An In-Depth Look at the Top 30 Coffees of 2022

An In-Depth Look at the Top 30 Coffees of 2022

In 2022, Coffee Review blind-tasted more than 2,500 samples from leading roasting companies and coffee producers, 530 of which we reviewed on www.coffeereview.com. The Top 30 Coffees of 2022 represents a further selection: a ranking of the 30 most exciting of these coffees.

This year’s list represents the 10th year we have compiled our Top 30 list of the most exciting coffees we have tasted over the preceding year. This annual event supports our mission of helping consumers identify and purchase superior quality coffees, while also helping recognize and reward the farmers and roasters who produce these coffees. The Top 30 celebrates and promotes coffee roasters, farmers, mill operators, importers, and other coffee industry professionals who make an extra effort to produce coffees that are not only superb in quality but also distinctive in character.

In 2022, roughly one out of four of the over 2,500 coffees we tested scored 90 points or higher, and over 220 of them – nearly 10% of the total –rated 94 or higher, a tribute to the ever-intensifying innovation and dedication of the world’s leading coffee producers and roasters.

Remember that we cup blind; we determine ratings and main descriptors for a coffee before we learn where it came from and who roasted it. For those curious about how we conduct our testing and rating processes at Coffee Review, see How Coffee Review WorksFor what scores mean in respect to the wide range of coffee styles and qualities, see Interpreting Reviews.

However, despite our efforts to make our ratings consistent and meaningful, numbers taken alone have limitations. Visitors may well take more pleasure in a lower-rated coffee that matches their taste preferences than a higher-scoring coffee that isn’t their style. We do our best to characterize a coffee’s character in the “Blind Assessment” paragraph of our reviews and even more succinctly in the “Bottom Line” that concludes each review.

Hard Choices: Narrowing Down the List

All of the 220 coffees that rated 94 points or higher in 2022 are particularly worthy of celebrating, as are the exceptional coffees that hovered just below them in rating. Obviously, not all of the more than 220 coffees earning 94 points or more in 2022 can appear in the Top 30. We forced ourselves to select the 30 we felt were the most exciting.

Joe Bean owner and roaster Ben Turiano (right) with farmer Don Roger Mairena (left) in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Courtesy of Joe Bean Roasters.

As in past years, we selected and ranked our Top 30 coffees based on quality and distinctiveness (represented by overall rating), value (reflected by most affordable price per pound), and consideration of other factors that include uniqueness of origin or tree variety, certifications such as Fair Trade and organic, and general singularity.

In each of the 10 years that we have published our Top 30 list, including 2022, our top pick has been a single-origin coffee — meaning a coffee from a single country and region (and usually from a single farm or cooperative).

#1 Coffee of 2022

This year, we selected the 97-point Yemen Haraaz Red Mahal Aqeeq ul Station Natural roasted by PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. in Topeka, Kansas as the #1 coffee. The review from May described the coffee as “A gorgeous stunner of a classic Yemen cup: fruit-laden, floral and sweetly herbaceous — a heady coffee, both aromatically and on the palate.” This is the second time a coffee from Yemen has earned the #1 spot. For the past three years, the #1 coffee was produced in Panama. Prior to that, it was Hawaii (2018), Yemen (2017), Kenya (2016) and Ethiopia (2013). Panama coffees also topped the list in 2014 and 2015.

Yemen Haraaz Red Mahal Aqeeq ul Station Natural by PT’s Coffee Roasting Co, Coffee Review’s #1 coffee of 2022. Courtesy of PT’s.

Top 30 Statistics

With five appearances, Colombia was the most frequently cited origin in our 2022 list. Ethiopia and Hawaii were second in number of placements this year with three. Guatemala, Kenya, and Mexico each appeared twice. Panama appeared just once. Filling out the list were 11 origins represented by one coffee each, together with one blend. Two of the total of 30 samples were intended for brewing as espresso.

