“Strong coffee,” Napoleon once proclaimed, “much strong coffee, is what awakens me. It gives me warmth, waking, an unusual force and a pain that is not without very great pleasure.”
We’re inclined to agree with the Frenchman — who apparently was a coffee connoisseur himself and whose favourite beans feature on this very list. But, while it seems strange to imagine the pint-sized emperor sipping from his morning mug, coffee — in its many dry-roasted, full-bodied permutations — has actually been keeping the world alert and energised since the 15th century.
So, with centuries of caffeine-fuelled time to experiment, explore and discover the best beans, we’re today better placed than ever to round up the five finest coffees in the world — not to mention the contraptions to brew them in…
Do your Jamaican Blue Mountain justice with a beautiful espresso maker
Is there a more exotic-sounding cup of coffee than Jamaican Blue Mountain? The name alone rolls off the tongue, smoother than your first cup of the day. There’s good reason for that, too. Grown in the eponymous colourful hills, Blue Mountain coffee was first cultivated in 1728 — and has been fine-tuned and tempered ever since.
It’s a coffee noted for its mild flavour and distinct lack of bitterness, and today is one of the most sought-after strains of beans in the world. Like Champagne or Stilton, it’s a product restricted by geography, so all Jamaican Blue Mountain must be sourced from the hallowed slopes themselves. But, with 80 per cent of all beans produced sold to Japan, it can be hard to find.
Which is why, once you’ve gone through the rigmarole of sourcing genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain beans, you should do them justice. From Italy, we’ve found two espresso machine brands that bring the technical know-how and fierce European passion needed for good coffee together, La Pavoni and Elektra. It’s the ideal international marriage — and one that comes together to create one of the smoothest cups you’ll ever sip.
Elektra Belle Epoque Q!
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
La Pavoni Esperto Edotto
Honour the heritage of Saint Helena coffee by brewing it manually
Jamaican Blue Mountain above and Kopi Luwak below may be better-known around the world by those of us uneducated in the dry-roasted black art of coffee, but Saint Helena coffee is widely-regarded by real aficionados as the finest bean variety in the world.
Why? The floral bouquet and pronounced acidic fruitiness, primarily. Our favourite type of Saint Helena beans are Peaberry, a naturally occurring mutation of the normal coffee cherry that affords smaller, sweeter and more robustly flavoured beans. No wonder Napoleon, who was exiled on Saint Helena until his death, said that ‘the only good thing about [the island] is the coffee!’
So, to honour the heritage of this coffee, and bring out the clean, bright beautiful notes of honey and stone fruits, we’d suggest going manual with your brewing. A good pour-over coffee stand will create the perfect drip, and allow all those subtle flavours to come through. Napoleon wasn’t plugging in an espresso machine, after all…
bi.du.haev Wooden Pour-Over Stand
Bamboo Hedge Estate Coffee
Toast Living H.A.N.D Coffee Dripper Set
Don’t complicate the serve of your Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee
There is a variety of coffee, Geisha, that is every bit as delicate, exotic and rarified as its namesakes. Thought to have originated in a village of the same name in Ethiopia, it has been grown most successfully in the nations of Costa Rica and Panama — and that’s exactly where this Hacienda La Esmeralda is sourced from.
Cool, high mountain weather and recurrent mists slow the ripening of the coffee cherries, which leads to denser and more intense flavours. There really is a lot going on with these beans — from extremely complex aromatics and acidity, to flavours including jasmine and stone fruits. And this has led to these award-winning beans achieving record-breaking prices ($601 per pound) at auction.
For such a complex coffee, you don’t want a complicated machine. Just keep it simple. Thankfully, Smeg and De’Longhi’s espresso machine offerings boast a solid 15 bar of professional pressure, easy-to-use levers and drip systems — to ensure your world-class coffee enjoys the purest serve.
Smeg Espresso Machine
Hacienda La Esmeralda Coffee
De’Longhi Dedica Coffee Machine
Brew the strongest cup of Kopi Luwak possible with a Moka pot
For those of you who know what Kopi Luwak is, read on. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, brace yourself. This Indonesian variety of beans, a treasure of nature, is a rare luxury that takes on its bold, distinctive flavour after being partially digested by the Asian palm civet.
That’s right, this coffee — one of the most expensive in the world, no less — gets its full, rounded flavour from the digestive system of a wild animal. But quite the flavour it is, with nutty notes of caramel and chocolate coming through to create a cup more than worthy of its hefty price tag.
To brew this best of coffees, however, we’d go for a method that ensures the strongest and most concentrated cup; the Moka pot. With the pressure and raw heat involved in creating your espresso this way, the flavours will be naturally heated and wrung for every ounce of piquancy they have.
Tom Dixon Coffee Maker
Wild Kopi Luwak Coffee
Bialetti Moka Express
Squeeze every refined flavour note out of Wild Jacu Bird coffee
If the method of collecting Kopi Luwak coffee put you off your morning cup, you’d better click away now. For, on the Camocim Estate in Brazil, one of the smallest coffee plantations in the country is home to the Jacu bird, which inhabits the forest and feasts on the very ripest coffee cherries it can find.
Like the Luwak, the birds’ droppings are then collected and dried, cleaned and turned into a sweet, full-bodied coffee more acidic than others typically found in this corner of the world. And, because of the Jacu bird’s vegetarian diet, they only choose the ripest, most flavourful berries to eat in the first place — meaning you’ll only pour the very best, too.
So, to eke every last flavourful drop from these beans, invest in the highest pressure coffee machine you can find. That way, you’ll have the nuttiest, most nuanced cup possible — and one hell of a crema to boot.
Now you know how to brew a mean cup, here are 10 more skills to turn you into a Michelin-starred man…