Is it us, or has coffee become the new wine - all of a sudden, everyone's geeking out over the finest artisanal blends. Upgrade your morning Joe with these hand-selected picks from the top coffee labs from coast to coast. By Laura Li, REDBOOK.
1. Four Barrel
Four Barrel prizes human interaction with coffee above all else, which translates into lots of human hours spent sourcing, roasting and cupping to ensure quality. The San Francisco-based shop also offers subscriptions so connoisseurs can receive premium brews year-round. The store's current favorite is the Colombia Cannor, says Accounts Manager and "Coffee Helper" Matthew Hein. "Jasmine and strawberry fragrances precede a heavy cream mouthfeel, punctuated by plum and cranberry acidities with caramel and vanilla sweetness throughout."
2. Fonté Coffee
The draw of Fonté Coffee is its micro-roasting, which Master Roaster Steve Smith describes as a balance between available and commercially viable, high-quality coffees. Their excellent java has even gained the Seattle roastery clients such as the Wynn Las Vegas and Four Seasons hotels. Smith is particularly into the Brasil Peaberry Carmo de Minas, a microlot with a rich spiciness and hints of bittersweet chocolate. "Only five 132-pound bags were produced this year, so this is a very limited offering," he said.
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3. Coffee Lab Roasters
Located just north of New York City, Coffee Lab Roasters takes pride in its eco-friendly roasting - powered by a mix of wind by hydro-electricity - and cultivation of latte art, for which it has won numerous awards. Head roaster Kurt Balogh has a soft-spot for a particularly chocolatey roast. "One constant is our first direct relationship, the Honduras Finca Liquidambar," he says. "It's been a rewarding process watching farmer Reina Claros grow; she has been able to make numerous upgrades on her farm and has more than doubled her production."
4. Café Grumpy
Café Grumpy is credited with helping to popularize specialty coffee in New York, and its certified Q graders use an exacting cupping method to ensure quality in every roast. "The components in our house espresso blend - the Heartbreaker - change seasonally," explains owner Caroline Miller. "But, we love how no matter what type of espresso beverage you choose, or what time of year, the Heartbeaker will always shine through. Sometimes it will surprise you with its fruity brightness; other times, it will comfort you with notes of sweet milk chocolate."
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5. Commonplace Coffee Co.
This Pittsburgh-based roastery seeks to provide coffee as an experience, and to that end, they offer services such as custom roasting, barista training and coffee equipment sales in addition to selling delicious cups of Joe. "My favorite right now is the Burundi Kayanza," says owner TJ Fairchild. "It is fantastic, with mellow, sweet plums and a clean finish."
6. Klatch Coffee
With a host of national and international awards under its belt, California-based Klatch Coffee Inc. is serious about its espresso. Owner and Roastmaster Mike Perry deploys his chemical engineering background to create the perfect sip. "If I had to choose one bean, I would say the Geisha varietal from Boquete, Panama," says Perry. "No other coffee offers the sweet floral jasmine, sugar cane, citrus and stone fruit like peach and apricot."
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7. Zoka Coffee
Boasting a cabinet of trophies such as two-time U.S. Barista Champion, this Seattle roastery focuses on its single-origin coffees sourced from 12 farms throughout Central and South America, which Zoka also serves in its two Tokyo locations. "Our Single Origin Bolivia Siete Estrellas is an elegant coffee from green bean to the final sip," says Roastmaster Celeste Clark. "Flavors of ripe, juicy plum couple with sweet orange citrus to produce a smooth yet rich coffee that never disappoints."
8. PT's Coffee Roasting Co.
Located in Topeka, KS, PT's Coffee Roasting Co. began when two roommates simply couldn't find a great brew in Kansas in the early '90s. Fast forward two decades, and they're now roasting direct-trade beans from Africa to Indonesia. "We're all about the light roast, because it tells a little story about the coffee," says CEO Jeff Taylor. "Our most popular origin is Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, which still has some of the most outstanding coffees in the world."
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