Now that the great Unicorn Frappuccino debacle of 2017 is behind us, we can move into a new year with a fresh palate and an empty mug, just waiting to be filled with something special and exciting. There are a lot of promising coffee trends worth waking up for on January 1 (though we can’t promise any of them will cure your New Year’s Rockin’ Eve hangover).
The latest developments in flavor-crystal technology has led to easy-breezy instant coffees that are more than worth the effort it takes to stir them into hot water. (That is to say, there is no effort involved—it’s the easiest thing in the world!) Specialty-coffee obsessives like two-time Finnish Barista Champion Kalle Freese from Sudden Coffee and the team at Brooklyn Parlor Coffee have mastered the art of taking brewed coffee and instantifying it using a combination of extraction science, commercial dehydration, and/or simply magic. While it’s not exactly instant, a California startup called Steeped Coffee is looking to marry quality and convenience by putting coffee in perfect pre-portioned satchels like tea bags, eliminating the muss, fuss, expensive and confusing brewing equipment, and the fear of waking up your roommates when you turn the grinder on. One way or the other, it’s clear that a convenience revolution is brewing, and we can’t wait to enjoy the instant gratification.
We don’t mean, like, the homemade ketchup volcano you whipped up in second grade: We mean things like Brix meters and introducing foreign yeast strains into coffee during its fermentation period (yes, coffee is a fermented food), and using optical sorters in an attempt to improve coffee quality and sustainability. These types of Dr. Jekyll tinkerings in the laboratory aren’t always readily available for purchase because they are limited in quantity and are pretty risky (which makes them justifiably very expensive), but there are definitely ways to get your hands on some new and innovative stuff if you know where to look. One great place to start is with the coffees of El Salvadoran producer Aida Batlle, whose name is legend in specialty coffee circles for her spirit of adventure and her pursuit of the weird, wacky, and wild methods and techniques that make her family farms stand out. Finca Kilimanjaro is one of those family farms, and on it grows a variety known simply as “Kenya,” probably because it was transplanted to El Salvador from that African growing country at some point. To capitalize on that cross-pollination, Aida puts the coffees through a special style of fermentation that more closely resembles what they do with coffees in Kenya, which is very different from the traditional means in El Salvador. This special intro into the coffee lab is available for a limited time only from North Carolina roaster Counter Culture Coffee, but keep your eyes peeled for more from Aida down the line.
Can you milk a nut? Well, no, but you can make something udderly delicious out of it. (Wakka wakka.) The coffee world isn’t just going nuts for nuts, though: There’s also oat milk, hemp milk, new versions of rice milk that don’t taste like a 1970s health food store, and coconut milk (which, yes, has “nut” in the name but it’s not the same thing). Baristas everywhere have been flipping for the foamy beauty that is Oatly nut milk, relatively recently available in America after taking Europe by storm; Milkademia is another fairly newcomer to the scene which, despite the sort of terrible name, capitalizes on the buttery creaminess of macadamias for a truly indulgent cappuccino experience. Oregon’s Pacific Foods has the whole range covered with their Barista Series, which, just like the name implies, was specifically designed for use in commercial coffee shops—their soy, cashew, rice, oat, and whatever-else-you-can-milk nondairy products are making a splash wherever cow-free milk is sold.
Once the world’s premier coffee-growing region, Yemen has largely fallen into fable after years of political, cultural, agricultural, social, and economic strife. Though the region has the longest and most traditional history with coffee growing and coffee drinking outside of Africa, it has become exceptionally hard to source exceptional offerings from there due to various logistical nightmares as well as the increasing domestic production of a narcotic plant called qat, which is more and more favored by farmers over the much harder to grow and sell Arabica coffee. (PS: If you’ve ever wondered why the world’s good coffee is called Coffea arabica, look no further than the plant’s storied history on the Arabian Peninsula.) Yemen is about to find itself back on the coffee map in a big way, however, thanks to a new book by Dave Eggars that tells the sensationalistic story of a young Yemeni-American named Mokhtar Alkanshali and his scrappy exporting company Port of Mokha, which ambitiously aims to discover and develop the kind sof Yemen coffees that old-timers remember. George Howell, a legend in his own right in the coffee industry, has been chasing his sense memories of mind-blowing Yemen coffee for years, and he believes he’s found some with Mokhtar’s help: You can taste for yourself before the hype hits the bookshelves (and probably the movie theaters) by checking the George Howell Coffee website for the next availability of this limited-roast treasure.
Header image courtesy of Pexels.