Coffee of The Day
55520 views May 3, 2021 posted by Maja Wallengren

Coffee of The Day: St Helena, From Napoleon’s Final Resting Place In The Atlantic


As the harvest of this extraordinary coffee is recovering from last year weather disaster and starting to make its way to Starbucks as a special limited edition we are proud to re-publish our review from three years ago of the truly unique and wonderful beans from SpillingTheBeans’ rare coffee selection of St Helena.

Winner of SpillingTheBeans’ personal choice as Coffee Of The Year in 2013, we have just learned that the new 2014-15 crop from St Helena is DRASTICALLY down this year, with only some 150 kilograms available for the most fortunate of coffee lovers. Don’t miss your chance and opportunity for trying this EXTRAORDINARY coffee, which won our coffee of the year recognition thanks to the uniqueness of these beans, the incredible effort that has gone into getting this coffee to the market, and for its outstanding flavor profile!

“The only good thing about St Helena is the coffee.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

A Bourbon variety that originated from Ethiopia and which is believed to have been introduced to St Helana from Yemen as early as 1732, the coffee from St Helena was made famous after Napoleon Bonaparte in his late years of exile, living in almost complete isolation, proclaimed: “The only good thing about St Helena is the coffee.”

With so many extraordinary coffees in the world and so many rare islands and unique varieties, what makes for the truly rare and unique coffees to the utmost of coffee lovers?

This Sunday’s Coffee of The Day is a real special treat among treats, from the uniquely geographically located and extreme remote island of St Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. SpillingTheBeans can hardly contain the excitement to be able to share SUCH a rare coffee with you, thanks to the courtesy of one of our favorite coffee companies in the world, the Sea Island Coffees in London, the U.K., which was generous enough to share a sample with us.


This blend is imported by Sea Island Coffee’s partners the St Helena Coffee Company and originates from the 720 meters-altitude Napoleon Valley Estate, but because of the multiple microclimates for such islands and the latitude, the altitude here is equivalent to that of coffee grown at between 1000 and 1200 meters above sea level in other producing countries.

The English East India Company’s records indicate that coffee was introduced to the island between 1732 and 1733 from Yemen, with the very first seeds brought in from the Red Sea port of Mocha aboard the fully-laden East India Company’s ship Houghton.

And it’s not for nothing that Sea Island Coffee’s St Helena coffee won not less than 2 Gold Start Awards for excellence in flavor by the UK’s Guild of Fine Food earlier this year.

“St. Helena cups exactly where it is situated geographically, in between Africa and the New World. There are definite hints of its Yemeni origins, but with a new world brightness and cleanliness. Overall it is a full and complex coffee with amazing blends of fruit chocolate and spices,” says Sea Island Coffee, adding the medium-roast beans have a fragrant bouquet with “pleasant floral fruity hints of citrus and caramel” and a balanced medium body.

At SpillingTheBeans we actually think this is too modest a review, because in our humble personal appraisal, it is stunning to find an island coffee with so many flavor attributes. These beans provide for a complex cup with lots of flavor characteristics, the kind of coffee that makes you stop up after the first zip to take a look at the cup and say out loud “WHAAAAaaaat?” as you ponder in wonderful amazement over where this coffee comes from – all the reasons for being a dedicated coffee lover in the first place:)

Besides the complexity, Sea Island’s St Helena coffee has a mild to medium body, and – surprisingly given the low altitude found in most island coffees – a good level and very balanced acidity that leaves the final cup flavor with a refined and elegant after taste of citrus and wine notes mixed in with the softness of chocolate.

Photo courtesy of St Helena Coffee Company

There is no official statistics of how much coffee today is produced at St Helena but it would hardly be more than a couple of containers by the most optimistic calculations and estimates. Furthermore, this is an island SO remote that it can only be reached by ship as there are no regular flights to the island because an airport has yet to build. One of the closest ports of embarkation is along the coast of South Africa and takes 3 to 4 nights at sea to reach, according to cruise reports.

St Helena Coffee Company 1 Sandy Bay Area St Helena  1
Photo courtesy of St Helena Coffee Company

Spilling The Beans dream about one day being able to visit this mythical island… but until that day arrives, please check out more about this extraordinary coffee at Sea Island Coffee’s home page – which in any case should be considered a must-see for coffee lovers!