Average Ratings

The average overall rating of the coffees on the Top 30 list for 2022 is 95.0 out of a possible 100, in line with past averages.

Cost per Pound: From Very High to Reasonable

In 2022, the average price of the coffees on our Top 30 list was $79.34 per pound. (Coffees sold in non-U.S. currencies were converted to U.S. dollars for averaging purposes.)

As in past years, higher-scoring coffees in our 2022 Top 30 tended to cost more than lower-scoring coffees:            

  • 96- and 97-point coffees (13) – $125.02/pound
  • 95-point coffees (7) – $55.25/pound
  • 94-point coffees (8) – $39.09/pound
  • 91- to 93-point coffees (2)  – $27.67/pound

One of the selection criteria for the Top 30 is value, measured by price per pound relative to coffees of similar quality. Many of the coffees on our list are priced in line with similar, though usually less distinguished, specialty coffees in the marketplace. Ten of the coffees on the list cost $30 or less per pound.

JBC Coffee Roasters appeared in the Top 30 twice in 2022, with the #11 Kabiufa Papua New Guinea, one of the top values among Top 30 coffees. Courtesy of JBC Coffee Roasters.

Seven coffees were priced at less than $21.00 per 12-ounce bag:

  • #28 Jackrabbit Java, Mexico Altura Natural Water Process Decaf, 91 points- $14.00/12 oz.
  • #11 JBC Coffee Roasters, Kabiufa Papua New Guinea, 95 points – $18.00/12 oz.
  • #27 Old Soul Co, Whiskey Dreams Moka Java, 94 points – $18.00/12 oz.
  • #5 Moore Coffee, El Salvador Aida Batlle La Florida Natural, 95 points – $18.65/12 oz.
  • #18 Roadmap CoffeeWorks, Tanzania Mbeya Mimba – $18.75/12 oz.
  • #22 El Gran Cafe, Espresso No. 3, 94 points – $20.00/12 oz.
  • #9 Roadmap CoffeeWorks, Ethiopia Halo Bertiti, 96 points – $20.95/12 oz.

See our complete list of the Best Value Coffees.

Roasters in the Top 30

In 2022, six roasting companies placed two coffees each on this year’s Top-30 list:

This concentration of coffees from certain roasters is certainly not intentional. In fact, we make a deliberate effort to minimize repetition and maximize variety among roasters that appear in the Top 30.

Tony Gomez, Head Roaster of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, roaster of the #10 Colombia Sidra Natural Signature Selection and #21 Sumatra Boru Batak. Courtesy of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

To that end, this year we consciously limited appearances in the Top 30 to a maximum of two coffees per roaster, regardless of how many highly rated coffees that roaster produced. While that may seem like an arbitrary limit — and it is — it’s important to remember that our list represents our rendering of the most “exciting” coffees of the year, not necessarily the highest-rated. We felt that it wouldn’t be very exciting (to us or others) if the Top 30 list were too much dominated by a handful of roasting companies that produced a particularly large number of highly rated coffees over the course of the year. Instead, we felt readers might be more excited about an amazing coffee from a roaster that wasn’t already on the list, rather than a similarly impressive coffee from a roaster that already had two on the list.

That said, Coffee Review has been, from its inception, committed to starting with what we actually experience in the cup, not with product categories or marketing considerations or fashion. It is true that we take into account extrinsic factors like value, rarity and sustainable intentions into account when we narrow the number of candidates from a couple hundred to just 30. But ultimately, sensory quality and distinction in the cup, as determined by blind-tasting and reflected in rating, is the entry point for consideration and one of the primary factors that influences where coffees land on the list.

Roasting Company Geography

Of the 30 coffees on the list, 24 were roasted by companies in the United States. Four coffees were roasted in Taiwan. For the second year in a row, a coffee roasted in Japan appeared in the Top 30. SOT Coffee Roaster from Osaka, Japan roasted the #16 Colombia Wush Wush Dynamic Natural. El Gran Café in Antigua, Guatemala roasted Espresso No. 3, our #22 selection.

