Coffee Beans: Sustainable or Non-Sustainable Taste Tests


Most of us have seen items in the grocery store labeled “organically produced” or “eco-friendly.” From everything we have read in the media, these food items should be healthier for you than those drenched in food coloring or grown with toxic fertilizers. Folks often buy these items because they feel they are helping the environment, and they are even willing to pay more for these items. These socially conscious individuals claim that the environmentally friendly foods taste better than foods processed the old way. But do they really taste better? Researchers devised an experiment using arabica coffee beans to find out.

The scientists arranged for groups of volunteers to taste whole bean coffee brewed from arabica beans. Coffee from the arabica bean is known for being high quality, and it is the main ingredient in most gourmet coffees. The volunteers were to answer a questionnaire that helped determine how much value they placed on an environmentally friendly coffee as opposed to a coffee that did not make use of high sustainability practices or were not friendly to the environment. The answers to the questions helped divide the group into two sub-groups: a high sustainability group and a low sustainability group. Even though the two cups of coffee served to the participants were identical, the information given before tasting was not. One coffee was described as being ecologically friendly while the other was not. Interestingly the responses of the group reflected this information.

Seventy-four percent of the high sustainability volunteers preferred the eco-labeled coffee while twenty-six percent choose the non sustainable coffee. They were also willing to pay more for the coffee. With regards to the low sustainability group, forty-eight percent choose the eco-coffee while twenty-six preferred the not ecologically friendly coffee. They were not willing to pay more for the coffee. The ecologically-friendly volunteers showed a definite preference for the coffee labeled ecologically friendly even though there was no difference between the two cups. The low sustainability volunteers were almost tied with the cup they chose. The information of the label definitely had an effect on the high sustainability group.

The results of this series of experiments show that eco-conscious individuals were willing to pay a premium for the eco-coffee. These findings were partly based on desire to do what is right for the environment rather than which coffee tasted the best. Basically the volunteers were influenced by lying about the coffee’s characteristics. Similar results have been achieved using products such as nutrition bars and wine. The volunteers would pay more for the coffee they were told was ecologically-friendly whether it really was or not. These results should prove very interesting to the advertising industry!

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Ayutepeque – 165 Years of Great Coffee

Topeca Coffee Ayutepeque Farm
The entrance to the Ayutepeque farm, established 1850.

Recently we were fortunate enough to welcome another great roaster, Topeca Coffee. They have been on Coffee Reviews list of top coffees for the past two years and ranked in the top six of all the coffees last year. Topeca owns their own coffee farm in El Salvador and is personally involved in aspect. Below is their story…..

Our Philosophy

Topeca is one of the few companies in the world with fully vertically integrated Seed to Cup model. Our family grows the coffee in El Salvador where we can oversee every step of the process. We have our hands in every step of process from planting the coffee plant to hand picking the ripest cherries to roasting it here in Tulsa, Oklahoma and serving it in our own shops in Downtown Tulsa.

From Planting the Seed

We believe that the best coffee is created by maintaining high quality standards every step of the way.  That is why we spend four years taking care of each new “cafeto” (coffee tree) until it grows into a mature plant ready to be harvested. Each year the cafeto blooms cover the landscape with white flowers and an aroma of sweet honeysuckle and jasmine. With good soil, great weather, and a lot of hard work each of those flowers will turn into a succulent coffee cherry containing 2 perfect coffee beans.

To Hand Picking the Coffee Cherries

The harvest begins in November, when the coffee cherries have a deep red wine color. We go around the finca (farm) as many times as necessary, allowing every single cherry to ripen; this meticulous hand-picking process finishes in March.

From Ecological Processing

After harvesting the cherries we proceed to the wet processing, where the pulp and the mucilage (fruit) are carefully removed from the coffee beans so as not to damage them. As a part of our ecological process, we use collected rainwater to wash the beans, and then use the removed fruit to help fertilize our cafetos.

To Patio Drying

Once the mucilage has been washed from the coffee seeds, they are ready to dry. The method in which you dry the beans has dramatic effect on cup quality. We utilize various methods of drying including, patio (sun dried), raised bed (sun dried), and mechanical drying to achieve optimum results for each lot.

From the Perfect Roast

Our roast master carefully roasts the coffee to bring out the full flavor and complex aromas found in the bean; this ensures you will enjoy the true essence found in the coffee rather than merely the degree of roast.

To the Edge of Your Cup

At the coffee shop, the barista carefully grinds and brews the coffee so as not to undo the years of hard work and perfection found in each bean. Now you have the opportunity to enjoy the complex sweetness, delicate aroma, and characteristic  smoothness of our El Salvadoran coffee. From our home to yours, we hope you enjoy every sip.

