Archive for the ‘Industry Issues and News’ Category

  • Finally, Reviews of U.K. Coffees

  • April 18th, 2014
  • By my count, in 2013, we reviewed coffees from 12 countries, namely the United States, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, China, Netherlands, Guatemala, Italy, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, and Sweden.

    The United Kingdom is noticeably absent from the list.  London (and the U.K. in general) has a thriving specialty coffee scene that rivals that of other well known U.S. coffee-crazy cities like Seattle and San Francisco.  After the U.S. and Canada, the U.K. has more Coffee Review readers than any other country.  London has more Coffee Review readers than any city outside the United States.  And, yet, we have never reviewed a coffee roasted in the U.K.

    That’s going to change in May.  With the help of The Coffee Roasters, a coffee retailer based in Bath, England, we’re going to cup a sampling of coffees roasted by companies in the U.K.  We have not finalized the list of roasters that will participate but we expect it to include a selection of those that appear on The Coffee Roasters website.

    We welcome your input as well.  Please email us or tweet us (@coffeereview) your recommendations to help us find exceptional coffees in the U.K.  Roasters should feel free to nominate their own coffees.  Samples need to arrive by May 5 to be included in the cupping.  Please keep in mind that not all coffees received will be reviewed.  In fact, since this cupping is in addition to May tasting article about Central African coffees, we’ll need to be very selective about the coffees we review.  With all those caveats out of the way, we look forward to cupping the U.K.’s finest.

  • Melbourne Has the World’s Best Coffee?

  • March 26th, 2014
  • According to an article in the Melbourne Herald Sun, surveyed more than 1,000 of its users from around the world and determined that Melbourne, Australia has the world’s best coffee.  Really?

    This conclusion merits a little closer look.  First, at Coffee Review, we always point out that there is no such thing as a “best” coffee and, by extension, no city with the “best” coffee.  We haven’t been able to locate the survey itself so the “best” designation may be a case of hometown favoritism on the part of the Herald Sun reporter rather than a conclusion drawn by

    Based on the article, it seems that asked users which city has the best coffee.  Presumably the users must have visited the cities for which they voted.  If that is the case, one must conclude that did not choose a very diverse or representative group of users.  In any random sampling of 1000+ users from around the world, it’s hard to believe that over 300 visited Melbourne. Perhaps even more surprising, 86 respondents endorsed Lviv, Ukraine, placing it fourth on the list.  I don’t mean any disrespect to residents or coffee roasters in Lviv but its hard to imagine that 86 out of 1000+ random users from around the world have visited Lviv, much less endorsed the quality of their coffee.

    If anyone can point us directly to the survey results, we would appreciate it.  I’d like to understand the survey methodology because it appears to have some serious flaws.

    On a related note, one of Coffee Review’s goals for 2014 is to sample more coffees from outside of the United States and Canada.  In May, we plan to conduct a cupping of coffees roasted in the U.K.  Let us know if you have any nominations.

    We’d be interested in cupping coffees from Australia as well. Melbourne is renowned for its food and wine scene so I have no doubt that the city has many roasters that produce outstanding coffees.  Send us your recommendations on coffees we need to sample.


  • A Tribute to the Life of Wicha Promyong, Doi Chaang Coffee

  • February 10th, 2014
  • In 2011 I spent several days at the Doi Chaang coffee cooperative in northern Thailand. There I encountered the extraordinary Wicha Promyong, the inspirational leader of the Doi Chaang coffee cooperative and its sister company, Doi Chaang Coffee. Shockingly and unexpectedly, Khun Wicha succumbed to a heart attack on Thursday, January 23, 2057 (2014) near Doi Chaang Village in Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand.

    Wicha was, truly, an amazing guy. He seemed to have been everywhere, done everything, knew all of the songs I knew, but for the last twelve years had devoted himself with unstinting energy, intelligence and moxie to bringing the Doi Chaang community out of the isolation and poverty that has long oppressed all of the hill tribe communities of northern Thailand through the strategy of elevating the Doi Chaang coffee production to international specialty standards. During my visit I would bring some little nuance of the latest innovation I had observed among leading high-end boutique coffee producers to Wicha, and invariably it turned out he knew about it already. He carried this knowledge without pretension, without competitiveness, only with an eye to getting more recognition and more money for the Doi Chaang community and its steadily improving coffees.

    Doi Chaang Coffee in Canada provided the following press release on Wicha’s passing.

