May 2010

Haute Coffee

Our picks for the best the micro-roasters have to offer
by LORA ZARUBIN

The LA Times Magazine staffers tasted dozens of coffees over the past several weeks, and honestly, considering how stellar each brew was, picking a favorite among them is like splitting hairs. Listed below are the coffees we unanimously liked, in no particular order. I think we selected a good range, with something for everyone's particular taste. All of the roasters mentioned roast batches daily and ship direct.

Ethiopian Amaro Gayo, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting
The blueberry nose hits before your first sip. One of the most elegant single-bean coffees we tasted, roasted lightly to bring out the subtleties, chocolate and blueberry. $15 per pound, santacruzcoffee.com.

Friendo Blendo Espresso, Four Barrel Coffee
Tastes like the beans were just picked and blended: spot on, perfect balance. This is the coffee to wake up to every morning. $12.50 per 12 ounces, fourbarrelcoffee.com.

Sulawesi Toarco (Indonesia), Four Barrel Coffee
Hints of herbs, subtle tannins and tobacco can be found in this single-origin coffee. I would drink this black for an afternoon hit. $13.25 per 12 ounces, fourbarrelcoffee.com.

Chez Panisse House Blend, Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Created especially for Chez Panisse, with Sumatran, Ethiopian and Mexican certified organic coffees. This formula shows what perfect blending can do. It's sophisticated, expressive and simple—just like the food at Chez. $18.50 per pound, bluebottlecoffee.net.

100% Yemen, Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
This is the single-origin coffee that so perfectly expresses terroir, just as Château Rayas showcases the grenache grape—so sophisticated and elegant. $23.75 per pound, bluebottlecoffee.net.

Holler Mountain Blend, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
A brilliant mix of coffee from Latin America and Indonesia that's incredibly full bodied, with notes that include toffee and tobacco. This is a coffee for anyone who wants a cup of coffee that tastes like coffee but with layers of complexity. $11 per 12 ounces, stumptowncoffee.com.

Burundi Bwayi, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Burundi definitely seems to be the “It” bean everyone is roasting these days. I like Stumptown's version: rich, herbal and with a mellow bite at the end. $12.75 per 12 ounces, stumptowncoffee.com.

Bitches Brew Blend, Groundwork
If you're looking for a great cup of old-school dark French roast, this is the coffee for you. $11.25 per pound, groundworkcoffee.com.

SEE ALSO: Has the quest for the perfect coffee slipped into pretension?