika’s signature brew – simple name I guess. However that’s no reflection on the quality of the coffee. This is a blend that is smooth and hugely drinkable, like a good chocolate. It’s 100% Arabica variety, grown in Quetzaltenango in Guatemala (link) (Purchased August 2017)
- Supremo – described as a single-origin (100% Arabica) blend made with Colombian Supremo beans from the Huila region. Tasting notes claim caramel and sweet apple, which is definitely there. I’d buy FIKA again – next time in NYC. (link) (Purchased July 2017)
Gregorys is based in New York City.
- Gregs House. I picked up this coffee on a trip to NYC (Manhattan specifically). It’s a general blend, with nothing specifically punchy about it. A good regular brew that talks about milk chocolate and roasted peanut. I agree there’s a peanut hint there but I wouldn’t say it comes out that strongly. Here’s a link (purchased September 2016)
- La Huella. Nearly 12 months later and I’m back in NYC again. With a Greg’s around the corner I took the opportunity to find something different. This is a coffee from Nicaragua, described as having a tangerine-like sweetness with plum and hazelnut overtones. For me this was great as a light refreshing coffee that I will miss. We drank it far too quickly. Well worth it. (link) (Purchased August 2017)
- San Carlos. This was purchased in Manhattan with the coffee sourced from Guatemala. It’s a nice blend, probably a regular coffee drinking choice rather than for a special occasion. I liked it as a regular brew. It doesn’t look like Gregorys keep their blends very long. Here’s a blog post (link) discussing the blend. (Purchased September 2016)
- Kayon Mountain. Another NYC purchase. This again, is creamy and almond-like, as a light blend. Beans are from the Guji region of Ethiopia and are described has having lemon, jasmine and raspberry tones. I sometimes wonder about that – are the descriptions as made up as those of wine? (link) (Purchased July 2017)
Harrods is the iconic department store based in Knightsbridge, London. The food halls at Harrods are legendary. Including their coffee and tea section!
- Columbian San Agustin. I enjoyed this coffee. Despite a 3/5 and medium strength rating it does have depth and quality to it. This is a single origin bean, described as light and buttery with lemon and nectarine. Worth purchasing again. (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Kenyan Blue Mountain. This is a delicious smooth blend, as you’d imagine for a coffee with Blue Mountain in the name. This has been an enjoyable coffee for any time of the day, with a feeling of luxury (which isn’t surprising at £45/kg). Unfortunately not all the Harrods coffees are available online, but this one is sold in packs (link). (Purchased March 2017)
- Knightsbridge Roast. This one is nice and definitely has the dark roast depth that is promised. The blend is Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia and Costa Rica. Described as nutty, caramel and chocolate. I’ll be making a 2nd purchase! (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Signature Blend. I wasn’t as impressed with this one compared to other coffee, either from Harrods or elsewhere. It’s very light and lacking in depth for my personal tastes. With coffee like this, I find myself using more of it to get the same flavour I like. At £30/kg, I don’t see it as great value for money. (Purchased March 2017)
- Old Brown Java. This as great light and flavour-some coffee that’s drinkable at any time. I really enjoyed this one and it didn’t take long to plough through this within a week! Mid-priced to some of the other Harrods offerings and great value. (Purchased April 2017)
- Javan Ijen. I was expecting so much more from this coffee. Rated as a 4/5, it is a dark roast of Arabica Typica beans. Although there was an initial deep taste, the flavour dies quickly and has no lingering value. Shame. (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Peaberry. This is an “estate reserve” coffee from the Kauai Estate in Hawaii. The coffee is fantastic, smooth and drinkable for any time of the day. The conditions for growing coffee in Hawaii are clearly excellent! This was a gift, however I need to arrange a trip to Hawaii with an extra suitcase! (link) (Purchased October 2016)
Kicking Horse Coffee
- I picked up some Three Sisters when on holiday in Canada. This is a nice medium smooth blend, good as a midday or evening drink. The blend is fairtrade and we were able to find it easily in the supermarket. (link) (Purchased August 2016)
- Hoodoo Jo is another blend from Kicking Horse during our Canada holiday. This isn’t bad at all and has become a morning brew, even though it’s pretty dark and heavy. This was another supermarket purchase. (link) (Purchased August 2016)
Who would have thought that Liberty of London would sell coffee? But they do! There’s a small food court in the London shop near Carnaby Street that sells amongst other things, coffee and tea.
