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!

Paulig ”Christmas Coffee”—semi-sweet cinnamon rolls!

The other day, as I went Christmas shopping, I got this: Christmas Coffee from Paulig, the Finnish coffee giant. Nice! I had never had it before.

On the bag, Paulig does not give away a lot of information about the product. The description is pretty concise:

A delicious coffee blend, flavoured with real cinnamon and cardamom. This secret recipe, particularly for Christmas, has been perfected by our years of experience.

Other than that, the company only reveals that the roast level is 3/5. Oh yes, the symbols on the bag do indicate that the (pre-ground) product is intended for filter coffee machines or French press. Of course, I decided to make it in my AeroPress. It worked really well with my trusty plastic tube!

The bag note was very pleasant and natural. There was absolutely nothing artificial to it. The aroma was reminiscent of traditional Scandinavian cinnamon rolls and gingerbread cookies.

I could be wrong (?), but to me, Christmas Coffee appeared to be made of 100% Arabica beans (from Latin America?). That’s the way it felt, anyway. Whereas many flavored coffee products seem to be quite mild, Christmas Coffee was medium-full in body.

The flavor was naturally sweet and slightly bitter. While there might have been some midrange nuttiness to it, I found myself mostly thinking of fresh baked semi-sweet cinnamon rolls, spiced up with a hint of black pepper. The whole thing was bready, bakery-like, and somewhat spicy. I found myself enjoying it in the morning, and multiple times during the day. It was really good!

Get a bag of Paulig Christmas Coffee from your local supermarket, and see if you like it too! Merry Christmas!

Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—Finnish grocery store coffee at its best

A while ago, I was asked to write reviews of two blends by Paulig, Presidentti kahvi and Presidentti Gold Label. As you can tell from my first review, I was positively surprised by the regular Presidentti. This time, I’ll say a couple of words about the Gold Label version.

First, the packaging is pretty classy. One gets the impression that Gold Label is the high-end version of the traditional Presidentti. Whether or not this is a correct interpretation, the coffee itself is pretty good.

On the package, it says that this is an ”aromatic coffee blend, finalized with best beans of the season [sic] from East Africa. Fruity flavoured Ethiopian beans together with lighter roast bring out the nuanced taste of this 100 % Arabica coffee in its full glory.” The company has also added the familiar graph, which can be interpreted as follows:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Flavor: 4/5

The bag note was rich and pleasant: dried fruits, medium dark milk chocolate, and some nuttiness. The aroma reminded me of the regular Presidentti, but it was a little darker. That said, it didn’t smell ”darker” in the way that a darker roast would. Granted, Gold Label is roasted slightly darker (2/5 on the Paulig scale) than the original Presidentti (1/5). Here, however, the ”darkness” made me think of dried fruits as opposed to fresh ones.

I decided to brew it in my AeroPress, using the inverted method I know best.

The flavor profile was predictable but pleasant. It was a harmonious mélange of both fresh and dried fruits, medium dark milk chocolate, and nuttiness. It was full flavored, but medium-mild in strength. It had a rich, natural sweetness to it, and yet it was robust enough to work in any situation. Moreover, there was a substantial amount of acidity. Even so, it did not feel sharp or harsh in the mouth. Instead, the acidity was quite soft and pleasant.

Presidentti Gold Label might be one of the best Finnish coffees I’ve purchased in a supermarket. In my opinion, it encapsulates everything that most Finns seem to like about their coffee, and makes it even better. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it became one of my favorite blends, it certainly was enjoyable. If you want to experience Finnish grocery store coffee at its best, get some Presidentti Gold Label from Paulig!

Paulig Classic—a nice morning cup

How to make better coffee when traveling? My suggestion: Try to avoid the coffee makers you find in hotel rooms. Instead, throw your AeroPress in the bag, and you’re good to go!

On my trips, I like to buy whatever coffee is available in supermarkets. It’s kind of fun to see what the locals drink.

