My top 10 coffees of 2020

In 2020, I got to enjoy at least 73 different coffee blends or single origin coffees from 12 different countries and 33 companies. Now it’s time to wrap up the year by listing the very best products!

While I had the opportunity to try all kinds of coffees, all of the products that made my top 10 list were unflavored high-end coffees. That said, I included one flavored coffee and one grocery store blend into the ”Honorable Mentions” category.

Like last year, the products were so different from each other that it wouldn’t have been fair to compare them with each other. Therefore, instead of ranking the coffees, I organized them into three categories according to the approximate roast level (dark, medium, and light). Of course, the darkness of a roast is a subjective matter. It is also probably not the best way to categorize coffee products. Obviously, there are so many other factors that affect the flavors. However, I wasn’t able to come up with a better way to list the coffees. So, in each of the three categories, I presented the coffees in alphabetical order according to the company name. The resulting list can be thought of as a pool of excellent coffees. You can pick any product you want and end up enjoying a truly memorable experience.

I used two different brewing methods. Espresso coffees were brewed in my three cup Bialetti Moka pot. On the other hand, the coffees that were intended for other brewing methods I prepared in my AeroPress, with my favorite inverted method and a paper filter. I used no additives.

So, here we go. My top 10 coffees of 2020:

Dark roast:

Medium roast:

Light roast:

You could not go wrong with any of these coffees. Unfortunately, some of these products might already be out of stock. If that is the case, you could check out any product from these great roasteries. They really know what they do.

Lastly, there were three blends that did not make the top 10 list but still deserve to be mentioned.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hamwi Café Classic—the best flavored coffee (cardamom) (United Arab Emirates)
  • Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—the best Greek grocery store coffee (Greece)
  • Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—the best Finnish grocery store coffee (Finland)

Special thanks to everyone at Cafetoria Roastery, E’s World Coffee, Kahwe, Mokafina, Muki, and Rob Beans Coffee for making this possible!

Now it’s time for me to take a small break and enjoy some great blends I recently received from the USA. I’ll be back in early January to tell you about them!

Happy New Year!

Margariti Coffee (ΚΑΦΕΣ ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ)—Another Good Introduction to Greek Coffee

Here’s another Greek coffee blend I got from Gran Delicato, my favorite Greek coffee shop in Helsinki: καφές ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ (Margariti Coffee).

On the bag, the manufacturer only states that this blend is made ”from the best varieties of BRAZILIAN coffees”, and that it delivers ”the best taste and the rich aroma.”

The bag note was very pleasant. Basically, it smelled like traditional Greek coffee: Arabicas, and some of that ”Greek” funk—I still can’t decide if it reminds me of mold or raw licorice. But there was more to it: a light aroma of unsweetened cocoa, nuts, and dried fruits. Nice!

Obviously, I made the coffee in my briki. It delivered an ample crema.

The flavor profile matched the bag note exactly. It was a very smooth combination of

  • medium mild ”Greek” Arabica flavor, with some of that ”licorice”
  • some cocoa-like undertones
  • a hint of dried fruits

Despite the fruity flavors, the overall vibe was semi-dry. There was no bitterness whatsoever.

OK, what’s the verdict? This blend will probably not surprise you in any way, but that’s not what it was created for. Instead, it is a pleasant, medium mild Greek coffee that you can enjoy all day. Along with Loumidis Papagalos, it could serve as a good introduction for anyone who wants to get into Greek blends. If you’re so inclined, get a bag of καφές ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ and a briki. (In Finland, you can get both from Gran Delicato!) Then watch a couple of tutorial videos on how to make Greek coffee (how about this one?), and you’re good to go!

Bravo ο Κλασικος—The Greek Classic

Last week, as I happened to be in the neighborhood, I visited Gran Delicato, my favorite Greek coffee shop in Helsinki. In addition to their delicious sandwiches, they offer a variety of Greek groceries, including coffee. This time, I got two new (to me) blends. Here’s the first one: Bravo ο Κλασικός (”the Classic”).