- Crow Tree Blend – Claiming to have the taste of dark chocolate, I have no idea of the origin of the name of this blend, however the beans come from Dark Woods Coffee in Yorkshire. This blend is lovely and rich, definitely on the decadent side, rather than as an early morning breakfast drink! However, well worth it. (link) (Purchased August 2018, grounds)
- Classique – classed as intensity 7, I wasn’t impressed by this. Too much of a rough edge to the taste for what it promises. Called “balanced and refined”, I didn’t get that at all. Won’t buy again. (Purchased December 2017, grounds)
- Intense – descriptions are short and sweet on this one – intensity 8 and “rich & lively”. Actually this isn’t a bad coffee. It certainly is rich, but with no specific tastes or identifiable notes. However, I would probably buy again as a stock coffee. (Purchased December 2017, grounds)
Marks & Spencer
- New York Half Caf – Too much caffeine is never a good thing, so finding a halfway solution sounds appealling. This coffee from UK food retailer M&S is an acceptable early morning solution, but lacks some real depth in terms of flavour. As a medium roast (3 on a scale of 1-5), I was hoping for better. Probably not going to be a repeat purchase. (Purchased August 2016)
- Kenyan Ground Coffee – Another offering from M&S, this 100% Arabica blend disappoints somewhat. It is graded 3 (on a scale of 1-5) and doesn’t really pack a punch at all. What’s interesting is that this is the same bean used in the Half Caf, which probably explains why neither really has a decent appeal. (Purchased July 2016)
- Peruvian Ground Coffee – This one wasn’t too bad, although it almost got to being too rich/deep for me (reminded me a little of Costco’s own brand). Definitely has the chocolate note as described on the label; not sure I prefer that though unless I’m in the right mood. (Purchased June 2017)
Peet’s is a stalwart of Silicon Valley and everywhere you from Mountain View to San Jose. The original Peet’s is as old as me!
- Big Bang – claims to be a “vibrant blast of tropical fruit in a smooth, medium style” and I’d agree with that. This is an every day medium roast that’s definitely on my list going forward. Very drinkable at any time. This is a blend rather than single origin (link) (Purchased June 2017)
- Giant’s Clubhouse Blend – presumably named after the San Francisco Giants, this is a good dark roast coffee, which I’ve not been able to find on the website so is perhaps a limited edition. If you can find it (this was from the Ferry Building) then this is worth it as a good dark and smooth drink. One for late afternoon or after meals! (Purchased June 2017)
- Major Dickason’s Blend – I’ve had both the caffeinated and decaf versions of this blend and it is great, probably my most favourite. As it turns out, the decaf version is a top seller. This is a real deep blend, with lots of taste. Major Dickason was apparently a regular customer, enough to get onto the menu! (link) (Purchased July 2017)
This is a UK mail order company that I’ve recently tried out. So far the results seem good. Each week I get a new single origin pack of whole beans to try. I’m sure at some stage we’re going to hit repetition though – repeated items with *
- Brazil, Fazenda Camocim – OK, this isn’t too bad, although doesn’t have a lot of depth. The tasting notes say dark chocolate, cherry and hazelnut, which is probably fair. Worth having again. (link) (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Colombia, Cenoic Pico de Aguila* – this is a great coffee, very smooth and drinkable. Tasting notes say blackcurrant and citrus, but the citrus/sweet notes aren’t too strong, A keeper. (link) (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Colombia, Suarez – I am struggling to think what this coffee offers over any of the others I’ve received from The Roastery. I think perhaps I need a rethink the next time around. (link) (Purchased October 2018, beans)
- El Salvador, Finca San Ernesto* – This is light and easy to drink. Tasting notes say caramel, honeysuckle and redcurrant. I get the redcurrant, the slight sweet and sharpness, but not overdone. Perhaps it’s the lighter roast that does it. (link) (Purchased January 2018, beans)
- Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe Shalaitu* – Not sure about this one. There’s a hay-like taste and edge to this variety (yirgacheffe), which is probably the citrus flavour described by other sites. I’m not sure I’d want this again, definitely an acquired taste (link) (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Mexico, Siltepec El Jaguar* – this is a nice, smooth blend. There are no specific bold flavours or obvious tastes, but the blend has a generally appealing quality. Worth reordering (link) (Purchased February 2018, beans)