Read Topeca Coffee Reviews

Topeca Coffee is now available at

Panther Coffee – Ethiopia Suke Quto

This impeccable Suke Quto microlot grows in the Guji Zone, the Southern part of the Oromia Region that borders the Sidama and Gedeo Zones.


Photo courtesy of Panther Coffee

Panther Coffee – Ethiopia Suke Quto

Light and refreshing. Notes of pineapple, mango,  blueberries, champagne grape, malted milk & cocoa powder.

This impeccable Suke Quto microlot grows in the Guji Zone, the Southern part of the Oromia Region that borders the Sidama and Gedeo Zones. The volcanic soil on the farm is highly nutrient. Generally, the soil is fertile, friable, and loamy with the depth of at least 2 meter. One outstanding characteristic of the soil is that its fertility is maintained by organic recycling through litter fall, root residue from perennial coffee and shade trees.

For processing the coffee they use an Agared machine to pulp the coffee without removing the mucilage. Then they ferment the coffee in tanks between 35-48 hours, depending on the climate. There are 3 treatment tanks for the waste water. Coffee in parchment is dried on elevated beds between 9 and 15 days.
The Suke Quto farm also has a nursery with coffee seedlings to provide the farm but also the outgrowers in the area. There are 9 permanent employees and about 250 seasonal workers. Suke Quto also buys from about 70 outgrowers. Each of them has about 7ha of coffee trees planted. Other crops that they grow are false banana and fruits.
Producer: Various Small Holders
Zone: Guji
Region: Oromia
Altitude: 1,800-1,930 m.a.s.l.
Latitude: 5°40’ N
Variety: Mixed Heirloom Varieties
Process: Washed
Now available at

Colombia Huila Jose Nolvis Rodriguez Finca El Mirador

Photo courtesy of  Cafe Imports

Victrola Coffee – Colombia Huila Jose Nolvis Rodriguez Finca El Mirador

Farm:  Mirador
Town:  Alto de los Pinos
Region: Pitalito, Huila
Elevation: 5250 ft
Process: Washed, Sun Dried
Varietals: Caturra
Producer: Jose Nolvis Rodriguez

Tasting Notes
Fragrance/Aroma: Cinnamon, Roasted Barley, Molasses
Flavor: Cinnamon, Molasses, Chocolate, Lime Leaves
Body: Buttery
Acidity: Bright

Roaster’s Notes
We are grateful for the opportunity to offer this exceptional micro lot from the Huila department of Colombia for the second time.  Producer Jose Nolvis Rodriguez consistently offers high quality, meticulously processed coffee and this year we found his samples particularly impressive.

Coffee from Finca El Mirador is washed processed and sun dried, as is the traditional process in Huila.  However, Mr. Rodriguez employs distinct techniques to ensure high quality, including a pre-wash 12 hours into the 24 hour fermentation period before washing the coffee and a 3 day pre-drying phase  before the coffees are moved to another drying bed where they receive more intense heat.  In the final stage before coffee is packaged for export, it is put through a sieve so that any small imperfections can be sorted out.

The result of this meticulous processing is a bright coffee with a buttery mouthfeel, cinnamon and roasted barley in the aroma, and spice, molasses, chocolate, and hints of lime leaves in the cup.

Now available at

Ethiopia Chelelektu – Coffea Roasterie

coffea-roasterie-ethiopia-chelelektu Photo courtesy of Coffea Roasterie.

This coffee comes from the Kochere region of Ethiopia, a subsection of the Gedeo zone, located south of Yirgacheffe. The Kochere zone has long been known for its incredible coffee. It is easy to produce amazing coffee when you have some of the best growing conditions in the world. High elevations and fertile soils combined with strict processing produce some of the best coffees you will ever taste.

This coffee came through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). Some words on ECX from

“The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) is a new initiative for Ethiopia and the first of its kind in Africa. The vision of ECX is to revolutionize Ethiopia’s tradition bound agriculture through creating a new marketplace that serves all market actors, from farmers to traders to processors to exporters to consumers … ECX represents the future of Ethiopia, bringing integrity, security, and efficiency to the market. ECX creates opportunities for unparalleled growth in the commodity sector and linked industries, such as transport and logistics, banking and financial services, and others.”

Still, sourcing can be tricky through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. Traceability is becoming more transparent for roasters and buyers but it still remains a challenge. We worked with Royal Coffee Importers on this particular coffee.  This is one of our favorite coffees this year. We hope you enjoy it!

