As the harvest of this extraordinary coffee is recovering from last year weather disaster and starting to make its way to Starbucks as a special limited edition we are proud to re-publish our review from three years ago of the truly unique and wonderful beans from SpillingTheBeans’ rare coffee selection of St Helena.
Winner of SpillingTheBeans’ personal choice as Coffee Of The Year in 2013, we have just learned that the new 2014-15 crop from St Helena is DRASTICALLY down this year, with only some 150 kilograms available for the most fortunate of coffee lovers. Don’t miss your chance and opportunity for trying this EXTRAORDINARY coffee, which won our coffee of the year recognition thanks to the uniqueness of these beans, the incredible effort that has gone into getting this coffee to the market, and for its outstanding flavor profile!
“The only good thing about St Helena is the coffee.” –Napoleon Bonaparte
A Bourbon variety that originated from Ethiopia and which is believed to have been introduced to St Helana from Yemen as early as 1732, the coffee from St Helena was made famous after Napoleon Bonaparte in his late years of exile, living in almost complete isolation, proclaimed: “The only good thing about St Helena is the coffee.”
With so many extraordinary coffees in the world and so many rare islands and unique varieties, what makes for the truly rare and unique coffees to the utmost of coffee lovers?
This Sunday’s Coffee of The Day is a real special treat among treats, from the uniquely geographically located and extreme remote island of St Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. SpillingTheBeans can hardly contain the excitement to be able to share SUCH a rare coffee with you, thanks to the courtesy of one of our favorite coffee companies in the world, the Sea Island Coffees in London, the U.K., which was generous enough to share a sample with us.
This blend is imported by Sea Island Coffee’s partners the St Helena Coffee Company and originates from the 720 meters-altitude Napoleon Valley Estate, but because of the multiple microclimates for such islands and the latitude, the altitude here is equivalent to that of coffee grown at between 1000 and 1200 meters above sea level in other producing countries.
The English East India Company’s records indicate that coffee was introduced to the island between 1732 and 1733 from Yemen, with the very first seeds brought in from the Red Sea port of Mocha aboard the fully-laden East India Company’s ship Houghton.
And it’s not for nothing that Sea Island Coffee’s St Helena coffee won not less than 2 Gold Start Awards for excellence in flavor by the UK’s Guild of Fine Food earlier this year.
“St. Helena cups exactly where it is situated geographically, in between Africa and the New World. There are definite hints of its Yemeni origins, but with a new world brightness and cleanliness. Overall it is a full and complex coffee with amazing blends of fruit chocolate and spices,” says Sea Island Coffee, adding the medium-roast beans have a fragrant bouquet with “pleasant floral fruity hints of citrus and caramel” and a balanced medium body.
At SpillingTheBeans we actually think this is too modest a review, because in our humble personal appraisal, it is stunning to find an island coffee with so many flavor attributes. These beans provide for a complex cup with lots of flavor characteristics, the kind of coffee that makes you stop up after the first zip to take a look at the cup and say out loud “WHAAAAaaaat?” as you ponder in wonderful amazement over where this coffee comes from – all the reasons for being a dedicated coffee lover in the first place:)
Besides the complexity, Sea Island’s St Helena coffee has a mild to medium body, and – surprisingly given the low altitude found in most island coffees – a good level and very balanced acidity that leaves the final cup flavor with a refined and elegant after taste of citrus and wine notes mixed in with the softness of chocolate.
There is no official statistics of how much coffee today is produced at St Helena but it would hardly be more than a couple of containers by the most optimistic calculations and estimates. Furthermore, this is an island SO remote that it can only be reached by ship as there are no regular flights to the island because an airport has yet to build. One of the closest ports of embarkation is along the coast of South Africa and takes 3 to 4 nights at sea to reach, according to cruise reports.
Spilling The Beans dream about one day being able to visit this mythical island… but until that day arrives, please check out more about this extraordinary coffee at Sea Island Coffee’s home page – which in any case should be considered a must-see for coffee lovers!
We also highly recommend checking out the St Helena Coffee Company which has a beautiful photo album with stunning pictures from Napoleon’s island!
As always, we welcome your comments!