Magic Beans

As we wrote about in “Pot of Gold," Joseph Brodsky, coffee buyer for the Denver-based boutique coffee roaster Novo Coffee, traveled to Ethiopia last October to search out the African origins of the Panamanian Geisha coffee bean, widely considered one of the best coffees in the world. When the trip didn’t go as expected and the Ethiopian Geisha proved illusory, Brodsky decided to stay for three extra months in the east African country, the birthplace of all coffee, to search out hitherto unidentified types of beans that were as good, if not better, than the famed Geisha.

He found some.

Through Brodsky’s new importing and marketing company, NinetyPlus Coffees, the first two examples of the Ethiopian coffees he located, Aricha Selection Seven and Beloya (or Biloya) Selection One, are hitting the States -- and they’re already making a splash. Coffee Review, the online Wine Spectator for Java aficionados, awarded a sample of Aricha, roasted at Novo, a stellar 95 points. The publication rated a sample of Beloya, roasted at Minnesota-based Paradise Roasters, even higher: 97 points, the highest in the publication’s history. “In the cup sweetly acidy, with a full, syrupy mouthfeel and lavish red wine and blueberry notes," raved the reviewer about Beloya. “The finish is rich, berry-toned and extraordinarily clean for this style of coffee." In comparison, the highest rating Coffee Review ever gave the Geisha was a 95.

The snobby coffeerati who post on the forums are clamoring over the news. “Biloya is a coffee that deserves all the praise and press I believe are coming in the next few months. It is one of the most elegant refined natural Ethiopians I have had the chance to cup," wrote one poster. “This is a coffee I'd be happy paying $50-$60 or more a pound for, retail," wrote another.

Brodsky isn’t surprised by the coffees’ reception – after all, there are tens of thousands of undiscovered coffees in the wilds of Ethiopia. But it’s not as simple as just finding them, he discovered. He also has make sure every stage of the bean’s production process is done with the utmost care. “None of the coffees I found, except for a few lots, were even close to 90 points," he says now. “Now I know a very fine coffee comes from very focused handling. Perfect coffees need to be intimately produced." That’s why he’ll soon be heading back to Ethiopia, to teach farmers, millers and exporters how to treat each bean like a nugget of gold, so that even more coffees like Aricha and Beloya can turn heads outside of Ethiopia -- and bring more money back into the struggling Third World country.

To taste Aricha and Beloya, stop by Novo’s coffee shop at the new residential building across from the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton wing, 1200 Acoma Street. Or you can order whole beans from But be aware, the lots are small and the beans are going fast -- and cups of joe this fine don’t come cheap. -- Joel Warner

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner