95-point beans

West Bean and Bird Rock finish 2014 with some big hits.

Big new roaster for a big new year at Bird Rock
  • Big new roaster for a big new year at Bird Rock

Capping a year of tremendous growth, 2014 finished strong for purveyors of specialty coffee in San Diego. Among the best-of lists making the rounds this month is the Top 30 Coffees of 2014, compiled by CoffeeReview.com, a coffee industry website boasting one million unique coffee obsessed visitors from 223 countries. The site issues wine-like coffee ratings based on a 100-point scale, offering exhaustive and elaborate tasting notes describing a coffee’s flavor, acidity, and mouthfeel.

Two San Diego roasters made the top 30 this year. The West Bean clocked in at number 20 with a Kenya Nyeri Giakanja bean awarded 95 points. The notes describe the medium roast as “richly and deeply pungent” with notes of blood orange, honey, and roasted cacao and a “plush, buoyant mouthfeel.” A planned Broadway location has yet to open, but the 95-point beans may be ordered from the West Bean web store.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

5627 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters earned two spots on the list, starting at number 10 with a Guji Zone bean from Ethiopia’s heralded Sidama province. The medium-light roast, which also garnered a 95 rating, is described as delivering jasmine, chocolate, and brandy with a “sweeter and deeper-toned” profile resulting from dry-processed beans. This means the coffee beans (also called seeds) were dried while still inside the coffee cherry rather than the more conventional wet-process which skins, pulps, and ferments the fruit before washing, and then drying the beans in the sun.

Even more impressive was the rank given Bird Rock’s 96-point, wet-hulled Indonesian bean, Sumatra Ulos Batak. Claiming the number 2 spot overall, this medium roast is said to possess notes of “Pungent fruit…moist pipe tobacco and sweet, freshly turned clay.” The wet-hull method refers to removal of the coffee seed’s protective outer “parchment,” allowing wet-processed beans to dry quickly despite the region’s humid climate, which contributes to their unusual complexity.

While the limited batches of these beans have long since sold out, a new lot of the Sumatran Batak coffee is expected for 2015, and a current Ethiopian selection called Boke Konga resembles the Guji Zone in character. Owner Chuck Patton plans to further expand Bird Rock’s unique direct trade selection with a trip to Uganda, tentatively scheduled for February.

These feathers in Bird Rock’s cap come just as the vaunted micro-roaster takes strides to become less micro. It just moved primary roasting operations into a new location at 1270 Morena Boulevard, upgrading from a 15kg-capacity Giesen to a 35-kilo Loring roaster.

The increased production will help the growing company meet rising demands of added wholesale accounts as well as a recently opened retail shop in Little Italy. Another Bird Rock coffee counter will open at the roaster on Morena in early 2015, and Patton says he’s “actively looking for new locations” for further retail expansion in what promises to be an even bigger year for local coffee buffs.

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