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What we look for in great coffees

We take a lot of pride in what we’re building here at Angels' Cup. Subscribers to our coffee tasting flights and the people who use our app are the top 0.1% of coffee drinkers. But the roasters we feature are also in the top 0.1%. So how do we pick which coffees to ship when there are so many amazing options out there? For starters we only select 100% arabica, single-origin coffees (no blends). While we do look for flavors in our coffee (aka complexity), we do not ship flavored coffees (like hazelnut). Here are the other key things we look for:

1. Maximum sweetness. Coffee can be naturally sweet, and sweetness is always a good thing. We optimize for maximum sweetness and avoid starchy coffees.

2. Maximum complexity. As we sip a coffee, we search first for breadth and and depth of complexity. By breadth, we look for coffees that hit on different broad categories, such as fruit, floral, dessert, nuts, and spices. We then look for depth, for example does a fruity coffee just have blueberry, or does it also have apple, peach, citrus, cherry, raisin, etc.

3. Clearly identifiable flavors. This is probably unique to Angels' Cup. Because our subscribers are using the app to record notes, we really want people to pick up on the same flavor notes. So we have a strong preference for coffees that have very clearly identifiable flavors. For example, a nondescript "fruity" coffee wouldn't be as appealing to us as a coffee that clearly tastes like McIntosh apples and kiwi.

4. Light to medium roast, never dark. The more a coffee is roasted, the more all coffees (regardless of origin and quality) converge on that dark roasted flavor profile. If you like dark coffees, that's a totally valid preference and we respect that. But we don't ship dark roasts because a) they're easy to find in most grocery stores and b) they don't taste different enough to be interesting in a blind tasting. That being said, we find that most roasters save their best coffees for lighter roasts where the quality of the beans will really shine through.

5. Balanced acidity. This is really the hard part of our job. While darker roasted coffees tend to be more bitter, lighter roasted coffees tend to be more sour. When people don't like light coffees, it's almost always because they're too sour. However, that sourness is almost always what gives exceptional coffees their interesting flavors, especially fruitiness. As a result, we find that some roasters actually optimize for maximum sourness in their coffees because it's highly correlated with quality. Our philosophy is a bit different. As a preference, we enjoy and appreciate acidity and sourness, BUT we only tolerate it to the extent it brings with it interesting fruit flavors and complexity. If a coffee is just plain sour, we don't ship it. We also demand that when the acidity is very strong that it's balanced with sweetness and other flavors. We think of acidity as the treble, dessert flavors and the bass, and then nut and spice flavors as the mid tones. Balance in a coffee is important to the overall enjoyment.

6. Origin variety. The final thing we look for is origin variety. We ship a lot of coffees from Ethiopia and Colombia, a bunch from Kenya, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. We find these regions most consistently satisfy the criteria above. But we're always looking to expand our horizons, and will give a slight bump to unusual origins.