Coffee trends of 2021 - A review of the past 12 months
It’s been a really interesting past 12 months at the “coal face” of coffee. There’s a sense that the consumer is becoming bolder in their willingness to experiment. We’ve seen an increasing interest in “naturals”, that is coffees processed in such a way as to deliver a more fruity note in the cup. It’s taken a while but I think our customers are now willing participants on the journey.
We’re currently stocking one of my favourites, Gems of Araku from south east India. As a medium roasted coffee it’s the very definition of a naturally processed coffee and is also wonderfully consistent. Another “natural” came to us from El Salvador – Finca San Ernesto earlier in the summer. Central America doesn’t usually come to mind when you think of this style of processing however it turned out to be a delicious coffee, but just as soon as it had arrived it was gone. That’s the frustrating part about the speciality world, it can be very fleeting.
The world famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee has once again proved a popular seasonal coffee. We’ve done a little experimenting this year with our roasting style. Going into December we roasted the coffee just past “first crack”. For our market that’s quite light however it does highlight the lovely soft creaminess and gentle acidity of this coffee. Post Christmas we’ve taken a slightly different approach. We’ve pushed the roast a lot fuller which has developed an interesting molasses note but still retaining the softness of the lighter style. It’s proven to be a surprisingly versatile coffee and maybe makes the price a little more palatable.
I visited Myanmar in February 2018 and have written extensively about this extraordinary country. What is happening there today is history simply repeating itself in all its true horror. When I was there, there was a real sense of hope for the future. The bad times of the military junta were seemingly over and a bright new future seemed possible. We continue to support the people of Myanmar and privately owned co-operatives such as Shwe Ywar Ngan. We’ve even developed a special label #savemyanmar to keep their plight front and centre and are pleased to see so much support from our customer base.
We developed a new “espresso” blend in 2021 that combine a couple of what are now very unfashionable “heritage” coffees. These are aged coffees from Malabar and Java. The combination was developed by our shop manager Josh who had got bored of our more traditional blends. It took a bit of trial and error but eventually blending the darker roasted Java with the much lighter roasted Malabar he came up with this wonderfully deep rich coffee. It makes the most incredible cappuccino.
Yet again though it’s our Sumatra Mandheling Grade1 coffee that continues to out sell everything else. Something about the dark heavy roast seems to appeal to the taste buds of so many of our customers. It is of course a great coffee and handled with so much care by the producers.
Finally we recently successfully bid for an aerobic processed coffee from our friends at Daterra in Brazil. It’s part of their “Masterpieces” collection so is extraordinarily exclusive with only a few kilos being produced annually. In addition this particular coffee is made using the “Laurina” varietal which is almost rice like in its shape. There’s a lot of interest in this form of processing at the moment. By restricting the amount of air during the fermentation process the coffee develops an almost boozy character. The laurina varietal also challenges the roaster as it’s a coffee that develops very quickly in the drum and requires more art than science to achieve the best results. It’s a pricey coffee but worth giving a try. This could be the future of speciality coffee.
In summary 2021 has been a year of experimentation reflecting in many ways the lack of coherence we’ve collectively experienced. Maybe in years to come we’ll look back on it as a golden age of innovation in the world of coffee. Happy New Year!