Now, I’m not very good at modern Greek, but since I do study ancient Greek texts, I was able to get a grasp of the bag description. Basically, it only said this:

BRAVO Κλασικός is made from the finest varieties of coffee and roasted with taste, slowly and steadily, based on our knowledge from 1926 until today.

Other than that, they only mentioned the ”rich aroma and authentic taste” of the product.

As I opened the bag, I got the aroma of basic Arabica coffee, accompanied by some of that familiar Greek funk. Some people call it a moldy smell. Others think it is reminiscent of raw licorice. Whatever it is, I like it a lot. There was not a lot of it though. For instance, the Turkish classic, Sade Dibek Kahvesi from Artukbey is much more smelly in this sense.

Obviously, I used my briki for brewing this one.

Flavor-wise, the coffee was pretty much what I expected it to be: basic grocery store Arabica coffee, with some of that ”Greek thing”. While the coffee flavors were OK, they were somewhat sharper than the ones in Loumidis Papagalos, the other Greek classic. That said, in the Bravo, there was more of that raw licorice flavor.

Nice crema, don’t you think?

While I may not call Bravo ο Κλασικός anything spectacular—it is a grocery store blend, after all—, it surely is a nice middle-of-the-road Greek coffee that you can enjoy all day. I liked it! You should give it a try! In Finland, you can get it from the good folks at Gran Delicato, Helsinki.

Hamwi Café Extra—extra cardamom!

I recently reviewed Hamwi Café Classic, the Turkish style coffee with cardamom flavoring, made in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This time, I’m taking a look at its big brother, Hamwi Café Extra. On the package, the company calls it a ”Premium blend”. They also say there is ”Extra cardamom” in it.

First, there are many similarities between the two blends. Just like Classic, Extra…

  • is probably a straight Arabica blend (the company offers no information on the ingredients)
  • is pre-ground for cezve/ibrik/briki
  • is roasted medium
  • has a distinctive aroma of cardamom
  • doesn’t produce a lot of crema
  • is very black in the cup
  • tastes like natural coffee, spiced up with natural cardamom
  • lacks the moldy funk that you get with some Turkish and Greek blends

Secondly, obviously, there are differences as well:

  • in Extra, there is a LOT of cardamom: 25% (!)
  • in the bag, the cardamom aroma is so strong that it’s almost menthol-like
  • the cardamom flavor is not as piercing as one might expect based on the bag note, but beware, it is pretty spicy
  • Extra does taste like coffee, but the coffee-to-cardamon ratio makes one wonder whether it should be called a ”coffee cardamon drink” or ”dessert” (!), rather than flavored coffee

In sum, I found Hamwi Café Extra to be an interesting experience. For me, personally, the amount of cardamom was a little too much. I’m also not sure if I would call it a ”premium blend”. That said, there’s nothing wrong with it! It’s actually quite good for what it is. For instance, the coffee (or what you can taste of it!) and the added flavoring work very well together. If you want to have something really spicy after a big meal, AND if you can find it, give it a try!

Hamwi Café Classic—Turkish coffee w/ cardamom

A couple of days ago, I happened to find some new-to-me coffees in my local oriental grocery store. Since I love oriental coffee, I just had to pick up a few packs.

This is the first one: Classic from Hamwi Café, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is a Turkish style coffee with cardamom flavoring. It is pre-ground for cezve/ibrik/briki.

The first thing I noticed was that the ground coffee was really dark in color. The roast didn’t seem super dark, however. I was wondering whether the color was due to the added spice. It definitely smelled like cardamom! The lovely aroma made me think of traditional Finnish cinnamon rolls. Yummy.

Every time I have flavored coffee, I want to know about the coffee itself. Unfortunately, there was not much of a product description on the package. It really only said that there is 10% of cardamom in the coffee.

