Sub-Zero Top 50, 39-30
- 39) Ethiopia, Raro Boda, Natural, Heirloom, Momos Coffee, Busan, South Korea. Strawberry, Passionfruit, Yoghurt
Have you ever been attracted to your local barista, but they give you nothing? No matter how many suggestive comments you give them over the bar, they just display zero interest at all? Well I’m here to help.
All you need to do is gaze deep into the depths of their eyes until you reach that warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy, perhaps stroke their ego a little and tell them they’re doing a great job and deserve a pay rise. This creates an atmosphere whereby this non-compliant being is ready to listen. For the finishing blow, lean forward ever so slowly and whisper into their ear: ‘I just bought some Natural Ethiopian filter roast.’ The lure of a Natural Ethiopian will be too great, and they will submit to you easier than Anakin Skywalker did to Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars III (the greatest Star Wars in my opinion).
Natural Ethiopians to Baristas are like honey to Winnie the Pooh. This coffee roasted by Momos Coffee in Busan embodies everything we in the barista vocation like, sweetness and texture dominated by fruity flavours. We sold out of this coffee very quickly when we had it, and you only need to read the above ramble to understand why.
- 38) Costa Rica, Volcan Azul, Red Honey, Gesha, Newav Coffee, Melbourne, Australia
Blood Orange, Hibiscus, Raspberry
This is another coffee farm that has significant pedigree. Some of the best coffees I have ever had have come from Volcan Azul.
To me this coffee tastes even sweeter knowing the story behind the young fella roasting it.
For as long as I have known Gabrel Tan, he has been working 6-7 days a week making coffee and trying to establish his own roasting brand, Newav Coffee. Gabrel is 21 and moved here from his native Malaysia a few years ago. He can make coffee as well as anyone in this country and is progressing in his knowledge of the dark arts (roasting coffee).
Gabrel roasts at Criteria Coffee, a roasting space created by three-time Australian Barista Champion Craig Simon. In Australia there is no shortage of excellent coffee roasters, though I feel some of the most passionate and talented people roasting coffee don’t get recognition they deserve, on account of them lacking brand power as a new business.
Gabrel moved here from Malaysia and continues to hustle during COVID. When I see how hard he works and remember how old he is I can’t help but be impressed. His coffee is pretty bonkers too, so perhaps buy some one day soon? Gabrel is roasting quality coffee and is someone I hope has all the success in the world. I wish I was as talented as he is at that age.
- 37) Blend, ‘Rose and Strawberry,’ CM Natural & CM Washed, Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia.
Rose, Strawberry, Chocolate Truffle.
Last year Ona Coffee collaborated with a flower festival that was held in Canberra. As I understand it, the organiser of this festival engaged Ona Coffee to see if they could collaborate in some way and so the ‘Flavours of Spring’ series of coffee was born. The flavours of spring all adhered to a formula whereby each of the three blends (one for filter, one for espresso and one for filter) all had a flavour component of fruit and floral characteristics.
The Rose and Strawberry blend was roasted for filter and much to my amazement, It tasted like roses and strawberries!
The blend featured Gesha from Panama and Carbonic Maceration lots from Ethiopia, so no surprises it tasted great.
The series was such a hit that it became a seasonal thing, Ona have since released more series that are similar, to which we have been big beneficiaries.
What were the other coffees in the Flavour of Spring series? Perhaps you will see them further up!
- 36) Honduras, Los Yoyos 2017 Harvest, Washed, Paraneima, Passenger Coffee, Lancaster (Pennsylvania), USA.
Lemon Curd, Eucalyptus, Pine Needles.
In February I got an email from Passenger Coffee based in America, outlining their extensive range of vintage coffees. It turns out that Passenger were ahead of the times back in 2017 and froze the green coffee (unroasted coffee) for future use, and we are all better off for it.
This coffee from Los Yoyos in the Honduras struck me because it was so refreshing. Some of you might see the flavour notes listed above and think I’m crazy (because I am), however this coffee really was as described above.
Paraneima is also fast becoming one of my favourite varietals. I haven’t heard of it being grown outside of the Honduras, but hopefully soon it becomes more widely embraced. This coffee was wonderfully complex, and I give extra marks to Passenger for having the forward thinking to freeze it.
As we are learning at Sub-Zero, freezing coffee is a big investment where you don’t see a return for a long time. To freeze a substantial amount of coffee does hurt the cash flow of your business, so to be one of the O.G’s would have taken some investment and risk on Passenger’s part.