- Peru, Finca El Palmo* – this is another great single origin, with a relatively light roast. Apparently I should be picking up apple, chocolate and vanilla, however I’d say vanilla is probably the only strong flavour that shows through. (link) (Purchased January 2018, beans)
- Papua New Guinea, Elimbari* – nice and smooth, described as a single origin with vanilla, cherry and jasmine. The coffee beans have a smell sharpness but the coffee has none of this. There’s a definite sweetness that suggests the cherry flavour. A definite repurchase (link) (Purchased January 2018, beans)
- Papua New Guinea, Enorga A – described as nutty, chocolate, citrus and mango, this is is a nice single origin and definitely has the citrus/acid flavour to it, although it could err on the side of bitter. However, taste is everything, so I’m sure this will suit lots of people. I’d buy again (link). (Purchased September 2018, beans)
- Tanzania, Mbeya PB – didn’t mind this one, good taste, although there’s an edge of the flavour you get from olives, the rough edge, that perhaps I don’t like. Peach, floral, chocolate, I don’t think I got that. (Purchased August 2018, beans)
- Colombian Fairtrade – for a generic coffee, this is actually pretty decent. The flavours are deep and rich, even for a rating of 3 on the scale with no clear upper mark. I’d buy and have as another richer everyday blend. (Purchased March 2018)
- Guatemalan Espresso – this is from Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference range of Fairtrade coffee beans and is rated 4 on their own scale. It’s OK and a good blend for every day. However I can’t say I could pick out any specific flavours or tastes. One for the cupboard on any occasion. (Purchased January 2018, beans)
- Tanzanian Fairtrade Sundried Peaberry – I’d recommend this coffee. It’s a stalwart for any day, with a medium roast (3 on the Sainsbury’s scale) and good all-round flavour. (Purchased January 2018, beans)
Seattle Coffee Works
- Molly’s Blend, from Seattle Coffee Works. I picked this up when in Seattle for DockerCon in June 2016. The shop was small, but full of people. This is a great blend and what I’d describe as really drinkable; you can do 3/4 cups without even noticing it. Here’s a link to the company website if you want to order some! (Purchased June 2016)
- Costa Rica Las Lajas Black Honey from Seattle Coffee Works. Another blend picked up while at DockerCon. This was a richer blend, really full bodied. Perhaps not a breakfast starter, but a great brew none the less! Seattle don’t currently seem to list this coffee on their website, however Fortnum & Mason in the UK appear to. (Purchased June 2016)
- Kenya Kangocho AA from Seattle Coffee Works. Yet another selection picked up in Seattle. This is a really nice fresh clean brew, which the tasting notes claim offers tastes of key lime, kiwi and blackcurrant, although I don’t think I get all of that. Nice refreshing blend to start the morning off. Link here to the site. (Purchased June 2016)
- Decaf Sumatra from Starbucks. This is quite a strong deep blend, but is an alternative decaffeinated for those sensitive to caffeine. It’s perhaps also a little bitter and not necessarily an early morning blend, but good for a late evening. This blend isn’t available as decaf in the UK; I picked this up during one of my US trips (link). (Purchased June 2016)
- Espresso Roast. Not bad a blend although this has been lying around for a while and may not be the freshest. It’s strong (as you would expect) and a good mid-morning blend. Not sure I’d choose it again though. (Purchased January 2016)
- Ethiopia Mocca Java. This is another deep strong and rich blend from Starbucks. I like this one as a mid-day coffee and I’m sure it would work well with a nice big piece of chocolate cake! It looks like from this link, this blend was only limited and isn’t available now. (Purchased June 2016)
- Kati Kati Blend. I’ve struggled to find Starbucks coffee that I like, however this is a good one. It’s smooth, easy to drink and certainly not bitter like a lot of Starbucks blend. This is apparently seasonal and a summertime drink. Presumably this is the end of this distribution. 100% Arabica beans. (link) (Purchased 2017, whole beans).
- Organic Yukon Blend. This is a medium roast coffee, 100% Arabica. I like this one as a strong blend, probably not as a morning offering! Described as well rounded, this is good for after dinner meals (link). (Purchased June 2016)
- Peru – this is 100% Arabica and both rich in flavour with a nice freshness too. The packet describes the blend as “herbal and soft spice”, which I’m not getting! However a great blend and more suited for that lazy Sunday morning brunch. Love the parrot picture on the packaging! Available in the UK (link) (Purchased June 2016).
