Sub-Zero Top 50. 9-1
Before we get started, thank you to everyone who has been paying attention and sending us messages about the Sub-Zero top 50.
We can certainly see how we can improve the rankings next year.
For now, we just wanted to share with you what is hot this year and who we think the best roasters and producers are.
Now, the coffee stuff:
- 9) Panama, Finca Janson Lot 117, Washed, Gesha, Genovese Coffee, Melbourne, Australia. Earl Grey, Apricot, Yellow Peach
I believe I have mentioned elsewhere in the Sub-Zero Top 50 that I think Finca Janson are producing some of the best coffee in Panama.
This coffee was just rude.
I don’t think I have had a Washed Gesha that had as much texture as this one.
The thick and juicy texture is followed by layers of complex flavours that make you really question what you’re drinking.
Earl grey was probably the most prominent flavour note followed by stewed apricots and then yellow peach.
This is really starting to get difficult because this coffee could realistically be the number one on this list, however so could the next eight.
- 8) Panama, Finca Janson lot 143, Anaerobic Natural, Gesha, Genovese Coffee, Melbourne, Australia. Purple Grape, Pineapple, Jasmine.
Speaking of the devil, here we are again back at Finca Janson, this time with one of their exquisite Anaerobic Natural lots.
Just because a coffee is processed using the Anaerobic method it doesn’t automatically mean that it tastes good. In fact, I have had many that I really haven’t enjoyed, pushed too far an Anaerobic lot can begin to taste like balsamic vinegar (which we don't want).
This lot was unbelievably complex and made me feel like I was in Willy Wonka’s factory concocting a secret recipe with the Oompa Loompa’s.
The first sip offered up those complex flavours reminiscent of purple fanta, followed by pineapple like acidity and finishing with the delicates jasmine floral characteristics.
Drinking this coffee made me feel triumphant, like Leonidis when he was about to kick that rude Persian down the pit in the 300, ‘THIS IS SPARTAAAA!!!!!”
This is the last lot from Finca Janson you will see on the top 50 for this year, who knows, maybe they top it next year?
- 7) Honduras, Santa Lucia (COE#1), Washed, Gesha, Seven Seeds, Melbourne, Australia. White Peach, Honey, Bouquet of Flowers.
This was the first coffee I ever purchased for Sub-Zero Coffee. On a work trip in Singapore last year I became frustrated that I couldn’t get the coffee I felt like on any given day. This frustrated me greatly and it had been for years, I thought there had to be a better way. Late one evening, after months of giving the idea away in my hotel room I registered the business name Sub-Zero Coffee.
I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but I knew I was going to have a frozen coffee pop up.
Just before boarding for the flight home, Seven Seeds released this Coffee and I bought it just before take-off (while I still had wifi).
It won the Cup of Excellence in the Honduras and scored a whopping ninety four points, and it wasn’t hard to understand why once you drank it.
White peach is one of the best flavour notes you can get in a Washed coffee I feel and the Santa Lucia Gesha had plenty of it, followed by a delicious honey flavour and an orgy of floral flavour characteristics, this coffee was insane!
I will always remember this coffee because it was the first I bought for this project, which is still evolving.
I only hope that next years harvest is equally magnificent!
- 6) Panama, Finca Deborah ‘Synchro,’, CM Washed ‘Amber,’ Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia. Blood Orange, Violets, Star Fruit.
Drink this coffee they said, it will be fun they said. It was unbelievable!
I am reliably informed that this lot (from a different harvest) was used by Hugh Kelly at the World Barista Championship in Seoul.
Hugh placed fifth in that competition which is no small feat. To make the final six means you’re kind of a big deal, and its coffee like this that gets you there.
Washed Carbonic Maceration I would argue partly exists to make espressos great. There is an element of texture added through this process, and when done right sweetness is dialled up to OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!
Blood orange really does hit you when you take a sip of this coffee, then the violets and finishing with some sticky yellow fruit.
We sold out of this coffee quicker than hot cakes after Sunday mass, must have tasted great!
- 5) Costa Rica, Pie San, Anaerobic Red Honey, Typica Mejorado, St Henri, Montreal, Canada. Blackberry, Strawberry, Star Anise.
I hadn’t had an Anaerobic Red Honey until I tried this coffee. It was indeed unbelievable.
It was used by Gabrielle Cote to win a regional competition in Canada last year.
Gabrielle Cote is the better half of Jack Simpson who roasted this coffee, he is a great friend of Sub-Zero. Jack rather adorably moved to Canada with Gabrielle (who is a native Canadian) and I have felt a bit lost ever since.
Luckily well roasted coffee knows no bounds, and this one makes you feel like you’re eating desert at a fine dining restaurant, but its espresso.
Why this coffee had such homogenous velvety texture I’m not sure. Perhaps it can be attributed to varietal (Typica Mejorado) or to the Anaerobic Red Honey process, either way it was awesome.
St Henri is a specialty roaster based in Montreal Canada, so if you’re considering buying their coffee, Sub-Zero can certainly vouch for them.
Come back Jack!!!
