The name of the coffee you are drinking is very important. Why is so important…it’s just coffee right? Wrong! You are participating in the livelihood of dozens of families that have produced the coffee in your mug. Your simple morning (or afternoon & evening) drink impacts everyone from the farmer, processor, bagger, shipper, trucker, and finally the roaster and retail staff.
So what’s the name have to do with all of that? When properly presented to the customer, the name should always provide the following information. It is implied that we are already talking about 100% Arabica, Specialty Grade Coffee (that’s another topic that will be discussed in another post).
The country is almost always presented as the highlight of the label. This is the bare minimum that must be provided when looking for a specialty grade quality coffee. If this is not included on the label, it is very likely not single origin. One of the only caveat’s to this is when a roaster has a house roast which may still be a single origin offering, just not listed. An example of this is our Fig Leaf Reserve Roast which is a single origin farm group from South America. Each country produces vastly different profiles unless it's all roasted into carbon – then they all taste the same.
Now we start getting into more detail about the coffee. The region in which the coffee was grown can help you determine some generalities of how the coffee will taste. For example – Ethiopia (the birthplace of coffee) is broken into 8 coffee growing regions. Each region is vastly different and sometimes only separated by a few miles. We know that the Yirgacheffe region produces some of the world’s most full flavor offerings. They are full of citrus and floral and extremely aromatic offerings but they have a light body. In contrast, the Guji and Sidamo(a) regions produce intensely fruity with cocoa undertones but still aromatic.
Farm Name/Cooperative Name/Wash Station/Farmer
This is the most detail offered in the coffee name. This offers complete traceability of the coffee back to the source. This can help when you find a coffee you really love and want to find the same coffee the next season. Also, this helps you make sure that the money is going back to the farmer.
If the coffee does not have this information listed in the name or label, you may be getting a lower grade specialty coffee. For example, the Kenya offerings Fig Leaf Coffee carries always includes this level of detail Kenya Kirinyaga Rungeto Karimikui AA
Additional Coffee Information
While the following information is not a necessity, it is very helpful in your decision process
1. Elevation: The higher the elevation, the denser the coffee. Denser beans are fuller of sugars and flavor precursors. This translates to more flavor after roasting. Look for coffees grown no lower than 900 meters or roughly 3000 feet above sea level.
2. Variety: This helps when you are buying things that are higher-end offerings. For example, Kona grown coffee is expensive and rare. While some roasters and retailers may sell a Kona Blend, there may only be 10% of actual Kona grown coffee in the blend. Make sure the label or bag states “100% Kona” or something similar. Also, some varieties are more or less susceptible to insects or molds.
3. Processing Method: There are a number of different processing methods. For example, Honey Processed and Full Natural or Dry Processed coffees tend to have more rich and complex profiles then a fully washed coffee which may be crisper and brighter.
4. Flavor Profile/Notes: This is more subjective and dependent on the person drinking the coffee. Some people have more refined tastes and can pick out different flavor notes while others may not.
We have made some broad generalities with the above information however; you should take away the following key points:
1. The more information on the label/bag the better. You need to make properly informed decisions.
2. Region and Farm Name make a huge difference when choosing your coffee. You are helping keep dozens of families in business just by buying that bag of coffee.
3. Make sure you are buying coffee roasted by a professional and not a home business. Professionals are governed by State/Local Health Agencies which have your best interests in mind. The health and safety of our customers is paramount in our business. We also put in our due diligence and have documentation to back up our products.
Well, we made it another year by a whisker. I want to thank everyone for all your help and support. We are wiser, smarter and more experienced running this business. Our products and retail customer base grew a great deal. This year we saw coffee quality increase from just about every country while supply was hindered by COVID and Leaf Rust.
We live in an amazing world full of high-quality specialty coffee. Hopefully, we can continue to provide you with some of the best coffee products out there. Working in the coffee industry takes tons of work. But we’re not just in the coffee industry, we’re also retail artisans working with and educating the public too.