Coffee Practices: Transparency

Home-roasted coffee beans.
Home-roasted coffee beans.
Photo by Sean Dreilinger

One of the most important aspects of the movement for quality coffee is transparency. This doesn't mean your cup of joe should be clear, but that the consumer should understand as much about the product as possible.

In the '90s, coffee blends hit the market with a bang. Since then, they have been marketed as "house," "some kind of city" and other weird names that don't represent where the coffee is actually from. These names are fine, as long as sufficient information is given to the consumer on what is included in the blend. What is the point of a "big bear" blend, for example, if you have no idea which coffee-producing countries were involved in the making of that particular blend?

More coffee companies need to start including information on the labels to explain where the coffee is from -- at least country and region, if not individual farm as well. Just like wine, some coffees from the same farm but different lots can have different characteristics. We live in an information age, and this knowledge is vital if we are going to encourage farmers to produce higher-quality beans.

Espresso blends make this even more important. Coffee is seasonal, so each producing country has different seasons for harvesting. This means that it is impossible to have the same exact bean year-round while maintaining a fresh supply. If you do get the same exact bean all year long, that means it was lying around in a warehouse somewhere and is stale.

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