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In 2023, Coffee Review blind-tasted more than 3,000 coffee samples from hundreds of leading roasting companies and coffee producers around the world. We ultimately published nearly 600 reviews on CoffeeReview.com over the course of the year. The Top 30 Coffees of 2023 is our editors’ ranking of the 30 most exciting of these coffees, representing roughly 5 percent of the coffees we reviewed.
This is the 11th year we have compiled our Top 30 list. This annual event supports our mission to help 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 2023, only about one out of four of the more than 3,000 coffees we tested scored 90 points or higher. But over 215 of them — around 8 percent of the total — earned 94 points or more, a tribute to the ever-intensifying innovation and dedication of the world’s leading coffee producers and roasters.
However, we always offer the caveat that scores alone have limitations. Coffee lovers 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. We encourage readers to look beyond our overall scores and rankings to identify the coffees that they find the most exciting and enjoyable.
For those curious about how we conduct our testing and rating processes at Coffee Review, see How Coffee Review Works. For what scores mean with respect to the wide range of coffee styles and qualities, see Interpreting Reviews.
All of the coffees that rated 94 points or higher in 2023 are worthy of celebrating, as are many of the unique and exciting coffees that didn’t score quite as high. Obviously, not all of the coffees earning 94 points or more can appear in the Top 30. We forced ourselves to select the 30 we felt were the most exciting.
As in past years, we selected and ranked our Top 30 coffees based on quality and distinctiveness (represented primarily by overall rating), value (reflected by most affordable price per pound and price relative to similar coffees), and consideration of other factors that include uniqueness of origin, style, processing method, tree variety, certifications such as Fair Trade and organic, and general singularity.
In each of the 11 years that we have published our Top 30 list, including 2023, 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 2023
This year, we selected the 98-point Wilton Benitez Pink Bourbon Colombia roasted by JBC Coffee Roasters in Madison, Wisconsin as the #1 coffee. The review from July describes the coffee as “an elegant, decadent, pied piper of a coffee with its mesmerizing aromatics and addictively complex cup with notes like blackberry jam and frankincense — you’ll find more descriptors than you can count on both hands.” This coffee takes its originality and complexity in part from a particularly meticulous version of the trendy anaerobic processing method.
This is the first time a coffee from Colombia has earned the #1 spot. Coffees from Panama have earned the top spot five times, in 2014, 2015, 2019, 2020 and 2021. In 2017 and 2022, the top coffee was from Yemen. Coffees from Hawaii (2018), Kenya (2016) and Ethiopia (2013) have previously earned recognition as Coffee Review’s #1 coffee of the year.
Top 30 Statistics
Ratings and Price
The average overall rating for coffees on our Top 30 list for 2023 is 95.6 out of a possible 100, in line with, but slightly higher than, past averages.
In 2023, the average price of the coffees on our Top 30 list was $124.56 per pound. (Coffees sold in non-U.S. currencies were converted to U.S. dollars for averaging purposes.) However, that figure is skewed upward by the extremely high-priced (~$1,750 per pound) #3 Princesa Carmen Geisha from Taiwanese roaster GK Coffee, which was a Best of Panama competition winner that attracted an extraordinarily high price as a green coffee at the 2023 Best of Panama auction. If you remove this coffee from the calculations, the average price drops to $68.48 per pound, which is lower than the average of $79.34 in 2022.
As in past years, higher-scoring coffees in our 2023 Top 30 tended to cost more than lower-scoring coffees:
- 97- and 98-point coffees (4) ~ $492.00/pound (yes, skewed)
- 96-point coffees (12) – $95.33/pound
- 95-point coffees (11) – $49.52/pound
- 93- to 94-point coffees (3) – $26.22/pound
One of the selection criteria for the Top 30 is value, measured by price per pound relative to coffees of similar quality and style. Many of the coffees on our list are priced in line with similar, though usually less distinguished, specialty coffees in the marketplace.
Seven coffees were priced at less than $30 per pound, or the equivalent of $22 per 12-ounce bag:
- #7 Red Rooster, Ethiopia Shantawene Washed, 96 points – $22.00/12 oz.
- #12 Kakalove Café (Taiwan), Kenya Washed Kiambu Windrush AA, 96 points ~ $10.52/8 oz.