As I brewed Classic in my cezve, I was surprised by the fact that unlike similar coffees from Turkey or Greece, it didn’t produce a lot of crema. The end product was ”just coffee”, black coffee. And when I say black, I mean literally black. Even so, the flavor was not very dark. It felt like a medium-full straight Arabica blend, with a tiny hint of nice bitterness, but not too much. Due to the added cardamom, however, it was slightly difficult to pick up the basic flavor of the coffee.

Speaking of the added flavoring, there was nothing artificial to it. Unlike some other flavored coffee products, which can be quite sweet and goopy (think of Lion Coffee products—which I like a lot, by the way!}, Classic was all about natural coffee, spiced up with natural cardamom. While the amount of cardamom did seem like quite a lot, the coffee and the flavoring worked very well together.

One more thing: In Classic, there was none of that (lovely!) moldy funk that you get with some Turkish blends from, say, Artukbey, or the Greek ones from Coffee Island or Loumidis. Maybe this could make Classic more approachable for some of us Westerners! All in all, Hamwi Café Classic was a nice ”all day” type of Turkish coffee blend with a twist. I liked it!

Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—a good introduction to Greek coffee

I usually wake up pretty early in the morning. I love the quiet moments when everyone else is sleeping. I get to prepare my breakfast in complete silence. I get to read a good book and enjoy a cup of great coffee, maybe even two.

But waking up early can also be a challenge for the coffee enthusiast. I mean, especially on days off, when the other people in your house want to sleep late, you don’t want to wake them up by using the coffee grinder. That’s why I try to have some pre-ground coffee around at all times.

Actually, in these past months, many Saturday mornings have been saved by the finely ground Turkish coffee (”Sade Dibek Kahvesi” from Artukbey) I got from my Iraqui friend. This fine product has also made me want to learn more about Turkish and Greek coffee.

Recently, I was delighted to discover Gran Delicato, the stylish Greek café, deli and restaurant in Helsinki. After enjoying a delicious panini and a big cup of their fantastic coffee, I noticed that they also sell Greek coffee. Since I’m still learning about these things, I wanted to buy a good, basic Greek coffee blend. As I was looking at the options, I noticed that on the Loumidis Papagalos bag it said Ο παραδοσιακός ελληνικός καφές (o paradosiakos ellenikos kafes). Now, I do not speak modern Greek, but in my work I do read 1700–2400 year old texts written in ancient Greek dialects. So I guessed that the bag said ”the traditional Greek coffee”. Brilliant! Exactly what I was looking for.

Then I got home and started looking for my scissors. I was expecting to smell that peculiar, funky aroma that seems to be common to some Greek and Turkish coffees. You know, the one that some people associate with raw licorice, others with the musty, moldy smell of an old wooden house. However, as I finally got the bag open, I was greeted with the familiar aroma of good Arabica-based grocery store coffee. It even reminded me of some of the better Paulig blends. There was a tiny hint of the ”Greek” funk in there as well, but it definitely stayed in the background. Quite delightful!

The coffee itself was very easy to work with. While the ground product looked almost identical to the Artukbey powder I’ve been enjoying, it was a lot easier to mix with water than it’s Turkish sister blend. It produced a nice, uniform crema, too.

The taste was very much like the bag aroma. Good, basic Arabicas were the star of the show. There was also a hint of that traditional Greek ”thing” that is so hard to describe. However, it never got as strong as in, say, ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΙΑΚΟΣ / Traditional Blend from Coffee Island—another Greek blend I like very much. All in all, it felt like I was having a good, basic grocery store Arabica with a Greek twist. Well, that’s exactly what this blend is about. I found it to be a very good pick-me-up in the morning.

Obviously, Loumidis Papagalos is not a high-end gourmet blend. But what it does, it does really well. Also, it is ”normal” enough to be enjoyed by anyone, and yet ”Greek” enough to give you a good picture of what traditional Greek coffee tastes like.

I’m definitely going to get some more from Gran Delicato! Maybe, as a consequence, my kids will get to sleep longer as well.