Region: Kochere, Ethiopia
Varietal: Heirloom
Process: Fully washed and dried on raised beds
Elevation: 1,850 – 2,000 masl

Now available at

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Sulawesi PT Toarco – Beansmith Coffee


Photos courtesy of Beansmith Coffee.

Coffee was introduced to Indonesia in 1699 and by 1711 was being exported to Europe. Indonesia, which includes Java of the famed “Mocha Java” blend featuring coffee from Yemen and Java, has an ideal geography for coffee plantations. The low acidity and strong body of Indonesian coffees makes them ideal for such blends.

The island group also produces unique micro-climates for the coffee. Sulawesi soil, for example, is rich in iron content which affects the coffee flavor.

Wikipedia describes Sulawesi coffees as, “… clean and sound in the cup. They generally display nutty or warm spice notes, like cinnamon or cardamom. Hints of black pepper are sometimes found. Their sweetness, as with most Indonesian coffees, is closely related to the body of the coffee. The after-taste coats the palate on the finish and is smooth and soft.”



Flavor: Transparent and citric with caramel, green grape and floral flavors.

Origin: TOARCO owns Pedamaran Plantation at 900 – 1250 masl and purchases wet-parchment (at 40% moisture) from small producers at 1200 – 1800 masl. Coffee is trucked to Pedamaran Plantation immediately and coffee gets dried on patios at their mill facilities. If a producer wants to sell their parchment coffee to TOARCO they need to get certified to their standards as far as selective-picking, storage, transportation, moisture levels, etc. Farmers are issued ID cards that allow them to sell their coffee at various purchasing points in the Tana Toraja region during the market of the week. This coffee comes from small producers at the higher altitude areas.

Now available at Emery Coffee.

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El Salvador Las Nubes courtesy of Passion House Coffee.

Passion House Coffee Roasters has joined Emery Coffee! We are pround to offer this fantastic Chicago roaster, winner of several cupping competitions. Buy the El Salvador Las Nubes while there is still time and check out their other coffees too.

The story of Las Nubes goes way back to 1920 when the land was purchased by Isidro Batlle & has continued on with his family farming the land since. This past year the family split the land into different tablones or lots & designated them by their altitude. These bourbon coffees were then processed by being fully washed & then sun dried.

About Passion House


Exploring Coffee


Passion House is a small batch roaster in Chicago, IL with the idea that coffee can be playful, while still being sophisticated, complex, and nuanced. We house a team of passionate and determined individuals who are as unique as the coffees we roast.


An Open Approach to Coffee

We’re here to provide an open approach to the world of specialty coffee. That is why we  took the time to create AME, our genre program.

Ambient: These simple beauties allow you to be either fully engaged in its subtle complexity or just gulp it down
Mainstream: You don’t need to be embarrassed because you love them, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the balance we expertly craft.
Experimental: These coffees push the boundaries of what you know coffee to be.


The Pursuit of Great Coffee


Finding unique coffee takes our search all over the globe to bring you a quality cup from truly special small lot focused farms. We support farmers that dedicate their time to the intense care that is needed to grow and process coffee with intricately developed flavor profiles that end up in your cup at home.


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Honduras Santa Barbara Beneficio San Vicente Caracolillo

victrola-coffee-honduras-santa-barbara-beneficio-san-vincentePhoto courtesy of Victrola Coffee.

In recent years Honduras has made great strides in bringing exceptional coffees to market.  In the past, transportation and processing issues have created challenges for a country that has all the right ingredients to produce great coffee.  At the center of this shift is Beneficio San Vicente, a coffee mill in the Santa Barbara region of western Honduras.

Located in the town of Peña Blanca and run by agronomist Angel Arturo Paz, Beneficio San Vicente has processed numerous Cup of Excellence winners from the surrounding villages of El Cielito, El Cedral, and Las Flores in recent years.  The coffees from these areas are known for their sweetness, lush fruit, and balance.

This lot is named ‘Caracolillo’ because it is a peaberry sorted coffee.  Caracol means snail in Spanish and is the local term used for a peaberry coffee.  Caracolillo translates into English as little snail.  The Caracolillo is a peaberry sorting of numerous small farms throughout the region, from El Cielito, El Cedral, El Sauce and Las Flores.  The entire lot comprised of peaberries from all four towns yielded only two 150lb bags! This incredibly small lot is a wonderful representation of the nuance and delicacy that Honduran coffee is capable of when it is processed correctly.

