Specialty Coffee Decoded: the secret behind good quality coffee
For most people, coffee is a staple part of the mornings; a habit and a comforting part of their routine. Theirs is a coffee that rarely changes – it’s mostly the same old, consistent tasting thing, out of a bag, and made humbly. Then there are those who hold coffee to a much higher standard. To them, pleasure is derived from immersing oneself in the tales of the coffee’s origins and the tasting notes. Drinking a mass appeal, off-the-shelf coffee is a sign of inauthenticity, and so they drink as much critically as for fun, always wary of the suspiciously consistent tasting coffee others prefer.
Can the two ways of coffee ever accommodate each other? Is it possible to bring high-quality coffee into the routine? Can consumers access and drink the best coffee conveniently? If you ask us, the answer is yes.
The real value of coffee
When we started sourcing farm-fresh specialty coffee for TGL, we led by the mission to bring great coffee from the best places on earth into the everyday life. Great coffee, to us, is one that’s wholesome, flavorful and delicious, and consistently so. We favor beans grown using good, sustainable practices, dried and roasted to high standards. We love farms that treat their crop with reverence because it shows in the cup. Grown and graded right, the coffee delivers. And it’s what helps us determine the value of the coffee we buy.
Value also has a lot to do with convenience. Specialty coffee has mostly been seen as an inaccessible commodity. Not least because it’s been difficult for coffee consumers to access good quality coffee beans.
Third wave coffee, a phenomenon that brings to focus the coffee supply chain – everything from bean to brew – has captured the interest of much of the coffee drinking world. Intense attention and interest is expended on the tales of the terroir, the processes and pretty much everything that impacts the flavor of a coffee. And to think that there was a time when only the coffee buyers and roasters spent time sniffing, slurping and thinking about their cups so deeply. Now, more and more coffee enthusiasts are choosing to immerse themselves in these sorts of pageantry with utmost sincerity and zeal.
And, by and large, it’s a genuine effort at understanding their cups better.
You see, the difference between great coffee and store-bought blends is the attention to process and freshness. Producing exceptional coffee demands a lot of work and care, right from the way the beans are planted. This kind of coffee may not be consistent tasting – rigors of nature and roasting styles impart coffee with a unique mix of flavors each season – but has the best quality consistently. And you pay for this quality.
Freshness matters because fresh food tastes more delicious, and is good for you, health-wise. Much the same way, fresh coffee, one that’s bought recently, roasted and ground-to-order, bursts with strong flavors and heady perfume because the volatile compounds in it are still in their prime. There’ll be no hint of rank or off-notes. Brewed right, fresh coffee will produce a cup far superior than a coffee that’s dated and, quite possibly, stale.
The real value of coffee is, then, a factor of coffee sourcing and coffee roasting. Period.
Do fancy gadgets play a role in the value?
You can make a delicious cup of coffee with just two ingredients – water and beans. Fretting over the apparatus – roaster du jour and fancy grinders – no doubt, will ensure a favorable outcome. But if the beans you put through them lack rigor and potential, it will show in the cup. Even if the shot is pulled from an expensive espresso machine.
Goods quality beans, sourced fresh, brewed right and using time-honored techniques and tools, will no doubt produce a superior cup.
In essence, it boils down to choosing the right beans – fresh and seasonal – roasting and grinding them well, and then treating them well. Your beans may be from a pound-an-ounce lot or a specialty one; if it’s sourced fresh and treated right, there’s every chance that you’ll end up with superior tasting cup.
At the end of the day, all coffee exists to satiate the need for pleasure. And by choosing and drinking better coffee, you just improve the odds in your favor.
Good coffee should increasingly become a norm, not an exception.