On Sourcing Coffee Beans
It’s an exciting time to be a coffee roaster. The worldwide demand for quality coffee is greater than ever, resulting in new crops with ever-improving quality standards popping up all around the world. This trend is a dream come true for someone who loves discovering new coffees and experimenting with new ways to roast and share them. It also creates a big challenge that comes before any of that – how can we possibly distill this vast, beautiful world of coffee into a selection that I can get my customers equally excited to try?
Selecting Coffees Purposefully
Are we selecting it to fill a specific role within a blend, or are we looking for something unlike anything we’ve had before to help us explore? Do we need a bean that will work well at a certain roast level that is being underrepresented by our current offerings? In this process, I always try to keep my eyes open to unexpected discoveries.
Maybe something we were just planning to use to round out a blend is working really well on its own. A bean known as a stellar dark roast may surprise us with complex sweetness and interesting flavors in the lighter end of the roasting spectrum. I think the willingness and ability to break some rules and constantly experiment is really something that sets apart some of our offerings from the hundreds of other roasters out there.
“…the willingness and ability to break some rules and constantly experiment is really something that sets apart some of our offerings from the hundreds of other roasters out there.”
Every Coffee Bean Tells a Story
If you’ve followed along with any of our growing library of coffee features, you know that as much flavor is paramount in sourcing coffees, I’m a sucker for a bean with a great story. Coffee is produced in over seventy countries by tens of thousands of farmers and day laborers, each dealing with different weather patterns, geography, and culture. All of these factors have very real implications on flavors, how coffees are processed, and why a future crop may be better or worse than the output from year’s past.
Sumatra, for instance, a region long renowned for producing excellent coffees, is at risk of losing its crop entirely this year due to persistent rainfall. On the contrary, the likes of Honduras and El Salvador have seen the value of their crops rise dramatically from constant improvements to processing techniques and the widespread adoption of honey processing, which allows beans to retain more of their sweetness without washing.
As a roaster, I always have to keep an eye on the ever-changing landscape of coffee producing areas worldwide to really anticipate where new and interesting trends will emerge. It’s an often overlooked part of the job that I really love learning about and exploring.
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