Top 10 coffees of 2019!

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This is my last post for this year: the Black Coffee Journal top 10 coffees of 2019!

During the past year, I finally managed to get better acquainted with some of our local Finnish artisan roasteries. I did get to enjoy at least 74 different coffee blends or single origin coffee products from 9 different countries and 28 companies, but our domestic roasteries swept the board. Their offerings were just so good! That said, two blends from abroad made the ”honorable mentions” section.

Just like last year, all of the products that made my top 10 list were high-end coffees with no detectable added flavoring. This time, however, they were so different from each other that it wouldn’t have been fair to try to compare them with each other. Therefore, instead of ranking the coffees, I decided to organize them into three categories according to the approximate roast level (light, medium and dark) and present them in alphabetical order according to the company name. The resulting list can be best thought of as a pool of fantastic coffees, from which you can pick any product you want and end up enjoying a truly memorable experience.

One last thing before we get to the actual list: I used two different methods to brew these coffees. The ones that were intended for espresso were brewed in my three cup Bialetti Moka. Those that were intended for other brewing methods I prepared in my AeroPress, with one of my favorite inverted methods and a steel filter. Also, I enjoyed all of them straight, with no additives.

So here’s my top 10:

Light

Medium

Dark

Honorable mentions

  • Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲) Blend 3 Original (the best grocery store coffee, Japan)
  • Pascucci Colombia (the all-around morning blend, Italy)

You could not go wrong with any of these coffees. Also, you would do well to check out any products that these great roasteries provide. They really know their stuff!

Extra special thanks to everyone at Cafetoria Roastery, Kaamos kahvipaahtimo, Kahiwa Coffee Roasters, Kahwe and Turun kahvipaahtimo! Also, many thanks to all of my friends who gave me all kinds of coffees to try!

I’ve already got some fantastic coffees in store for 2020. I can’t wait to tell you about them!

Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲) Blend 3 Original—the quintessential Japanese coffee

I recently received this coffee as a gift from a Japanese friend who lives in Kyoto: ”Blend 3 Original” from Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲).

On the bag, the Kyoto based company states this (my translation): ”A mild/mellow aroma and a light taste.” ”A blend that makes the best use of the characteristics of coffee beans from three areas, Central America, South America and Southeastern Asia.” In addition to this, the company indicates that the beans come from Brazil, Indonesia and ”other [places]”. They also provide a nice graph, which can be interpreted as follows (1 = weak, 5 = strong):

  • aroma: 3/5
  • bitterness: 3/5
  • acidity: 3/5
  • richness/body: 2/5

The coffee comes pre-ground.

In my estimation, the roast was dark, around 3,5/5. The grind size seemed perfect for the AeroPress, so I decided to use that particular device for brewing.

Now, this is coffee with a capital C. Blend 3 Original is nutty, chocolatey, bold and dark. At the same time, there’s nothing too pronounced or ”in your face” to it. Rather, it is an extremely smooth, mellow and well-balanced blend, and yet it is full-bodied enough to satisfy the black coffee enthusiast. Granted, it did not have all the different nuances to make me go wow. Instead, it gently woke me up in the morning, and helped me concentrate on my writing during the day. It was one the most comforting blends I’ve ever tried.

You know, it’s a little like those Japanese cars that are sold here in Europe. Take your regular Toyota Corolla, for example: It might not be like the most expensive, high-end Audi or BMW, but it does exactly what it was made for, and it does it really well. I actually think that’s kind of cool. (I’m a die hard Toyota fan.) In a similar fashion, Blend 3 Original is not like the most spectacular gourmet coffee out there, but it does the thing it’s trying to do really well. For me, it just hit the spot every single time.

In my opinion, Blend 3 Original is the quintessential Japanese coffee—exactly what you would expect from a great Japanese company like Ogawa Coffee. It is the perfect example of what an all-around, middle of the road coffee blend should taste and feel like. I only wish the big European coffee companies we able to create something as good.

If you happen to find it, try it out!

Marufuku Coffee (丸福珈琲店) ”Marufuku Coffee”—dark and very mild

Here’s another great blend I received as a gift from our dear friends in Japan: ”Marufuku Coffee” from 丸福珈琲店 (Marufuku Coffee Shop), Osaka.