- 4) Bolivia, Finca Takesi, Washed, Peaberry Gesha, Maruyama Coffee, Tokyo, Japan. White Peach, Eucalyptus, Lilies.
This my friends, is the highest-ranking espresso in the Sub-Zero top fifty.
This coffee was roasted for filter I was told, but to me it always tasted superior as an espresso.
I have ranted about Bolivia enough in this series of coffee rants, this farm though is something special.
As far as I am aware, Finca Takesi is the highest farm in terms of altitude in the world at three thousand meters above sea level.
I want to send an agronomist out there to see what they’re putting in the soil, because whatever it is, it’s making their coffee more addictive than crack.
Again this coffee started with an undeniable flavour of white peach, and given espresso is much more concentrated than filter, it was a delight. Followed by a lime cordial flavour and then a mixture of intense florals, this coffee had me doing backflips.
And this isn’t the last coffee from this farm on this list.
- 3) Ethiopia, ‘Hectic Milk Blend,’ 80% CM Natural 20% CM Washed, Heirloom, Ona Coffee, Canberra, Australia. Blueberry, Milk Chocolate, Rum.
I have a saying, that some coffees are so tasty it’s like getting punched in the face by flavour. However, this coffee is sooooooo tasty it’s like Mike Tyson has pinned you down and is repeatedly bludgeoning you with flavour. And you’re just loving it.
This is the Hectic Milk Blend and it is the best milk-based coffee we have ever served.
It was used by Nicole Battefeld to compete in the German Barista Championship, if she didn’t score all sixes (the highest score in a barista competition) for the milk course, then big foot is real.
Made up of 80% Ethiopia Indigo 1211 (CM Natural) and 20% Ethiopia Diamond (CM Washed, on its own used to win the World Barista Championship in 2017) this coffee has serious pedigree.
When you take your first sip of this coffee you are greeted by a very potent blueberry flavour. Next you get the most refined chocolate note you will ever taste in milk, milk chocolate is a staple flavour note in milk-based coffee, but this was injected with steroids. Finally, there is a rum like flavour that makes you think you’re eating trifle.
We have had to limit ourselves, so we don’t drink all of this coffee. Our allowance is once a week and we have to share the basket. That day is usually the best day of the week.
We still have plenty of this coffee in store and it truly is a unique flavour experience, almost everyone tastes blueberries
- 2) Costa Rica, Copey De Dota, Anaerobic Natural, Gesha, Monogram Coffee, Calgary, Canada. Cinnamon, Strawberries, Pineapple
This coffee made waves at our first ever pop-up because it was the most pungent coffee I have ever encountered.
When it was being brewed you could smell it from ten meters away, no word of lie.
The aroma of cinnamon was permeating throughout the building and everyone walked in and asked what the smell was.
Hany Ezzat was working with us at the time and likened both the aroma and flavour to a cinnamon donut, which was very accurate.
That weekend staff and customers alike were walking around loudly saying “CINNAMON DONUT.” It was like the Catalina wine mixer scene from the movie ‘Step Brothers.’
This came oh so close to being the best coffee we have ever had at Sub-Zero, very, very close.
Anaerobic fermentations with Costa Rican coffee almost always produce a cinnamon flavour, just ask Mathieu Theis.
Unfortunately, this coffee is no more. It will forever live on in through the Sub-Zero folklore.
- 1) Bolivia, Finca Takesi, Washed, Gesha, Seven Seeds (Melbourne, Australia) & Coffee Collective (Copenhagen, Denmark). Seven Seeds (Melbourne, Australia) Filter:
- Coffee Collective Flavours: Lime Cordial, Jasmine, Honey
- Seven Seeds Flavours: Jasmine, Bergamot, Apricot, Peach. Coffee Collective:
The controversy! A tie! A scandal!
We have a winner(s)!
Well not really, both of these coffees were unbelievable. So good in fact we could not put one on top of the other.
Seven Seeds and Coffee Collective are both some of the best roasters for filter coffee in the world.
Finca Takesi is producing some of the most exquisite coffee in the world and there is consistency between harvest as well.
The Coffee Collective lot was from the 2019 Harvest and had a very prominent lime cordial note that really was unshakable.
The Seven Seeds lot demonstrated the apex of washed Gesha flavours, look at those flavour notes!!!!
In every other coffee on this list you could find one element of the coffee where it was lacking in some department but really smashed it out of the park in others. Coffee is after all very ambiguous.
Both of these Takesi lots by both of these roasters were faultless. We couldn’t find anything in either of them where it might have been lacking. They were the most balanced coffees we have served since Sub-Zero was born.
On the coffee roasting colour spectrum both of these coffees sit comfortably on the light side. To cater for this we jacked up the temperature to boiling (something we don’t often do with our brewing style) and it extracted everything. Perhaps this lighter style is the secret to roasting washed Gesha?
We still have some of the Takesi Gesha roasted by Seven Seeds in store, and we’re charging a heinous amount of money for it.
Congrats to Coffee Collective, Seven Seeds and the team at Finca Takesi for all of your hard work. All of your craftsmanship was very much appreciated by us and all of our customers. Please don't change!