Huge props to these guys, keep doing what you’re doing.
- 35) China, Tian Yu (Yunnan), Natural, Catimor, Four Kilo Fish, Melbourne, Australia.
Red wine, Oolong, Mixed Berries, Cloves.
It would seem that Criteria Coffee is becoming a little incubator for talented coffee roasters. Once upon a time I did a coffee roasting course at Criteria, and alongside me were the owners of a small coffee shop in Melbourne called Four Kilo Fish.
They almost entirely serve coffee that has been sourced from Yunnan, an agricultural region in the south west of China.
I had tried tea from Yunnan, and it wasn’t until I went to Four Kilo Fish that I got to try its coffee. I am delighted to confirm to you all that it is delicious and would encourage you to buy some. This particular coffee reminded me of mulled wine in wintertime.
Drinking coffee from underdog countries is something I always try to do because sometimes you make the most delicious discoveries.
- 34) Ethiopia, Kochere 1211 (filter), CM Natural, Heirloom, Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia
Purple Grape, Pineapple, Dark Chocolate.
I felt a bit nasty putting this here. Anyone who has tried this coffee could object to this placing, but I would hope this will reaffirm to you just how great all of the coffee on this list is. This coffee was roasted for filter and I appreciated it for its funky goodness.
If you are a coffee maniac like me and you took a friend to a frozen coffee bar to try something new, I would suggest a coffee like this. The flavours are punching you in the face they’re so obvious. You aren’t looking for flavours in a coffee like this, they’re coming to you.
The great thing about this coffee is that it is elite quality, and very affordable. If I recall correctly, this coffee had retail value about $21 AUD yet tastes just as good as some Anaerobic lots coming from Panama (which often has a much higher price tag). Some of Ona’s staff even used it in competition and won (hola Devin Loong).
There may or may not be another coffee on this list that has some of this coffee as a component, it’s just much higher up!
- 33) Kenya, Gatomboya, Washed, SL28, April Coffee, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Blueberries, Vanilla, Cranberry
I had always wanted to try some April Coffee, and last year fulfilled that wish at our first popup.
A few years ago I had a colleague named Glenn Thomas. Whenever I was having a bad day he would say I needed a Kenyan espresso to fix my woes, and he was right.
Being able to have Kenyan coffee whenever I wanted it was one of the main factors in me starting Sub-Zero Coffee, seasonality be damned!
This coffee was just divine. Textural, unmistakable flavours and can be enjoyed at any time of day. A banger some would say.
- 32) Colombia, La Pradera, Washed, Gesha, Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia
Pear, Brown Sugar, Floral
This coffee being in this position reminds me just how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing.
Serving all of this amazing coffee never gets old, in fact Todd Tye and I enjoy it more and more every day.
A well roasted Colombian Gesha makes me purr like a Walrus, which is a good thing (borrowed metaphor from Family Guy).
This coffee was very affordable and is in my opinion a competition standard coffee.
- 31) Guatemala, El Socorro, Washed, Gesha, Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia.
Peach, Green Tea, Floral.
You’re probably noticing we have a healthy amount of coffee from Ona.
For starters, they were one of our biggest supporters when we started this concept and opened up their offering for us, so a big shout out to them.
Guatemala in my opinion, is an underrated coffee origin. There are some extremely complex coffees coming from Guatemala that aren’t getting as much recognition as is deserved.
Project Origin only recently began to source coffee from Guatemala, and we will be keeping an eye on what is to come.
I was seriously impressed when I tried this coffee, and I have high expectations of harvests to come. Who knows, maybe we will see some Guatemalan CM lots in the future? I sure hope so.
- 30) Ethiopia, Messina Village 0419 ‘Diamond,’ CM Washed, Heirloom, Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia.
Peach, Jasmine, Yellow Plum
How can we place a coffee that was used to win the World Barista Championship (WBC) at number 30? I reiterate, there are some mind-boggling coffees to come on this list.
In 2018 Agnieska Rojewska became the first female World Barista Champion using this coffee, it was a different harvest, but I am reliably informed it was this same lot.
We served this coffee as both an espresso and filter. The filter we still have some of, but the espresso was gone very quickly.
When you drink this coffee you quickly realise how it is uniquely positioned to tick the boxes on the score sheet. Clean, full of obvious flavour and unmatched texture.
Sam Corra (who has now roasted coffee for two WBC winners) is an absolute savage. His roasting for espresso is everything I like, and judges too.