On the can it says that this is (my translation) the Marufuku Coffee Shop ”quality blend coffee” or ”carefully produced blend coffee”. They also call it ”regular coffee”. While I’m not 100% sure about this, it seems like this is Marufuku’s flagship blend.

Just like its sister product, ”Shōwa Kyunen Blend” which I recently reviewed, ”Marufuku Coffee” is made of beans from Brazil, Colombia and ”other places”. Also the grind size is said to be the same, medium fine.

Indeed, as I opened the can, ”Marufuku Coffee” looked exactly like ”Shōwa Kyunen Blend”. The grind size was identical, and the roast seemed similar: dark, approximately 4/5. Even the aroma was almost the same.

Flavorwise, too, the two blends were very similar: Dark roasted regular coffee with a toasted, slightly smoky flavor and aroma. However, there were some minor differences as well. Whereas ”Shōwa Kyunen Blend” was nutty and bean-like, this one was nutty and dark chocolatey. Also, ”Marufuku Coffee” was even milder and smoother than ”Shōwa Kyunen Blend”. It had a sort of diluted feel to it. In this it reminded me of a good Americano.

In my opinion, ”Marufuku Coffee” is a very good every day all day type of blend. While it probably isn’t potent enough to satisfy the hard core espresso lover, it would be the perfect choice for anyone who wants to get into dark roasted coffee but is not accustomed to the bitter or burnt flavors that you get with many dark roast blends. If you can get ”Marufuku Coffee”, I highly recommend you try it!

芦田さんご一家、本当にありがとうございました! (Ashida Family, thank you so much!)

Marufuku Coffee Shōwa Kyunen Blend (丸福珈琲店・昭和九年ブレンド)

Last month, my good Wife went to visit her second homeland, Japan, and brought back some great coffees for me. This was good news. I just love Japanese coffee!

Two of these blends—a generous gift from our dear friends in Nishinomiya—were made by 丸福珈琲店 (Marufuku Coffee Shop), the traditional coffee shop in Osaka. Here’s the first one of them: 昭和九年ブレンド (Shōwa Kyunen Blend).

Perhaps the name of this product requires some explanation. As you may know, Shōwa is the name for the period of Japanese history that corresponds to the reign of Emperor Shōwa, also known as Hirohito. This period started on Dec. 25, 1926 and lasted until the death of the Emperor on Jan. 7, 1989. ”Shōwa Kyunen” means the year 9 of Shōwa. In the Western calendar that year would be AD 1934.

According to the description on the can, written in very polite and beautiful Japanese, Marufuku Coffee Shop was established in that particular year in Osaka. They say (in my explanatory translation) that in their attempt to produce the traditional dark and solid cup of blended coffee, they have now blended this one to match the original taste from the year 9 of Shōwa, when they started their business.

They also tell us that this coffee is made of beans from Brazil, Colombia and ”other places”, and that it is pre-ground, medium-fine.

To me, the roast seemed pretty dark, approximately 4/5. The grind size seemed to be on the coarser side. That’s why I decided to brew this in my AeroPress (my favorite inverted method, with a steel filter). And lo, the grind size was absolutely perfect for the plastic tube coffee maker!

This blend was everything I’ve learned to appreciate in traditional Japanese coffee: It was roasted dark and had this toasted, slightly smoky flavor and aroma. At the same time the mouthfeel was medium mild and SO smooth. There was none of that roughness around the edges that you sometimes get with dark roasted blends. Man, there were no edges to this! The flavor was nutty, even bean-like. It was not particularly sweet, but not extremely dry, either.

If I had to describe this coffee with one word, it would be ”medium”—in the best sense of the word. Shōwa Kyunen Blend was a very good middle-of-the-road blend. For me, it was the perfect accompaniment to my daily breakfast pancake.

Now I know where I have to go on my next trip to Osaka!

芦田さんご一家、本当にありがとうございました! (Ashida Family, thank you so much!)

Ogawa Coffee (小川珈琲) Blend 3.