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Each year, the Coffee Review team publishes an espresso report, for which we invite roasters to submit coffees on a specific theme. In typical years, we partner with an independent lab or roaster here in the San Francisco Bay Area and taste the espressos with at least one outside cupper and a barista or two dialing in and pulling shot after shot. But this year is certainly not typical. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to skip last year’s espresso report altogether, and while we’re slowly getting back to in-person tasting in our own lab (after more than a year of remote work), we aren’t quite ready to collaborate more broadly. So, my colleague Jason Sarley and I pulled up our bootstraps and methodically evaluated in our own lab the 58 submissions we received — 29 from U.S. roasters and 29 from roasters in Taiwan. (The even split is a complete coincidence.)

Classic Darker-Roasted Espresso Blends

This year’s theme? Classic darker-roasted espresso blends. We review 12 coffees here, six from U.S. roasters and six from Taiwan, ranging in score from 91-96. The coffees from Taiwan averaged higher scores (for reasons that are not altogether clear), but rather than approach the report as an East/West battle of the shots, we decided to dig deeper into cultural questions about blend traditions, roasting styles, and what constitutes a “classic dark roast” for individual roasters.

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