    Well-educated, articulate and world-travelled, Khun Wicha was the consummate entrepreneur, musician and artist. Following various enterprises which brought him into contact with hill tribe villages in Northern Thailand, he whole-heartedly embraced their way of life and regularly joined the tribes as they travelled on foot throughout the Golden Triangle without regard for borders or personal comfort.

    Khun Wicha was a welcomed friend among many hill tribes providing a supportive voice and an active role in their struggles for equality and acceptance. Impassioned by their interminable plight of abject poverty, he dedicated the last twelve years of his life to the predominantly Akha hill tribe of Doi Chaang Village with particular emphasis on the protection and future of their vulnerable children. Khun Wicha guided the Akha in their quest for a better life, and through his sheer determination and dedication, he united them as a coffee-farming cooperative and was instrumental in transforming Doi Chaang Village from an isolated, impoverished community to one of sustainability and growth producing a world-class coffee that is recognized and respected worldwide.

    Although he was the founder of Doi Chaang Coffee Company, Wicha’s passion and commitment to the company was never for his personal gain. Instead, he was driven by his fundamental belief that the company’s growth and prosperity was dependent on the well-being of all those involved and the rewards should be shared accordingly.

    “It was Khun Wicha’s commitment to reinvest profits into the growth of the Akha farmers co-operative and their community that inspired us to create the unique Beyond Fair Trade partnership we established with Doi Chaang Village,” states John Darch, Doi Chaang Coffee’s co-founder. “We remember Khun Wicha as a man of integrity, warmth and incredible generosity. We feel privileged to have worked alongside him and we are resolute in our determination to honor his dream and to build on his legacy at Doi Chaang Village.”

  • Where Coffee is Hot: By Country

  • January 27th, 2014
  • We’re wrapping up our “Where Coffee is Hot” series by looking at Coffee Review readership by country.  In 2013, we hosted readers from 233 countries and territories, which must be just about all of them.

    We’ll look at our readership three ways: total readers in 2013, per capita readers in 2013, and percentage growth from 2012 to 2013.  Total readers in 2103 is somewhat predictable.  Countries with large English speaking populations will tend to rank higher on the list.

    When we normalize for each country’s population, we see a slightly different picture, one not just based on population but also on passion for coffee.  English speaking countries still have an advantage, but not over each other based on population alone.

    Finally, we look at percentage growth from 2012 to 2013, where smaller countries and non-English speaking countries have an advantage because their readership is growing off of a smaller base.  So, while the United States may have the most readers and most readers per capita, it is growing much slower than most other countries.

    So, here are the lists….

    Ranking by Readership in 2013

    1. United States

    2. Canada

    3. United Kingdom

    4. Australia

    5. Taiwan

    6. Thailand

    7. China

    8. India

    9. Malaysia

    10. Philippines

    11. South Korea

    12. Hong Kong

    13. Singapore

    14. Indonesia

    15. Germany

    16. Netherlands

    17. Greece

    18. Japan

    19. Mexico

    20. South Africa


    It’s not surprising that the top four countries are the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.  They all have significant English speaking populations, well developed coffee cultures, strong purchasing power, as well as high Internet access and literacy rates.  As an aside, English-speaking population may not be as big of a factor as one thinks. I was surprised by the countries that have the largest English-speaking populations: 1) United States; 2) India; 3) Pakistan; 4) Nigeria; 5) United Kingdom.  Canada is tenth on the list.  Australia is 13th.  Wow! View the full list on Wikipedia.

    It’s interesting to note that after the top 4 on the list, the next ten countries, starting with Taiwan, are all in Asia.


    Ranking by Per Capita Readership in 2013

    1. United States

    2. Canada

    3. Singapore

    4. Hong Kong

    5. Australia

    6. Taiwan

    7. New Zealand

    8. Ireland

    9. United Kingdom

    10. Norway

    11. Greece

    12. Denmark

    13. Costa Rica

    14. Slovakia

    15. United Arab Emirates

    16. Puerto Rico

    17. Malaysia

    18. Netherlands

    19. Panama

    20. Finland


    Interesting to see Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, and Norway pop into the top 10.


    Ranking by Percentage Growth from 2012 to 2013

    One might argue that this list is the best measure of “Where Coffee is Hot.”  Maybe not “big,” but “hot.”