Tree Variety and the Top 30

When describing last year’s Top 30 list, we wrote: “There are stars and superstars among the hundreds of varieties of Arabica grown in the world today, and coffees from these distinguished varieties continue to dominate the very highest ratings at Coffee Review.”  True, variety appeared to be as important as ever in both the production and marketing of the fine single-origin coffees we celebrate in our latest Top 30 list. However, the range of varieties this year has definitely become more pluralistic.

Miguel Meza (left), of Paradise Roasters, and staff picking ripe coffee cherries.  Courtesy of Paradise Roasters.

For example, in 2021, six of 30 coffees in our rankings were produced from trees of the widely celebrated Geisha (also spelled Gesha) variety, the Ethiopia-derived variety that burst onto the world coffee stage during a green coffee competition in Panama in 2004, breaking all rating and price records. This year, only three of our Top 30 were Geishas: Paradise Roasters Colombia Finca El Paraiso Geisha Letty, Corvus Coffee Narsha Gesha, and RamsHead Coffee Costa Rica Cerro Dragon Geisha Honey. Meanwhile, the Typica variety, at one time the most common and taken-for-granted of all coffee varieties, appeared on this year’s list at position 6 (Hula Daddy Kona Coffee Kahiko), and high-rated lots produced from other traditional varieties were scattered throughout this year’s Top 30.

Processing Method and the Top 30

In addition to tree variety, the other card coffee farmers have been playing to differentiate their coffees over the past decade is processing method, or how fruit skin and flesh are removed from the beans and how they are dried. At one time, most of the fine coffees in the world were processed by the traditional wet or washed method, in which the fruit around the bean is removed immediately after picking and before drying, usually encouraging a bright sweet-tart structure expressing the inherent sensory tendencies of the bean. Eighteen of this year’s Top 30 selections were processed by variations of the washed method, led by the #2 Kakalove Café Guatemala Washed El Injerto Washed Espresso, the #3 Simon Hsieh Ethiopia Aphrodite Washed Espresso, and #7 JBC Coffee Roasters Gachatha Kenya.

Caesar Tu, of Kakalove Cafe, on a recent origin trip to source coffees for his Taiwan-based roastery. Courtesy of Kakalove Cafe.

The most common alternative among farmers and millers attempting to differentiate their coffees by processing method is the ancient but recently revived natural method, in which the beans are dried while still encased in the entire fruit, a prolonged and tricky procedure that, done right, encourages sweetness and fruit and chocolate suggestions. Seven of this year’s Top 30 were processed by variations on the natural method, a small decrease from last year, in which 10 of the top 30 were naturals. Interestingly, this year’s #1 coffee, the Yemen Haraaz Red Mahal Aqeeq ul Station, comes from a coffee culture that has been producing natural-processed coffees continually for 500 years, dwarfing the history of even the oldest of washed coffee traditions. The late-comer revival naturals were led by the #5 Moore Coffee El Salvador Aida Batlle La Florida Natural and the #10 Bird Rock Coffee Roasters Colombia Sidra Natural.

Two of this year’s top 30, down from three in 2021, were processed using variations of anaerobic processing, in which a fermentation step takes place in sealed, reduced-oxygen containers. This demanding procedure, done right, generally encourages a lactic sweet-sour structure and often surprising and original aroma and flavor notes. With the #4 Paradise Roasters Colombia Finca El Paraiso Gesha Letty, the special fermentation was applied to the coffee in the whole fruit, whereas with the #30 Revel Coffee Finca Cerro Azul Aces Lot, it was applied after the beans were pulped or skinned.

Please enjoy our list of the Top 30 Coffees of 2022.

All the best from Coffee Review for a happy and prosperous new year, full of both coffee surprises and the reassurance of the fine and familiar.

 

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