2021 is now over and what a year it has been. Of all the amazing things that happened to me in 2021, one of the highlights has been the range of specialty coffees I have had. While my journey with specialty coffee began in 2019 when I learnt coffee cupping and was introduced to this world, it was in the later part of 2020 when I began taking it a lot more seriously. The pandemic brought a lot of coffee estates, roasters, and brewers online (read: Instagram). The more I discovered, the more new coffees I tried, the more I learnt. That’s when I began maintaining a coffee diary – an Excel sheet containing all possible information I could find about the coffee. With time, I kept adding columns as I realized there were more parameters I could record. What initially began as just a record of the coffee, the estate, the roaster, the roast, and the tasting notes is now a very long Excel sheet tracking varietals, processes, and a lot more. 2021 turned out to be an even bigger year for me, I tried more specialty coffees than I had ever before. You know how people buy bags, shoes, clothes, books, etc. on an impulse? Well, I tend to do that a lot with specialty coffees. And yet, just today, I missed buying a super delicious coffee, it was sold out before I could place my order! Well, destiny, huh!
So, now that I have this gigantic Excel sheet with so much data, I realized I could make some charts and discover what happened during the year – what I bought, what I liked, maybe discover some patterns. That’s what this blog post is going to be all about.
Coffees of 2021
In 2021, I tried a whopping 68 different specialty coffees from different roasters and estates. Of these, three were grown outside India, while all the remaining 64 were all Indian coffees. My coffee buying got particularly crazy in July and September when I bought 16 and 10 coffee bags (250g) each respectively. Well, that’s not particularly a useful piece of information except I know what retail therapy I was indulging in and when. Moving on.
Coffee Estates of 2021
In 2021, I had 13 coffees from Balanoor Plantations, followed closely by MSP Coffee from where I tried 9 coffees, and 5 from Harley Estate. That takes up about one-third of the 67 coffees I had. No wonder, some of the most memorable coffees I had in 2021 also came from these three estates. Top of my mind would be the Red Bourbon, Chandragiri, BBTC, and M.S. Hybrid from Balanoor, Gowri Anaerobic Washed, Vivaldi, and the SCA 85+ series from MSP Coffee, and the Rum aged, Harley Pichia, and the Whiskey Fermented Yellow Honey from Harley Estate. I absolutely cannot forget the amazing Riverdale Estate and the Howdia Estate coffees, they are absolutely unforgettable. Coffees from Kalledevarapura have also been super delicious. It is sure good to know the diverse range of estates I got to know about in 2021 and so many different coffees I got to try from these places.
Coffee Roasters of 2021
I tried 12 coffees from Blue Tokai, 7 from Naivo Coffee, 6 from Ikkis Coffee. Blue Tokai has been a part of my specialty coffee journey every year. Some of the best coffees I tried this year came from Blue Tokai. Top of my mind would be the Riverdale N72, the grape fermentation producer series from Riverdale, the Howdia Estate, the organic rosewood blend, M.S. Organic, and Harley Pichia. I have a whole rainbow of coffees from Naivo coffee. Of all of them the Balanoor Vontekad, Gowri Anaerobic Naturals, Harley Red Honey, and Biccode Washed Catimor have been great for me. The rum aged coffee from Classic Coffee was quite memorable. The yeast anaerobic natural maceration from Beanrove had me so hooked to it, that I absolutely had to get another bag of it. I am definitely grateful I got to try that one. The Balanoor BBTC from Alchemist was a unique lemony coffee that I clearly remember and love. While I bought Kamukta from Kali Coffee only because it was called ‘Kamukta’ which is definitely one of my ‘words’, but I ended up liking Mandala so much that I went through the bag way quicker than the other three. Chandragiri and Golden Honey from Half Light were stand-out coffees that were very good too. The Pruneio Paradise and Jammy Java from Ikkis Coffee were another two amazing coffees I tried this year. The Red Bourbon, the Venkids Valley Yellow Honey, and the M.S. Hybrid from Bloom Coffee Roasters has been absolutely unforgettable. Besides these, I just cannot get enough of the Whiskey Fermented Yellow Honey from El Bueno, neither can my colleagues in office who catch a whiff of the aroma when I have this one in office. They don’t ask for a sip, thankfully, but it sure is quite the talk for its aroma. The SCA 85+ series from Grey Soul is also some good coffee I tried this year. Mahesh at the Natural Farmer had been very kind to share some of anaerobic washed sarchimor and that has been a super delight to have as well.
Coffee Roasts of 2021
Now this is one graph that sure surprised me. Considering how much of a sucker I am for the lighter roasts, the gap between the number of medium roasts and the number of light roasts I tried in 2021 is quite noticeable – 14 light roasts, 26 medium roasts, and 11 medium light roasts. 2021 is also the year that I began using a French Press regularly and began doing pour overs. I had got myself a French Press in late November 2020. The Pour over set was a gift from a very dear friend in July 2021. I got myself a manual Timemore C2 grinder in June 2021.These two brewing methods have given me a lot of ground to play in. Interestingly, I also got to notice first hand in 2021 that there are no staunch defining lines between the roasts. It is possible that one roaster’s medium could be another roaster’s medium light or medium dark. It is not an error, but it is likely a personal judgement call, I guess. As I write this, I remember when I was beginning my journey in specialty coffee, I had barely been able to understand the main types of roasts – light, medium, dark; when I got blasted with more names – cinnamon, New England, city, city plus, french, vienna, and so many more which used to get me so confused. 2021 was a year that no such confusions happened and I felt a lot more confident about describing, choosing, and understanding what I liked & what I didn’t.