At the center of this attention to processing is Beneficio San Vicente, the same mill that finished our beautiful Honduras Denis Teruel lot.  By paying close attention to the drying process and ensuring that the parchment coffee is dried evenly and quickly and not transporting coffee while it is wet, the clarity and sweetness of the coffee is preserved in remarkable cup quality.  The effort and investment put forth into the processing of the Caracolillo shines through in the cup.  Lush cherry and strawberry are carried with a bright, balanced acidity and complemented by maple sweetness while aromatics of milk chocolate and toasted pecans make this a truly pleasurable cup of coffee.

Towns:  El Cielito, El Cedral, El Sauce, Las Flores
Region: Santa Barbera
Elevation: 1450-1700m
Process: Washed
Varietals: Catuai, Pacas and Lempira
Producer: Beneficio San Vicente

Tasting Notes
Fragrance/Aroma: milk chocolate, maple, walnuts, toasted pecans
Flavor: berry medley, black cherry raspberry, strawberry maple cream sweetness
Body: lush
Finish: clean
Acidity: bright and well balanced

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FTO Ethiopian Gedeo Worka


Photo courtesy of Klatch Coffee.

One of our most popular coffee returns to Klatch! Our new crop offers an abundance of fine flavors from the birthplace of coffee. This is the bowl of berries we come to expect from a clean Ethiopian Natural. It’s composed of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries along with its additional notes of bing cherries and the unexpected tropical fruit nuances. Overall, the subtle hints of vanilla and slight cocoa powder hold the flavors together, providing a bright acidity within a creamy and juicy body.

Ethiopians are proud to claim coffee as having been first discovered growing wild in their majestic highlands. With the coffee ceremony foundation to their national culture, Ethiopians cherish coffee as both a drink which unites the nation, and a treasure to share with sharp coffee drinkers from every corner of the world.

Fed by fresh mountain water, and matured through ‘thirteen months’ of sunshine, the rich resonance and variety of the sundried coffees contrast with the delightful floral and aromatic flavors of the natural coffees to provide an unrivaled range of tastes, highly esteemed by many and fully loving up to their reputation as outstanding specialty coffee.

This coffee was sourced by Mike, earlier this year during his Ethiopian Cupping Caravan Trip. This caravan brought 24 international coffee buyers face to face with the people who grow some of the best coffee in the world. The cupping caravan was an exploratory trip designed to benefit coffee professionals on both ends of the chain, from farmers to roasters.

Coffee Reviewed scored Ethiopian Gedeo Worka 92 points, there blind assessment was stated as: “big, syrupy mouthfeel and a long, deeply resonant finish particularly distinguish this coffee, but the rich acidity is impressive too, as are the sweetly pungent aromatics: fir, dark chocolate, cherry, almond.”

Gedeo Worka was awarded with a Good Food Award Gold Seal in 2012. Nicknamed the “Oscars” of food, the Good Food Awards were created to honor food and drink producers who have demonstrated a commitment to building a ‘tasty,’ authentic, and responsible food system that honors farmers and producers.

VARIETAL: Heirloom
FARM: Worka
ALTITUDE: 1750 – 2400 M
FARMER: Co-ops
ROAST: Medium
NOTE: 92 pts by Coffeee Review, 2012 Good Food Award

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Tanzania Peaberry

Beansmith Tanzania Peaberry Coffee Beans

Photo courtesy of Beansmith Coffee.

Peaberry is one of those coffee words that everyone knows, but a surprising number of people don’t understand. It’s pretty simple really. Coffee beans usually come in pairs inside their cherry, but sometimes there’s only one bean and it soaks up all the lovely flavor from the cherry for itself and that’s a peaberry.

While peaberries occur naturally, they don’t end up all in one lot naturally. The discerning eyes of sorters must spot the smaller, rounder beans and pick them out by hand. The intense extra work for a 100% peaberry lot definitely shows up in the cup. The clean, sweet flavors of this coffee from Tanzania are a direct result of of it being a full-on peaberry lot. Enjoy! (We sure do.)

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Kenya Tatu Peaberry


Photo courtesy of Coffea Roasterie.

Tasting Notes
In the cup you’ll find a bright kiwi acidity, velvet body, and a crisp finish.

About this coffee
This coffee comes from the Tatu Estate 25km north of Nairobi. It’s grown in the red soil at the base Aberdare Mountains.

Region: Tatu, Ruiru, Kenya
Varietal: SL-78, Ruiru11
Process: Fully Washed, Sun Dried
Elevation: 1500-1700 masl

Honduras Beneficio San Vicente

Photo courtesy Victrola Coffee.