- #17 Speckled Ax, Sumatra Lintong Kardon, 95 points – $21.00/12 oz.
- #23 Buon Caffe (Taiwan), Kenya Machakos, 96 points ~ $12.65/8 oz.
- #24 Peach Coffee, Blue Sunda Estate Java, 94 points – $19.00/12 oz.
- #26 Roadmap CoffeeWorks, Tanzania Nyasi Furaha, 94 points – $19.00/12 oz.
- #29 Bassline Coffee, Bali Kintamani, 93 points – $21.00/12 oz.
If you are interested shopping for Top 30 coffees that are still available for sale, visit our Shop for the Top 30 page, which provides links to the roasters’ websites where the coffees may be available. At the time this article was published, 14 of the Top 30 coffees were still available for purchase.
With seven appearances, Colombia is the most frequently cited origin in our 2023 Top 30. The probable reason is the surge in innovative processing methods among some Colombian coffee producers, particularly those in the southwestern departments of Cauca and Huila. In fact, four of the Top 30 coffees, including two of the top four, were grown by the same Cauca producer, Wilton Benitez. With the Benitez coffees, the usual emphasis on fastidious agricultural and harvest processes and admired tree varieties was bolstered by a strikingly detailed and innovative approach to processing, or fruit removal and drying, which involved a double-anaerobic fermentation of the whole fruit in sealed tanks with yeast added, and sterilization of the cherries with ozone gas and ultraviolet light. Modifying cup character through such complex processing methods brings coffee closer to the world of wine, and may well signal a fundamental change in how fine coffee will be created and understood in the future.
Hawaii and Kenya were second in number of placements this year with three coffees each, while Ethiopia, Panama and Peru each appear twice. Filling out the list were 11 origins represented by one coffee each. Two of the 30 samples were designated as intended for brewing as espresso.
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.” Variety appears 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.
For example, this year, seven of our Top 30 coffees were produced from trees of the 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. The most rare variety on the list appeared at #2, the 97-rated Hula Daddy Kona Coffee Kona Pointu. Bourbon Pointu (botanical variety name “Laurina”) is a natural mutation of the famous Bourbon variety, first detected on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The Bourbon Pointu is famous for its naturally low levels of caffeine, bean shape (small and tending to be pointed at the ends, hence “pointu”), and pungently fruit-toned cup.
A hint of a possible trend showed up with the appearance of a coffee of the Sidra variety at #4, and coffees from trees of the Pink Bourbon variety at #1 and #20. Sidra and Pink Bourbon have long been thought to be natural hybrids of the Bourbon and Typica varieties, but the latest genetic research indicates that both are Ethiopian varieties that were carried to Latin America, much as Geisha was. Neither variety has been traced in its movement from Ethiopia to Latin America, although in both cases the typical cup suggests Ethiopian character and florality.
Remarkably, in 2023, processing method was disclosed for every coffee on the list, perhaps indicative of the increasing awareness in the coffee world of the importance of processing method in determining cup character. Half (15) of the 30 are traditional washed coffees, meaning fruit skin and flesh were removed before the coffee was dried, usually promoting a clean, sweet-tart cup with a generally familiar “coffee” character. Two more are wet-hulled, the mainly Indonesian variation on the washed method that encourages complex spice and savory notes. Six of the 30 are naturals, meaning the beans were dried in the whole fruit, a practice that typically encourages sweetness and fruit.
Seven of this year’s Top 30 coffees, an increase of just two from 2022, were processed using variations of the anaerobic method, 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.
Roasters in the Top 30
In 2023, five 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.
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 was 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 would be more excited to read about amazing coffees from a broader variety of roasters.
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 when we narrow the number of candidates from hundreds 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 Location
Of the 30 coffees on the list, 23 were roasted by companies in the United States. Six coffees were roasted in Taiwan, up from four in 2022, continuing a trend of increasing coffee quality and presence in Taiwan. Both Kakalove Café and GK Coffee – roasters in Taiwan – appeared on the list twice.
For the third year in a row, a coffee roasted in Japan appeared in the Top 30. SOT Coffee Roaster from Osaka, Japan roasted the #25 Colombia El Paraiso Geisha Luna Washed.
Please enjoy our list of the Top 30 Coffees of 2023.
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.