Royal New York

RNY’s 2023: Best Coffee, Tea, People & Places

With 2023 coming to an end, Team RNY wants to express how grateful we are for every experience and opportunity we’ve had this past year. Our traders have traveled to origin and worked with some amazing people along the way. They’ve also tasted thousands of coffees and teas! To bring a fantastic year to a close, we’ve asked our traders to share some highlights from 2023. Here are some of the places they visited, people they’ve worked with, and 2023’s best coffee and tea they cupped!

Places We Visited

Evan Kluender: Mexico

evan best coffee 2023

This year, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to visit old friends and check out potential coffees from new farms. A farm new to us was Finca Nuevo Mexico. Owned and operated by Ricardo Ibarra and his sons, this is a farm, dry mill, wet mill, and exporter rolled into one!

I think what always amazes me most at origin is how creatively engineered everything is, from the infrastructure to farm equipment. A few years ago, Finca Nuevo Mexico recognized that at their altitude, their coffee could only become so good by solely improving their farming practices. Therefore, they opted to get creative by additionally improving their drying and processing methods. In fact, they’ve built the most unique wet mill I’ve ever seen! First, cherries are floated through a veritable Rube Goldberg machine of river-fed water lines and augurs. Then, the cherries travel through fermentation tanks. Lastly, they make their way to de-pulpers, washers, and are eventually delivered directly from the mill itself.

Finca Nuevo Mexico’s use of extended fermentation and “semi-washing” leads to a super flavorful and complex cup profile. Moreover, the entire operation is built around the concept of efficiency. On top of the already impressive wet mill, the farm is actually powered by a single hydroelectric generator positioned in the same river that feeds their wet mill.

Overall, these guys are a great example of how a vertically integrated farm can operate to improve both the quality and ethics of coffee production. They’ve made themselves a popular farm for seasonal cherry pickers to work at by providing a wide range of amenities. Finca Nuevo Mexico goes to great lengths to grow and mill their coffee as sustainably as possible, and they’re invested in utilizing production to further improve their quality.

Mike Romagnino: Costa Rica

mike r best coffee 2023

In January, I was offered the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and visit micro and macro mills. Truthfully, I was excited to see how the coffee I would roast was processed. As we were there during the height of harvest season, the timing of the trip was perfect.

Some of my favorite highlights from the trip include touring different farms, wet mills, and dry mills. Having the opportunity to meet different farmers and producers was incredible. Additionally, seeing the differences in approach and style for processing washed, honey, and natural coffees was extremely beneficial. I was impressed with how much attention to quality, detail, and overall care and passion was put into processing every day.

As a coffee roaster, I was humbled and honored to have the opportunity to roast these coffees back home at RNY. It was heartening to know that the farmers and producers at origin share the same passion for coffee that I have.

People We Worked With

Andrew Blyth: Ben Paz of Beneficio San Vicente

andrew best coffee 2023

I love traveling to origin. It’s great to visit our producing and exporting partners to learn all there is to know about their coffees, processing techniques, available lots, cup scores, plans…I can go on! Looking beyond the milling specs and notebooks full of farm details lies the most enjoyable and valuable part of coffee for me: the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made.

I love to experience the more personal parts of travel – the families, culture, traditions, food, drink, and learning what motivates people to get up every day to work in this fascinating industry. If you’ve ever traveled to coffee country, then you know the hospitality you receive is unmatched. The time and attention from our hosts and business partners is routinely well beyond expectations and truly fills me with gratitude.

However, my favorite origin travel moment from this past year didn’t require any travel at all. My best coffee 2023 highlight was a visit from Ben Paz of Beneficio San Vicente in Honduras. While I enjoyed seeing Ben, and spending time with him discussing and cupping coffee at Royal New York. Most of all, I enjoyed Ben staying at our home and being part of our family for a week. The above photo shows Ben teaching my kids, Edie and Michael, how to build a fire. In turn, they’re teaching him the art and joy of s’more making. They hope “Uncle Benji” comes back soon for another visit, our door is always open.

Mike Ward: Rodolfo Penalba of COMSA & Roasters at Coffee Fest

mike ward best coffee 2023

I had the special opportunity to travel to Marcala, Honduras this year. When I first started working in coffee, I remember drinking a COMSA offering for maybe two weeks straight, or something like that! It was a true gateway into the specialty world for me. Being in Honduras and cupping that coffee, along with many different micro lots, hit close to the heart.

To highlight some of the best coffee 2023 people I worked with, I of course have to mention Rodolfo Penalba and the rest of the COMSA shareholders. When visiting Honduras, we were incredibly fortunate to spend time with them during our trip.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to visit Coffee Fest in Louisville. This industry gathering was absolutely amazing in its own way. While there is definitely a kinship made over the phone or via email, it’s always nice to meet the roasters I speak with in person. Meeting face-to-face completely changes the connection; it’s one of my favorite parts of being a trader!

Signe Owen: Demilson Batista Jr. of Legender Coffee

signe best coffee 2023

In September 2023, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Minas Gerais, Brazil to visit Demilson Batista Jr. of Legender Coffee. Brazil is such a substantial part of the coffee producing world. Being able to witness coffee processing firsthand is the most important experience I’ve had at RNY so far. Yes, we saw how coffee is produced on a large scale. However, we also saw how smaller, independently owned farms called ‘sitios’ operate. We visited four sitios and met the families that owned and operated these farms. Everyone we visited met us with open arms, kindness, and generosity.

I learned so much from each farm. They spoke of the challenges they face as farmers, how they overcome them, and what methods they use specifically for their coffee. Furthermore, I was also able to see the mills where coffee en route to RNY is sorted, bagged, and prepared to ship! Brazil was so incredibly beautiful, and I hope I am lucky enough to one day find myself there again after my best coffee 2023 experience.

2023’s Best Coffee & Tea We Cupped

Joe Borg: DR Congo Fully Washed Kivu Nyamasasa Washing Station

joe best coffee 2023

Many aren’t familiar with D.R. Congo as a coffee origin. In fact, that’s what excites me most about this coffee! This year, we expanded our coffee offerings from East Africa. We’ve been working with a supplier who has helped us secure higher end specialty washed and natural Rwandan coffees.

Regarding this offering, the washing station, named Nyamasasa, is near the famous Lake Kivu and only got its start in 2021. In D.R. Congo, they’ve used many successful methods for training farmers. Of course, they train them to pick ripe cherry. However, farmers are also trained to care for the farms in a way in a way that produces strong growth. As a result, this enabled us to take a shot on an origin that we didn’t have much clarity on going into 2023. I’m thrilled to say I think we’ve found a trusting supply chain from D.R. Congo and with it, another great coffee. I’m looking forward to expanding our offerings from here for many years to come!

Altogether, this is a versatile coffee. I’ve seen success at both lighter and darker roasts. While lighter roast levels bring out sweet, tart, and floral complexities, darker roast levels bring out well-rounded notes of caramelized fruit and chocolate. If a coffee from D.R. Congo intrigues you enough to want to stand out from the rest, then give one of our favorite coffees of 2023 a try!

Shop RNY # 54376 DR Congo Fully Washed Kivu Nyamasasa Washing Station (GP)

Caitlin Normann: Organic Matcha Kakitsubata

all wrapped up caitlin

This is a premium matcha from our friends at Osada Seicha. It’s super creamy and delicious with delicate floral tones. The tea itself is spectacular! Markedly, it’s definitely one of our best matcha offerings to date.

Our Organic Matcha Kakitsubata is a great tea, both for seasoned matcha drinkers and beginners. This most recent RTNY matcha offering is very approachable and can be used in a variety of applications.

Shop Organic Matcha Kakitsubata

TJ Salvatore: Brazil Natural Legender Especial 17/18 Royal Select MWP Decaf

tj best coffee 2023

Legender Especial is known around the coffee world for its consistent quality, and rightfully so! This coffee comes from sitios that are focused and committed on providing their best quality beans, contrary to what we sometimes see at fazendas, or large coffee farms, in Brazil. Along with their dedication to quality, these sitios are fully willing to provide details regarding their farm, harvesting methods, and any other relevant information. As they consistently produce such quality year after year, they’ve more than earned the right to be proud of all the work they’ve done!

Decaf coffee is often overlooked and not given as much attention as caffeinated coffees. However, this Brazil offering should be enough to debunk that trend! This decaf has a tremendous chocolatey body with notes of brown sugar, giving it a nice warm and cozy feeling. Moreover, the water processing method helps preserve as much of the profile as possible, and it shows in this coffee. The smooth mouthfeel and bold, chocolatey body in this lot have made it my choice for decaf’s best coffee 2023. Don’t miss out on this phenomenal offering!

Shop RNY # 54753 Brazil Natural Legender Especial 17/18 Royal Select MWP Decaf

Rick Borg: Brazil Natural Legender “Sitio Barra Grande”

rick best coffee 2023

My best coffee 2023 moment was traveling to Brazil for the first time in my 43 years in the coffee industry. Brazil is the largest producer of arabica in the world, and I had the opportunity to visit sitios in Minas Gerais. One of the greatest pleasures I had was meeting the families and walking through their farms. These families show their passion through their hospitality, hard work, and dedication, during and after harvest. The profile of sitio coffees tends to be fruitier, chocolatey, sweet, and jammy. Comparatively, most Brazilian coffees are generally nutty with notes of dark chocolate.

That being said, the arrival of our first sitio offerings is in two weeks. The majority have already been sold! Should you miss your chance to purchase these coffees, we’ll have additional arrivals in January and February. If you’ve never purchased a sitio coffee, contact your trader sooner rather than later. You do NOT want to miss this harvest!

Shop RNY # 55749 Brazil Natural Legender “Sitio Barra Grande” (GP)