In recent years Honduras has made great strides in bringing exceptional coffees to market. Transportation and processing issues, especially drying the parchment coffee have created challenges for a country that has all the right ingredients to produce great coffee. At the center of this shift is the Beneficio San Vicente coffee mill in the Santa Barbara region of western Honduras.

This past year, San Vicente provided producer Denis Teruel with the materials to build a solar dryer on his farm which allows the coffee to be dried much more quickly. The results of this relationship between farm and mill is evident in the cup quality.
Victrola’s Honduras displays impressive balance and sweetness in the cup. Chocolate, dark cherry and subtle orange are present in both the aroma and flavor. Upon cooling the coffee remains luscious, mellowing toward milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is pleasingly smooth throughout. Available online for $16.50 per 12oz package.
Tasting Notes
Fragrance/Aroma: Biscuit, Chocolate, Orange Rind, Cherry Liqueur
Flavor: Milk Chocolate, Candied Date, Dark Cherry, Banana
Body: Silky
Finish: Sweet
Acidity: Balanced, Crisp

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Colombia Los Naranjos


This coffee farm rests along the edge of Cueva de los Cuacharo, Colombia, a 500 square mile biosphere where two mountain ranges converge.  Photo courtesy of Coffea Roasterie.

Coffee leaf rust, or roya, could affect a majority of the Central American crop for the next several years. Only a few years ago the Colombian coffee crop was 40 percent infected. However, Colombia is now recovering while its neighbors to the North are in crisis. Through a Herculean replanting effort and investment things are looking up. Farmers are now planting a crossbreed of Robusta and Arabica called Castillo that is roya resistant and tailored to the Colombian climate. What do you think of this new hybrid varietal? Please leave your thoughts and comments below. Read more

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere


As one of the most sought after coffees in the world, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe has a floral, sweet, and citrus flavor profile. In Ethiopia you still find coffee trees in the wild and growing at elevations above 6000 feet. Ripe coffee cherries, such as these from the Kochere District, are processed at local cooperatives. The combination of wild trees, harvested by small farms, at these extraordinary elevations produces an incredibly complex and desirable coffee experience. Photo courtesy of Victrola Coffee. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Colombia Giraldo Exotico


In the central northwestern part of Colombia, known as the coffee belt, coffee is produced year round with certain peaks. This coffee in grown high in the Andean mountains of Antioquia. Photo courtesy of Klatch Coffee. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Papua New Guinea

Photo courtesy of Beansmith Coffee.

Love the artwork from this roaster! Papua New Guinea, located just north of Australia, has been involved in coffee production since 1926 when the first Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee seeds were planted. The coffee is produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides due to cost and availability. This results in low levels of acidity and caffeine in a coffee known for full-bodied flavor with hints of mango and papaya. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Coffee Drying in Ethiopia.

dsc03944Ethiopia – birthplace of coffee. Coffea arabica originated there and still grows wild in some areas. Photo courtesy of Coffea Roasterie. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Coffee Cherries and Coffee Beans


Photo courtesy Did you know that the coffee bean we know and love is not a bean after all? Although similar in appearance to a member of the Leguminosae family, the coffee bean is really a seed. In the heart of a fruit, referred to as a coffee cherry, you will find what we commonly call coffee beans. Coffee cherries turn either bright red or purple when ready for harvesting.

Found in clusters along the tree branches, the skin, or exocarp, of a coffee cherry is bitter and thick. These are actually used with ginger to make another drink, qishr, that has been popular in Yemen for centuries. Underneath the the outer layer, the mesocarp has a grape texture and is extremely sweet. The parenchyma, a slimy protective layer, is followed by the endocarp. This forms an envelope around the bluish-green coffee beans that ave a final layer called the spermoderm.

Most often coffee cherries or berries have two seeds with their flat sides facing each other. In a very small percentage of coffee beans around the world (approximately 5%), the beans come with a single seed instead of the usual two. This natural mutation inside the coffee cherry results in what is called a peaberry. Peaberries are noticeably smaller and denser than normal coffee beans. While some say there is no taste difference, others claim they are sweeter and more flavorful.

Peaberries have to be hand sorted after picking and processing because there is no way to tell by looking at the coffee cherry if it will be a single bean or twins! Their exceptional taste and relative rarity command premium prices. But keep this in mind. If you are already buying great coffee from an award winning roaster and only 5% of all coffee beans are peaberries, you are likely drinking from the top 0.5% of coffee beans in the world! Not a bad way to start your day.

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