    1. China

    2. Slovakia

    3. Greece

    4. Romania

    5. United Arab Emirates

    6. India

    7. Hungary

    8. Malaysia

    9. New Zealand

    10. Philippines

    11. Vietnam

    12. Taiwan

    13. Ukraine

    14. Singapore

    15. Russia

    16. Japan

    17. Sweden

    18. Switzerland

    19. Ireland

    20. Italy

    21. Belgium

    22. South Africa


    China topped the list with year-over-year readership growth of more than 200%.  We included 22 countries on this list, as they all grew more than 50% over 2012.

    It’s impossible to predict what 2014 will look like, but we couldn’t help wonder but what 2014 readership would be like if we projected 2013 growth rates to 2013 traffic.  In case you’re interested, the top ten would be: 1) United States; 2) Canada; 3) United Kingdom; 4) China; 5) Taiwan; 6) Australia; 7) India; 8) Malaysia; 9) Philippines; 10) Thailand.  It’s hard to imagine that readership in China would continue its torrid growth rate but Taiwan readership has already surpassed Australia in 2014.

    It’s great to see coffee is hot around the world.  We’re excited to see what 2014 brings.  Please share your observations and comments.



  • Where Coffee is Hot: By International City

  • January 24th, 2014
  • In 2013, Coffee Review hosted visitors from 223 countries and territories, including countless cities and town around the world.  Our readers hail from famous world capitals such as Rome, Italy and Nairobi, Kenya to lesser-known Nuuk, Greenland and Apia, Somoa.  However, some cities have more visitors than others and none of the above cities ranked near the top for Coffee Review readership or per capita readership.

    So, which cities get bragging rights, if you want to call it that?  London, England tops the list of most visitors Vancouver, BC, Canada tops the list of per capita readership.

    In terms of overall visitor traffic in 2013, the top twenty cities outside the United States were:

    1. London, England

    2. Toronto, Canada

    3. Hong Kong, China

    4. Taipei City, Taiwan

    5. Sydney, Australia

    6. Bangkok, Thailand

    7. Singapore (city-state)

    8. Melbourne, Australia

    9. Seoul, South Korea

    10. Vancouver, Canada

    11. Montreal, Canada

    12. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    13. Brisbane, Australia

    14. Calgary, Canada

    15. Manila, Philippines

    16. Athens, Greece

    17. Jakarta, Indonesia

    18. New Taipei City, Taiwan

    19. Ottawa, Canada

    20. Dublin, Ireland


    As we noted in our ranking of American cities, population plays a big role in which cities have the most Coffee Review readers.  Large cities lead the list above too.  However, once we normalize for population and calculate per capita readership, we get a better idea of how passionate a city is about coffee (measured only by Coffee Review readership, of course).

    In terms of per capita Coffee Review readership in 2013, the top twenty cities outside the United States were:

    1. Vancouver, Canada

    2. Dublin, Ireland

    3. Toronto, Canada

    4. Athens, Greece

    5. Calgary, Canada

    6. Taipei City, Taiwan

    7. Ottawa, Canada

    8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    9. Sydney, Australia

    10. Manila, Philippines

    11. Brisbane, Australia

    12. Melbourne, Australia

    13. London, England

    14. Singapore (city-state)

    15. Hong Kong, China

    16. Perth, Australia

    17. Bangkok, Thailand

    18. New Taipei City, Taiwan

    19. Seoul, South Korea

    20. Jakarta, Indonesia


    So, while Coffee Review hosts more visitors from London than any other city outside the United States, Canadian cities appeared an impressive five times on the total visitor list and four times on the per capita list, each of which were in the top ten.  Australian cities appeared three times on the total visitor list and four times on the per capita list.  Two cities from the United Kingdom (London, England and Dublin, Ireland) appear on both lists.

    Keep in mind that Coffee Review is only published in English, so perhaps it isn’t surprising to see cities from Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom appearing on the per capita readership list.  Cities where English isn’t the primary language are at a distinct disadvantage, which makes it even more impressive to see cities such as Athens, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, and Seoul on the list.

    We look forward to hearing your observations and comments about our lists.

  • Where Coffee is Hot: By U.S. State

  • January 23rd, 2014
  • Last summer, we looked at Coffee Review readership by state for the second quarter of 2013.  We calculated per capita readership, that is, readers normalized for each state’s population, to get an idea where people are most interested in coffee (at least as measured by Coffee Review readership.)  We’ve just re-crunched the data for the full year of 2013.

    Here are the top ten states for 2013:

    1. Hawaii

    2. Washington

    3. Massachusetts

    4. Vermont

    5. Oregon

    6. California

    7. New Hampshire

    8. Colorado

    9. New York

    10. Minnesota


    Frankly, there weren’t any big changes or huge surprises.

