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A Coffee Gift Guide for 2021
Stuff I like that I hope you like.
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It’s that time of year again! You know, the time to frantically scour the internet for last-minute presents to give to colleagues, family members, and those rogue Secret Santas whose names you picked out of a hat and barely know.
I wanted to add my voice to the annual cascade of “best coffee gifts” lists. While some lists are well done (I particularly like this one from New York Magazine’s The Strategist, because the writers actually asked baristas for their input), many miss the mark. I hope you’ll find the following ideas useful, and that they’ll make your holiday season a little easier.
A major motivation in creating this list was also spotlighting and promoting the work of coffee folks I admire. I’ve learned a lot in 2021, and those lessons have come directly from the people and the products I’ve been lucky to interact with.
With that in mind, I hope this gift guide reflects the beautiful variety within the coffee industry, and highlights those who are doing important work. I tried to provide suggestions at a number of different price tiers and tastes. Many of these ideas come from people I’ve interviewed on the show, so I claim zero objectivity in my choices: I chose things I think are cool that are made by people making a difference.
If there’s anything else you’d add to this list, leave me a note in the comments section below!
Rabbit Hole Roasters’ Experience Box: Rabbit Hole Roasters is probably the roaster I admire the most, because of their commitment to honesty and transparency. They share lessons about how coffee is bought and sold on their Instagram and readily meet consumers where they’re at: You can find dark-roasted beans and half-caf options alongside really special coffees sourced from producers from Haiti to Yemen.
I recommend The Experience Box not because I’ve tried it (full disclosure: I haven’t), but because Rabbit Hole has made it easy for drinkers to sample a bunch of different coffees side by side, which I think is the most powerful way to build your coffee knowledge. This is a gift I’d buy for myself if I accidentally drew my own name in a Secret Santa, and it’d be a good option for someone you want to share a coffee-tasting experience with. Alternatively, if you’re after a single bag of coffee, try the Holiday Blend, which boasts notes of orange and mulled wine. Even better: $1.50 of every bag sold goes to getchusomegear, an organization that supplies coffee tools to marginalized baristas. The Experience Box, $55 CAD
The Fellow Clara: This year, I wrote a review of French press coffee makers for Serious Eats, and I wasn’t expecting there to be so much variation in quality among the 10 or so brewers I tested. Fellow has a reputation for using design ideas to improve coffee tools, and those principles shine through in the Clara.
There’s not really a lot you can do to fancy up a French press, but as a person who’s spilled coffee all over herself by not lining up the spout properly, I appreciate the all-directional-pour lid. With a weighted handle and an easy-to-clean filter, it’s the Rolls Royce of French presses. $99 USD
Umeshiso Cupping Spoons (or anything from the Umeshiso website): Umeko Motoyoshi sells cupping spoons—which look a little like large soup spoons, and are used for coffee tasting—that buck stereotypical coffee shop sensibilities. Instead of defaulting to Scandinavian-inspired minimalism, Umeko uses color and vibrancy to make these spoons welcoming and eye-catching coffee tools.
I like to think they’d encourage people of all identities and backgrounds to take up space and eschew the often white, cishet, bro-y culture that can permeate coffee. These spoons can be used for anything, and they’re at the top of the list for industry pros everywhere. USD: Sliding scale and varies based on what you’re purchasing, but literally everything on the website is great.
Nguyen Coffee Supply’s Original Phin Kit: Sahra Nguyen is the owner of Nguyen Coffee Supply. Her interest in coffee started when she learned that Vietnam is the second-biggest producer of coffee worldwide—but that Vietnamese coffee has often been saddled with unfair, negative assumptions about its quality. Sahra was a guest on the show this year, and you can learn more about Vietnamese coffee—and make a cup using a phin filter, which the website describes as “if the V60 Pour Over and French Press had a baby”—with this all-inclusive kit. $29-31 USD
A Gift Card to Your Local Coffee Shop: Coffee shops are still struggling, and now that we’re entering the cold months of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, many can’t be flexible with outdoor seating areas. I know it’s been almost two years (!) since the pandemic has altered our lives, but it’s still worth giving support to your favorite space if you can.
Portrait Coffee’s “Drink Black” Tee: I’ve lately become a person who wears a lot of T-shirts (see above re: pandemic), and I wear this one at least once a week. Everything Portrait Coffee does is stunning. From their coffees (you should also sign up for their coffee club) to their swag, Portrait nails top-notch quality and impeccable design to boot. $20 USD
MiiR Mugs: I think MiiR makes the best insulated coffee mugs. Period. The end. I really like their line of Camp Cups because they come with a lid, but I also have their Flip Traveler for long car rides. Varies, but usually around $20-30 USD
Voila Instant Coffee: If I’m left to my own devices, I will drink instant coffee every day. I’m not ashamed to admit that. First, I’m lazy, and second, the quality of instant coffee has grown enormously over the last five years. I think Voila does an especially great job, but most instant coffees are sold through roasters directly, so look up your favorite roaster and grab a box of instant coffee for traveling (most instant coffees work in either cold or hot water), or just for the joy of sheer laziness. Varies, but a six-pack box hovers around $20 USD
Cxffeeblack’s African Gxld Hoodie: It’s borderline impossible to pick just one item from the Cxffeeblack website—all their merch is incredible—but if you’ve ever wondered where coffee comes from, this sweatshirt offers the vivid explanation you were looking for. $45 USD
A Really, Really Nice Decaf Coffee: “Death to Decaf” is a silly phrase. Decaf is awesome, and half-caf is great—because why wouldn’t we want to find ways for our caffeine-sensitive friends to enjoy the wonders of coffee? Onyx Coffee Lab makes an excellent half-caf option called Power Nap, and if you’re not sure, you can order a 4oz bag for $10 to test it out before committing to something bigger.
Rishi Sparkling Botanicals: I remember when a friend of mine said that he wished coffee tasted like a tamarind Jarritos soda. I still think about that every day. Luckily, Rishi Sparkling Botanicals’ cans have started popping up at coffee shops in my neighborhood, and they’re the perfect fizzy complement to my coffee-drinking experience. Black lemon is my favorite flavor, but you should give the sampler a spin. 12-pack, $40 USD
Coffee From Folks Who Embody the Values You Care About: Wow, broad category, huh? But seriously, there’s no one coffee brand I’ll demand you buy from for the holidays. (If you believe in their coffee in July, share it in December, right?) Here are some of my favorite roasters: Máquina Coffee, Cute Coffee, Mother Tongue Coffee, Oddly Correct, and Junior’s Roasted Coffee. I’d love to hear more about your favorites in the comments below!
A Donation in Someone’s Name: One of the most encouraging things about coffee is the people willing to make it better. There are so many organizations that have popped up during the pandemic to help baristas who are struggling, and lots of organizations specifically designed to uplift and support coffee workers, including Glitter Cat Barista, getchusomegear, and GoFundBean. Consider donating—or, if things are down to the wire, throw a big bill in a tip jar. Baristas will notice and be eternally grateful.
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