Last week, I spent some time in the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia. At one supermarket, the shelves were filled with regular Swedish and Finnish blends—you know, brands like Löfbergs and Paulig. Especially, Paulig Classic seemed to be everywhere in Latvia. I could be wrong, but I’m assuming this blend is not available in Finland (?), the home country of Paulig. At least I had never even seen it before. So, I immediately wanted to try it!

The bag description was quite short:

Paulig Classic is a sophisticated coffee blend, roasted from the finest Latin American coffee qualities. The taste is long and harmonious and you can find a round and nutty aroma from it.

This seems like a pretty accurate description!

While there was no further information on the ingredients (other than ”100% Arabica”), Classic felt like a blend of (mostly?) Colombian coffees. It was very nutty and slightly bitter. I don’t mean that it was harsh in any way. Quite the contrary, the acidity was low, and the flavor profile was well-balanced. In my opinion, the combination of nuttiness and bitterness made Classic a good choice for the morning cup. In this sense, it reminded me of another Scandinavian grocery store blend that I’ve liked in the past, Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist.

I liked Classic more than many other Paulig products. Obviously, it is not a super high quality blend, but perfectly enjoyable nonetheless!

Paulig Presidentti kahvi—a classic for a reason

One of my readers suggested I review this classic coffee: Presidentti kahvi from Paulig, the Finnish coffee giant. Along with Paulig Juhla Mokka, this blend has been the epitome of Finnish coffee culture for decades. As such, it deserves to be looked at with special attention.

Already as a little kid, I learned to associate coffee with Presidentti kahvi. I remember my father joking about it. As a Lutheran pastor, he used much of his time cycling around our small country village, wearing his clerical frock coat, visiting his congregants. As the custom had it, every time pastor came visiting, people made coffee for him. So, my dad ended up drinking gallons of coffee every day, to the point where his doctor told him that there would be fatal consequences if he didn’t stop. In spite of his stomach problems, dad loved Finnish coffee. Even as he came home from work, he often went to the kitchen and mumbled to himself, imitating one of his beloved congregants: ”Would the reverend like to have some coffee?” To which he replied: ”Oh, yes please!” And then he would pull out his pack of Presidentti kahvi, and start brewing.

As the brand name would suggest, Presidentti kahvi (Finnish for ”President coffee”, or ”presidential coffee”) has been regarded as Paulig’s premium coffee blend. It is made of 100% Arabica coffees from Central America, Kenya, and Ethiopia, and roasted light, 1/5 on the Paulig scale. The company describes the flavor profile as berry-like, freshly acidic, and subtle. They also provide a graph that can be interpreted as follows:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Aroma: 2/5

Nowadays, the blend is readily available in beans, too, but since I wanted to get as close to the traditional ”Finnish” coffee experience as possible, I decided to buy it pre-ground, in the familiar vacuum sealed, hard ”brick”.

As I opened the package, I was greeted by a wonderful aroma: fresh fruits, berries, and some milk chocolate.

The coffee in my package was pretty coarse, which made it suitable for my (other) favorite brewing method: AeroPress. Having made a couple of cups using the inverted method I know best, I can offer the following report:

Flavor-wise, Presidentti kahvi was rather mild, yet quite flavorful. As expected, it was pretty adicic, but I found the acidity to be quite ”soft” and pleasant. I detected the following flavors:

  • fresh fruits
  • berries
  • milk chocolate
  • cinnamon
  • some nutty bitterness here and there

None of these flavors overpowered the others; the balance was so on point. Oh, and by the way, I’m almost certain that the empty cup smelled like the delicious combination I used to crave for as a little kid: milk chocolate and licorice. Quite pleasant, indeed!

I must admit that I am pleasantly surprised. As some of you may know, I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Paulig coffees. But there is a good reason for the near-legendary status Presidentti kahvi has gained over the decades. The quality is surprisingly high for a mass produced, pre-ground grocery store coffee. The blend offers a very amicable flavor profile that is suitable for any occasion. I truly enjoyed every single cup.

Wow. I’ll have to tell my dad.

If you want to get a true Finnish coffee experience, this is the deal!

Paulig Juhla Mokka—The Finnish classic

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This is the coffee review that many of my readers have been waiting for.

This is also the review that will make others roll their eyes.

What is it about? Juhla mokka, blended and roasted by the Finnish coffee giant Paulig.

This is the blend that has been considered THE Finnish coffee for decades. Every Finn knows it. Many also think that it is the best coffee around. You can read about the history of the blend on the company website (in Finnish).

On the package, Paulig tells us that this coffee is (my translation) a ”fine and full-bodied” blend of 100% Arabicas from Central America, South America, and Africa. Nowadays, the blend is available in several different forms and roasts, but the classic version of Juhla mokka is roasted light (1/5), and comes in these 500 g ”bricks”, pre-ground for filter use. The company describes the flavor profile thus:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Aroma: 4/5

As I opened the bag, the coffee smelled like a basic grocery store Arabica. The aroma was somewhat fruity, and there might have been a hint of chocolateyness as well. Quite pleasant, actually.

While the blend was pre-ground with the filter machine user in mind, the grind size seemed to be suitable for AeroPress as well. That’s why I decided to brew it using the latter.

Regardless of the AeroPress recipe, the flavor was dominated by a ”high”, sharp acidity. It was not reminiscent of fruits, berries, or anything else I could think of. It just tasted acidic. Now, normally I’m OK with some acidity, especially if the body is full enough to balance out the flavor profile. Here, however, the midrange was pretty weak. There might have been some nutty and chocolatey notes here and there, but they seemed muted and hard to detect. Overall, the coffee felt kind of weak (diluted, even?) and sharp at the same time.

Many Juhla mokka fans have asked me whether I like this blend or not. Well, let me put it this way: I do not actually hate it. That said, it’s kind of hard for me to understand why so many Finns love this coffee so much. Of course, to each their own, right? Right. In my humble opinion, however, there are better options out there. If you want to get a good, light roasted coffee that’s readily available in the local supermarket, I would suggest you try Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist.

Paulig Origins Blend Guatemala—very nice!

OK, here’s the last blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Guatemala.

As all of my readers must know by now, all the blends in this series are made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my recent review.

Obviously, Guatemala is made of Guatemalan coffee, but also—as the Paulig website tells us—”aromatic Colombian beans.” That’s all we get to know about the ingredients. The company calls the blend ”delicately fruity” and ”softly milk chocolatey.” Again, that sounds like something I would really enjoy!

And lo, that is exactly what you get. The body is kind of ”medium,” but also kind of juicy. The flavor profile is all about fresh cut ”yellow” fruits, mixed with semi sweet milk chocolate. Very pleasant, actually.

To me, Guatemala is a lot better than some of the other blends in the Origins Blend series. My only caveat is that the flavors are a little muted. Now, all of the flavors promised in the bag description are there, but the overall feel could be bolder, in my opinion. And I don’t mean ”bolder” in the way that ”dark roasted coffee” can be bold. I mean that I really like the flavors, and that’s why I would like to get more of them out of this. Having said that, with Guatemala this is not as big of a problem as in some of the other Origins Blends.

So, if you like a medium roasted, fruity and chocolatey coffee that is readily available (at least in Finland, that is), you might want to check this out!

Paulig Origins Blend Tanzania—Seriously?

This is the third blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Tanzania.

Like all the other blends in the series, Tanzania is made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my recent review.

It goes without saying that Tanzania is made of Tanzanian beans. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. In the bag description they call this coffee fresh, nuanced and berry-like. The Paulig website elaborates: there is plenty of flavor and aromas of red berries. OK, that sounds like something I would really like!

Uh oh.

The bag aroma was… well, it smelled like coffee. That all I could say about it, really.

If I was struggling to come up with a proper review of Paulig Colombia, writing this one was even harder. Even after several cups, I just couldn’t taste the things they promised. To me, this blend was not fresh or nuanced, but rather dull. Also, in my opinion, there was no berry flavor to it. Zero. It’s not like it tasted bad, really, but it wasn’t very good, either. Just… grocery store coffee—which this is, obviously.

Mind you, I don’t want to be hard on Paulig. I’d LOVE to support our local businesses. But I just don’t understand how even the biggest coffee company in a small country like Finland can afford to make blends like this, while the Swedish competition is cranking out far better products and selling them for similar prices. An historical blender like Paulig should know better. In my opinion.

Paulig Origins Blend Colombia—nothing to write home about

Here’s the second blend from the Origins Blend series by Paulig: Colombia.

Like all the other Origins Blend offerings, Colombia is made of 100% Arabicas, roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

I brewed it in my French press, following the method I explained in my last review.

As you would expect, Colombia is made of Colombian Arabicas. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. As far as the flavor is concerned, they call it ”balanced and nutty.”

The bag aroma was quite pleasant. When I opened the bag, I immediately got the familiar sweet nuttiness of Colombian coffee.

When I first tasted Colombia, I thought it would be a tough blend to review. I really had to strain myself to tease out the flavors. After several cups, I had to conclude that there was not a lot of flavor to find. Yes, there was some nuttiness. You could tell that it was Colombian coffee. But that was about it. Yes, it was balanced, too, at least in the sense that nothing really stood out. Was it bad? No, no. It’s just that, in my opinion, there was nothing to write home about, either.

If you want to get good Colombian coffee, get yourself some Pascucci Colombia. Now that is a great, flavorful and medium bodied blend. In Finland, you can get it from your local Ciao! Caffé shop.

Paulig Origins Blend Indonesia—a decent blend from the supermarket

I went to the local supermarket and found these: The Origins Blend series from Paulig, sold in these little 75 g (2.64 oz) ”Trial size” bags.

All of the blends in the Origins series are 100% Arabicas. Each one is named after the country of origin of the primary ingredient: Indonesia, Colombia, Tanzania and Guatemala. Also, each blend is roasted medium dark (3/5), and pre-ground for coffee makers or French press.

That being the case, I decided to let my Moka pot rest for a while (sob), and use my French press instead. I also decided to brew all of these blends following the same method. It’s very simple:

  • boil some water
  • add 14 g (0.49 oz) of ground coffee in the preheated FP glass carafe
  • after the water has cooled down for one minute, pour 200 g (7.05 oz) of it on top of the grounds
  • place the plunger on top, but don’t press just yet
  • let stand for 3 min 45 sec
  • remove the plunger
  • take a spoon and remove excess coffee grounds from the surface
  • insert the plunger and press
  • pour the coffee in a cup and enjoy

I tried Indonesia first. Obviously, it’s made of Indonesian beans, but has some South American in it too. That’s all the company tells us about the ingredients. They call it ”intense & spicy,” with flavors of wild berries, rich fruityness and hints of spices.

In my opinion, the overall flavor was on the darker side. The berries were definitely there. I detected some spice as well. On the other hand—just as promised—there was also a fruity aspect to it. While all of these aspects were apparent in the flavor profile, none of them was particularly pronounced. Take the berriness, for instance: With some other coffees you can say something like ”This tastes like raspberries.” But with Indonesia it was actually quite hard to say what the ”berries” were like. Similarly, the fruitiness did remind me of fresh cut fruits, but whether they tasted like stonefruits or something else, it was hard to tell. It’s like all the flavors were there, but the whole thing tasted kind of muted. Only the spiciness was a bit easier to understand. It didn’t taste peppery per se, but closer to that than, say, cinnamon or other baking spices.

The blend was pretty low in acidity, which was nice. The body was medium at most.

My final verdict? Paulig Indonesia may not be a gourmet coffee blend, but it is better than many other Finnish grocery store coffees. However, if I had to get a solid medium dark Arabica from the supermarket, I would certainly opt for a Swedish blend, say Reko from Arvid Nordquist, or Jubileum or Kharisma from Löfbergs.