We think it's safe to say that Starbucks' heavily roasted beans no longer represent the pinnacle of coffee culture to even the most fledgling drinker. In its place are upstart brands like Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Gimme, Victrola, Blue Bottle, and Counter Culture, to name just a few – what have come to be known as the third wave of coffee purveyors. These brands are distinguished by their concern for same-day roasting, terroir, and other esoteric elements that once were reserved for, say, discussions of fine wine. Understandably, it's all but impossible to keep up with all their latest offerings, though, so for the coffee curious who want to stay up to speed, there's Citizen Bean.
"The whole community is changing dramatically," says Citizen Bean director Mal Stearns. "We follow these third-wave rock stars across the country – new and old that push the envelope of sustainability both in-house and with their farm relationships." And so the one 16-oz or two 8-oz bags you'll receive each month are all sustainably sourced (all of their product is organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee), and are the small-batch kind that are difficult to find anywhere but in a flagship store. Adding to their appeal, these are about the freshest batches of beans you could ever hope to get from any of these places. "We're neurotic about freshness," says Stearns. "We stamp the date, require it be sealed at the origin of the roaster, and it gets to people within days of being roasted." This isn't your father's big blue can of Folgers. [$80 for 3 months, including shipping; citizenbean.com]