Coffee Processes of 2021
Of all the coffees I tried in 2021, 21 were washed, 12 were naturals, and 7 were yellow honeys. This year I also got to discover anaerobic fermented and yeast fermented coffees. I especially love coffees with both these processes for their complex flavors. In 2021, I finally got around to trying the monsooned coffee and it isn’t something that appealed as much to me. I might still give it one more try in 2022 and see how it goes. Quite an interesting range of coffees in 2021, isn’t it?
Coffee Varietals of 2021
I began tracking the coffee varietals and learning more about them only mid-2021. I went back and tried to record as many varietals I could of the coffees I had bought before I began tracking. A lot of the coffees I had were mixes of different varietals. The most common mixes were, of course, SLN 795 and SLN 9. CxR is a Robusta varietal. The Kent, M.S. Hybrid, Red Bourbon, Chandragiri, BBTC, and Ethiopian Heirloom have become my favorite unique varietals apart from the usual SLN 795, SLN 9. I had a SLN 6 from Ikkis Coffee and Balanoor Plantations – the Ajira Addiction which is currently Ikkis Coffee’s Coffee of the Month (as in January 2021), which was really good too. In 2021, I tried the Specialty Excelsa variety of coffee for the very first time – grown at the Mooleh Maney Estate of the South India Coffee Company, roasted by Kapi Kottai. 2021 was also the year when I first tried the 100% specialty Robusta from Kerehaklu, the CxR variety and every time I have brewed that, it has had me wired up for a long, long time. With that, I have now tried all the four major varieties of coffee – Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica. I tried the Specialty Anokhi Liberica from Kerehaklu, roasted by Subko Coffee last year. The sweetness of the Red Bourbon has been unforgettable. The nutty, chocolatey, berrylicious M.S. Hybrid, a unique varietal exclusive to the Balanoor Plantations is fresh on my mind. The Ethiopian Heirlooms and Kent have been super delicious. I’ve had Chandragiri from different farms and each time it has been delicious. I don’t think there is any varietal that I did not like, some just stood out. The Sarchimor is another varietal I tried for the first time in 2021 and really liked. There is a still long way to go for me here. But one thing I definitely do now is take the beans out of the bag onto a tray and observe how the beans are – their shape, length, etc. I also compare them with the other beans I have at home. That has helped me a lot in understanding different varietals and how they appear physically.
The Banjaran Foodie Coffees I recommend List of 2021
The year is over, and making this list is so difficult. But well, let’s give it a shot. A disclaimer – this is my personal opinion based on my taste, my preferences, and my choices. It is not an absolute list. There are sure a lot of other mind-blowing coffees that I haven’t tried. Not everyone would agree with it, which is completely ok. Everybody likes their coffee a certain way, which would play a role in the coffees they like and the ones they don’t. This one, is the Banjaran Foodie’s Coffee Recommendation List from what I have tried in the past year:
- Red Bourbon by Balanoor Plantations & Bloom Coffee Roasters
- Riverdale N72 by Riverdale Estate & Blue Tokai
- Howdia Estate by Howdia Estate & Blue Tokai
- Yeast Anaerobic Naturals by Kalledevarapura Estate & Beanrove
- M. S. Hybrid Washed by Balanoor Plantations & Bloom Coffee Roasters
- Whiskey Fermented Yellow Honey by El Bueno & Harley Estate
- Producer Series Grape Fermentation by Riverdale Estate & Blue Tokai
- Producer Series Yeast Anaerobic by Ratnagiri Estate & Blue Tokai
- Balanoor Washed BBTC by Balanoor Plantations & Alchemist Coffee
- Harley Pichia by Harley Estate & Blue Tokai
- SCA 85+ series by MSP Coffee & Grey Soul Coffee Roasters
- Chandragiri by Balanoor Plantations & Half Light Coffee
- Gowri Anaerobic Naturals by MSP Coffee & Naivo Coffee
- M. S. Organic by Balanoor Plantations & Blue Tokai
- Kokoro Anniversary Blend by Kalledevarapura Estate & Beanrove
Writing this post brought back all the amazing coffee memories I have had in 2021. It was definitely one of my goals to visit a coffee estate in 2021, but couldn’t achieve that. Well, 2022 is here and I am setting myself the same goal again. I have a ton of questions to ask, lots to see and learn. So, in 2021, I want to visit a coffee estate and a coffee roastery. There are new processes and new coffees I want to try. I am super pumped for 2022, specialty coffee-wise. After all, life is too short to drink bad coffee, right?