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The Fresh List: We're Sweet on These Brown Sugar Notes

It only tastes like you're not drinking your coffee black.

by Maciej Kasperowicz | January 06, 2020

Hey, do you know what brown sugar is? We know you have some in your cupboard and you break it out every once in a while, but, besides a wonderful D’Angelo song, do you know what it actually is?

I’m ashamed to admit, that while I’ve used brown sugar as a flavor note about a million times, I was far from sure exactly how it was made. As it turns out, brown sugar is made by reintroducing molasses — a byproduct of making refined, white sugar — into said refined, white sugar (whereas raw sugar is sugar that hasn’t been refined all the way). A fun way to learn about it is reading this recipe for it.

When we say a coffee tastes like brown sugar, what we generally mean is that its sweetness has some nice depth and maybe a little bit of darkness to it. And this winter we’ve gotten plenty of delicious new coffees with just that kind of sweetness. Here are four of our favorites!

Clean, bright fruit flavors with deep brown sugar sweetness are a trademark of coffees from the Antigua region of Guatemala, and this offering from Temple is a perfect example.

Temple Guatemala Hunapu ($22.40)

A note of brown sugar is a good way of indicating that a fruity coffee is also really balanced. This Colombia has fun lemon and pomegranate flavors, but it’s also plenty sweet.

Metric Jesus Maria Pedraza ($22.40)

Brown sugar notes in a Guatemalan coffee are nothing new, but the way they combine with tropical guava flavors in this unique coffee from Spyhouse is super-special.

Spyhouse Balthazar Ramirez ($18.85)

One of the highest quality coffees we’ve cupped this year contains — in addition to wild fruit notes — a dark sweetness that smooths everything right out. Yes, the price on that bag is real, and yes, it really is that good!

Passenger Hacienda La Esmeralda 2019 Dry Processed ($104.15)