    The top four states were unchanged. Hawaii remained in the #1 spot.  That may seem surprising at first glance but, when you consider that Hawaii is the only state that produces coffee commercially, it makes sense that a lot of people have a vested interest in coffee news and reviews.  Washington in the #2 spot is consistent with our city data, which shows that Seattle has the highest per capita Coffee Review readership of any city in the United States.

    Oregon moved up two spots, leap-frogging California for the #5 spot.  New Hampshire moved up 3 spots to crack the top 10.  Minnesota moved up 1 spot to enter the top 10 as well.

    What was the biggest gainer since last summer?  Michigan, jumping 9 spots from #30 to #21.

    If some states moved up the list, obviously others moved down.  The biggest drop was North Carolina, from #15 to #25.  Texas and Montana each dropped 7 spots.

    Please share your observations and explanations.

  • Where Coffee is Hot: By U.S. City

  • January 22nd, 2014
  • Last summer, we took a mid-year look at Coffee Review readership by U.S. city and state.  We normalized readership figures to account for population differences and produce a more accurate picture of each locale’s interest in coffee, at least as measured by Coffee Review readers per capita.  We normalized for Internet access and literacy too, but frankly, it didn’t change the results much at all.

    This month, we started crunching our readership data for the full year of 2013.  Last week, we shared a sneak peek of the results because we noticed that Seattle edged out San Francisco (a reversal of the mid-year data) and couldn’t help but make a connection to the NFC Championship football game played last weekend.


    Here are the top 25 coffee cities in the United States, based on Coffee Review per capita readership:

    1. Seattle, WA

    2. San Francisco, CA

    3. Alexandria, VA

    4. Cambridge, MA

    5. Atlanta, GA

    6. Madison, WI

    7. Minneapolis, MN

    8. Washington, DC

    9. Hialeah, FL

    10. Denver, CO

    11. Honolulu, HI

    12. Portland, OR

    13. Boston, MA

    14. Irvine, CA

    15. Salt Lake City, UT

    16. St. Louis, MO

    17. Pittsburgh, PA

    18. San Diego, CA

    19. Sacramento, CA

    20. Orlando, FL

    21. Miami, FL

    22. Chicago, IL

    23. Austin, TX

    24. Los Angeles, CA

    25. Arlington, VA

    For those interested in our methodology, we considered only the 50 U.S. cities with the most Coffee Review readers.  That means some deserving smaller cities and towns might have been left off the list.  On the other hand, it reduces the prospect of smaller towns unfairly appearing high on the list due to some local traffic anomalies rather than genuinely strong readership.

    We welcome your observations and perspective on the list.  For example, it’s not surprising to me that Seattle and San Francisco top the list.  But, how did Alexandria, Virginia, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, make it into the top 5?  I can’t imagine Harvard students would move the dial that much.

    In the coming days, we’ll share 2013 readership data and trends by U.S. state, international city, and country.  Any predictions?



  • 2014 Coffee Review Cupping Calendar

  • January 2nd, 2014
  • At the beginning of each month, we publish a new feature article with reviews.  The planned cupping calendar for 2014 is shown below:

    January – Top 30 Coffees of 2013

    February – Real Blend: Blends Produced from Three or More Origins

    March – Specialty Coffees of Brazil

    April – Specialty Coffees of Colombia

    May – Coffees of Central Africa: Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo

    June – Coffees of Hawaii

    July – Specialty Coffees of Indonesia and East Timor (excluding Sumatra)

    August – Decaffeinated Espresso Blends and Single-Origins

    September – Natural- and Honey-Processed Coffees from Central America & Mexico

    October – Coffees of a Single Variety, from a Single Lot

    November – The New Competitive World of K-Cups

    December – Seasonal Offerings for the Holidays


    Please note that the previously listed January 2014 review subject (Real Blends: Blends Produced from Three or More Origins”) has been postponed one month.  Cupping will occur in January and the article will appear for February.  The schedule is subject to further change.

    The window during which we accept coffees for these review articles is the tenth day through the twentieth day of the month prior to publication. For example, we will test coffees for the May article during the period April 10 through 20.  However, professional travel or other distractions may lead to modifications of the 10th through 20th schedule, so we request that all roasters submitting coffees for a given article first query Jason Sarley at before sending their coffees.

    We welcome feedback regarding our proposed cupping calendar for 2014.

