The Scrupulous Palate’s Guide
Whether your passions run to superior brewed coffee or exquisite espresso, your pursuit of specialty coffee puts you in valuable company. In the $40 billion domestic-coffee market, the specialty-coffee business claims $14 billion of that, with independent coffee stores leading the recent charge. Most telling are studies showing that the specialty-coffee consumer now outnumbers the wine-drinking population, according to Strand.

“Scarcity is driving the interest in the small coffee producers,” Strand explains, discussing the zeal with which java lovers snap up the latest, greatest small-batch productions. “Coffee is becoming the way wine was before wine became so popular.” To procure the absolute finest, here’s what belongs on your must list:

Know your beans. Sample enough single-origin coffee beans and, like wine connoisseurs, you’ll come to know growing regions and terroirs you prefer as you develop a stronger sense of the flavor profiles best suited to your palate. Whereas your penchant may run to Central and South America, you might occasionally find that African or Middle Eastern producers feed your need for a truly memorable cup. Belonging to a coffee club that curates the planet’s finest beans, following sustainable, fair-trade practices, sets you on the right path. A Citizen Bean membership provides you a pound of coffee each month. $199 per year,

And it can’t hurt to inquire at places specializing in posh. Colin Walsh, food and beverage director at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, trains his staff to keep an eye out for the guest who wants something special in coffee. “When we know who will appreciate it, we offer Sanani. It’s not only robust and flavorful and rich, but it has this great story that we like to tell our guests.”

One of the latest single-origin coffees to impress palates, Sanani comes from Yemen on the southern Arabian Peninsula. Originally shipped from the port of Mocha to other ports in the 16th century, the dark, strong coffee imparts the slightest chocolate hint on the nose. $24 for a 8.8-ounce box of whole beans,

Romance your roaster. Because the world’s best coffees come from single farms, your personal relationship with a roaster buying from such growers guarantees you the world’s finest finds. The insiders’ list of the most-reputable roasters typically includes PT’s Coffee Roasting Company, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, and Counter Culture Coffee. The name that comes up the most, however, is Stumptown Coffee Roasters, based in Portland, Oregon.

“Our reputation, without exception, hinges on sourcing the best coffee from the top producers in the world,” says Matt Lounsbury, Stumptown’s director of operations. “In some cases, we’re buying the entire farm and we often pay two, three, or five times what our competitors will pay.” Although Stumptown offers retail locations in Portland, Seattle, and New York, customers everywhere can mail-order via the company’s website.

Particular palates wanting to roast their own beans order from Sweet Maria’s, a coffee-roasting supplier that also buys the world’s most desirable lots at auction and ships green beans to individuals to roast at home.