- Willow Blend. Described by Starbucks as crisp and citrus, this is certainly a light and fruity blend. It perhaps also tastes a little bitter, but that’s perhaps personal opinion. Not bad as an early morning drink or one for later in the day. 100% Arabica beans. Doesn’t appear to be available in the UK; acquired by me in the US (link) (Purchased June 2016)
Taylors of Harrogate
Taylors is based in Harrogate in the UK. Ground blends are widely available in shops and supermarkets.
- After Dark. A “deep and seductive” blend, classed as a 5 out of 7. There’s no doubt this is a well-roasted blend with smoky overtones and a flavour of cocoa. This less aggressive than some blends and is drinkable at most times, if you like a strong coffee! Pure 100% Arabica coffee (link) (Purchased October 2017, grounds)
- Cacao Superior Columbia. I like this coffee. It comes up a little light, so needs a little more for the same amount of water. However the taste is smooth and easily drinkable. Tasting notes claim chocolate caramels, which is probably fair. (Purchased September 2017, beans)
- Christmas Blend. Pretty average attempt at producing something different for Christmas. This tastes simply like an existing blend put into a different packet. Won’t waste my money again! (Purchased December 2017, grounds)
- Hot Java Lava. This blend is rated as a 6 (out of?) and described as rich rugged and robust. And so it is. There’s an almost malty chocolaty taste, with a real full-bodied taste. Good for those recovery mornings and lazy Sundays. (link) (Purchased January 2017)
- High Voltage. A score of 7 on the strength scale for this pre-ground coffee from Taylors. Described as their strongest ever with lots of caffeine, I’d say it’s good, but not that good. Not as strong as the company claims, but good strong blend none the less. (link) (Purchased July 2017)
- Lazy Sunday. A level 3 scored roast, this is classed as gentle and easy-going. It’s not bad, but then again nothing special. It would be the kind of coffee to have in for “emergencies” or perhaps for people who wouldn’t appreciate good quality! (Purchased August 2018, grounds)
- Praline Especial Brazil. Now this one I like. The taste is of smooth praline (as the name suggests) without an overbearing chocolate taste. There are overtones of caramel and toffee, but not in anyway excessive. It’s what I expect in a coffee, drinkable at any time of day. Single origin coffee from Brazil. (link) (Purchased October 2017, beans)
- Rare Blossom Ethiopia. Apparently this coffee is a “riot” of honeysuckle, mango, blossom, whisky and spice. I’d certainly agree with the whisky/spice analysis, but it’s not to my taste. I can’t quite get past the feeling that I’ve added sour milk to the coffee, which isn’t a great taste. Made from 100% Arabica beans. (Purchased September 2017, grounds)
It seems a little odd to be buying coffee from Tesco, but these selections are from their “finest*” range, so hopefully a bit better quality.
- Guatelamalan – rated as level 4 (medium/strong) and a tasting of “spicy and fruity”. This is certainly very drinkable but does have that slightly smokier and stronger taste. I’ve been drinking this daily, but it’s probably a coffee for after a rich dinner! Of course a very reasonable price compared to some purchases here. (link) (Purchased April 2017)
- Sumatra Mandheling – this is a number 5 (strong) and so it is. You can definitely use this sparingly! Tasting notes describe it as rich and intense which is certainly true. This is another of those late afternoon or after dinner blends. (Purchased April 2017)
The Natural Coffee Company
- Organic Fairtrade Decaffeinated. Swiss water process produced, this is a good backup morning coffee. It’s nothing special but reasonable value from Costco. The originator appears to be Smiths Coffee, based in Hemel Hempstead (link). Purchased August 2016.
- Buena Vista. I picked this up in a small coffee shop in Los Altos, one of those postcard-style towns in California that looks straight out of Murder She Wrote. Having brewed this both light and strong, I can’t quite get the intensity right. Too light tastes of nothing; to heavy and there’s a bitter taste to contend with. Still on the fence with this one. (link). Purchased as beans, April 2018.
- Waitrose 1 Monsooned Malabar AA. I haven’t tried any Waitrose coffees before, so this is a good step into trying a few out. I’m not sure what “Waitrose 1” means, however this is a good 100% Arabica ground coffee. Stregnth is quoted as 4, but out of what, I don’t know. The taste is smoky, dark, somewhat tobacco-like. Good if you like really deep, well-roasted, almost burned flavours. (link). Purchased as ground, November 2017.