  • Coffee Review Membership Program

  • January 1st, 2014
  • This month, we launched a new membership program at Coffee Review.  As Kenneth said in our formal press release: “We’re pleased to offer our readers the opportunity to enhance their engagement with Coffee Review and its commercial partners. The program provides members with numerous value-added services including discounts from elite coffee roasters, exclusive access to rare top-rated coffees, and insider news such as previews of the Coffee Review’s Top 30 Coffees of 2013.

    What’s in it for readers?  The headline of the press release sums it up pretty well: “Coffee Lovers Save Big Bucks on Best Beans.” Members can save up to 20% or more on purchases from participating coffee roasters and retailers such as Barrington Coffee Roasters, Doi Chaang Coffee Company,, Paradise Roasters, Path Coffee Roasters, PT’s Coffee Roasting Co, and Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea. Two other roasters – CQ Coffee Roasters and Temple Coffee and Tea – will be on board next week.  More roasters are expected to participate as the program is rolled out.  Readers can view current offers any time but only members have access to coupon codes.

    When members sign up, they receive a password to gain access to the members-only portion of the website where they will find coupon codes that can be used for discounts at partner websites. Members may also opt to receive emails with insider news and special offers from participating roasters.

    Membership costs $35 per year. Mr. Davids explained that, “Proceeds from the membership program will support Coffee Review’s mission of helping consumers, retailers, and trade professionals identify and purchase superior quality coffees while helping drive demand and increase prices to reward farmers and roasters who invest time, energy, and capital in producing high quality coffee beans.”

    Mr. Davids added, “It also allows Coffee Review to more directly support charitable organizations that serve coffee growing communities that produce the exceptional coffees that we all enjoy. Coffee Review is delighted to contribute $5 from each new membership to Coffee Kids or Grounds for Health.”

    Regarding the business aspect of the new membership program, Mr. Davids explained “We’ve operated the Coffee Review as a traditional advertiser-supported publication since we first launched in 1997. However, as the Coffee Review has become increasingly popular, now hosting roughly one million unique visitors every year, we’ve found that we need to find additional sources of revenue to continue operating a coffee lab, maintaining a website, and publishing articles and reviews every month. We believe many of our readers and supporters will be excited to become members.”

    We considered a more traditional subscription model, like Wine Spectator and Consumer Reports, where ratings are only available to paying subscribers.  However, our hope is that enough coffee lovers and industry professionals will choose to become members such that Coffee Review articles and reviews can remain available to all readers.

    Become a Coffee Review Member Today


  • Arabica Anxiety and Robustas

  • December 15th, 2013
  • I’m here in El Salvador for “Let’s Talk Coffee,” a yearly meeting of mostly small-holding coffee producers, roasters, importer and exporters, and development agencies. It’s sponsored by Sustainable Harvest, a long-time pioneering American importer of cooperative and small-producer coffees.


    I came here in part to deliver a presentation on Robusta coffees. It was part of a string of presentations and cuppings focused on exploring Robusta in a specialty coffee context. Conversations on Robusta are increasingly urgent in specialty coffee events for several reasons, all of them at bottom pushed by anxiety about the impact of global warming on Arabica production, particularly production of lower elevation Arabicas. Arabica is a very fussy plant in respect to temperatures, and as global temperatures rise more and more regions of Arabica production are being stressed by changes in rainfall patterns, higher temperatures, and intensified pest infestations like the latest leaf rust outbreak here in Central America. Robusta, of course, grows at a much wider range of elevations (though it cups best when grown at higher elevations) and is much hardier than Arabica.


    So some specialty roasters, in fact, quite a few, are asking – can Robusta truly be developed as a viable fine coffee? They want to know more about Robusta, understand it better, and perhaps support its development as a complement to the best Arabicas. The very best Robusta producers, like those in India, feel that they have achieved that goal of making Robusta specialty. Others of us, like me, feel that, although some producers in India have done very well, in order for Robusta to truly contribute to specialty a new attitude is necessary, an attitude of interest, openness, and experiment.


    Which was the focus of my talk. I don’t want to rebrand Robusta; I want to unbrand it so we in specialty can finally find out what it is and can be. The Arabica world is not static – look at the development of new varieties, like Gesha, the successful experiments with unorthodox processing methods – the new naturals, honey-processing, etc. We don’t really know what Robusta is from a potential specialty perspective, only what it is now, as represented by the dispiriting output of the current relentlessly quality-destructive industrialized Robusta supply chain.