We also highly recommend checking out the St Helena Coffee Company which has a beautiful photo album with stunning pictures from Napoleon’s island!

As always, we welcome your comments!heart


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  • […] MORE:  Coffee of the YEAR: St Helena – SpillingTheBeans website Rosemary Gate Coffee Estate – St Helena Wirebird South Sea Island […]

  • […] are thrilled to hear that St Helena Coffee has been named Coffee of the Year by the well respected Spilling The Beans Coffee Blog. See below […]

  • I can confirm that drinking St Helena coffee in an outdoor coffee shop over looking the South Atlantic Ocean is a real pleasure. You really should come visit.

    • Thanks for your comment Tom, I am absolutely DYING to get to St Helena to visit the island and its producers, it’s such a unique story and the coffee is just fantastic, nothing less. I’ll make sure to let you know when I get the opportunity 🙂

  • Undeniably one has to consider what you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be at the net the easiest factor
    to take note of. You hit the nail upon the highest as smartly outlined and other people could take a signal.
    Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

  • Really doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t know this but afterward its up to other visitors that they will assist,
    so here it happens.

  • Nice topic. i think you should write something more about this so that can help us more to know about this.

  • It is a shame there is nt more of it for export to the world market as it would be good to see it sold into the market place.
    Other people are expressing interest business owners on St Helena can be reached here there are several small enterprise growing coffee on Island.

  • did you know that you can not get a cup of St. Helena coffee on the island it is all exported off the island.

    • Hi Desma, thanks for your comment and I am not surprised, coffee is such a prime export product for the island and in these cases where a country or island has only a very limited production available it’s – unfortunately to local residents – common that almost all of it is kept for exports. But I am thinking that there should be one or another tourist place, perhaps in cafes near the farms, where it might be possible to find locally grown coffee? All the best, Maja 🙂

  • one can usually buy Green Tipped Bourbon Arabica coffee on the island, sold by the Coffee Shop on the seafront. Of course it has to be during the picking season.
    As an Amateur Radio operator on the island – ZD7VC, I’ve just had a very interesting QSO with an India Amateur Radio Station – VU3NPI that is a Coffee Planter in Bangalore and we talked about the Arabica coffee bean, he too grows a species of the Arabica from Yemen which was also acquired in the 16th century.

    • Hi Bruce,
      It was a great pleasure talking to you on the radio the other day. It’s been a good coffee harvest season for us here in India. Coffee plantations that I was talking to you about are situated in Chikmagalur about 200Km from Bangalore.
      Here is a link to the history that I spoke to you about
      Incidentally coffee history of both St Helena Island and India sound similar. Hope to connect with you soon on the radio. 73 (Best Regards)
      De, VU3NPI, Madhu

  • Hi Bruce and Prasad, Thanks so much for your comments and for contributing to the discussion, I so appreciate your input — and even though the St Helena Airport project for now seems to have stalled I do plan on getting to the island one day to check out the coffee plantations for myself 🙂 Maja

    • Hi Maja,
      Please do let me know if you are on your visit to this part of the world for your coffee story or otherwise.
      Would be glad to show you around.
      Thank you,
      Madhu Prasad

    • Thanks Prasad, I have actually been looking at an opportunity to come in April, but I don’t have anything confirmed yet, I will definitively let you know if and when I do. All the best 🙂

  • […] Green Tipped Bourbon Arabica, a bean that originated in Ethiopia and was brought to the island from Mocha in Yemen in the early […]

  • […] Tipped Bourbon Arabica, a bean that originated in Ethiopia and was brought to the island from Mocha in Yemen in the early […]

  • Love your “WHAAAAaaaat?” response to our St Helena coffee! Excellent! I’m from the island and to see your positive review is encouraging. Fingers crossed, but this year we’ve had good rains and good weather all round so hopefully there’ll be a bumper harvest which coincidentally is just about to begin at the Bamboo Hedge plantation at Sandy Bay. The higher the yield the more export for all you coffee aficionados! 🙂

    • Dear Sharon, thanks so much for your comment, I am thrilled to hear from you and will keep my fingers crossed for the St Helena coffee industry finally getting on track for some real recovery, it’s been some difficult years there I know. Please write me directly on my private email for specific information and we can try to coordinate publishing an update, it’s 🙂

  • Your honest review help me alot . you describe all the cons and pons in very well way . Your description is also very importan about the product .
    Thanks sir for your honest review about it .

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