Here’s Why Convenience Is Killing Coffee
Coffee and humans are co-dependent. We adore coffee beyond measure, and that seems to be the consensus. We all have a unique relationship with coffee, some with an attachment that runs deeper than others. It’s an odd liquid with mysterious effects on our lifestyle. Much like its impact on our lives, the history of coffee is shrouded in mystery as well. There’s evidence of early Ethiopians consuming the coffee fruit as a snack. But the decision to separate the seed and process the beans has not been made apparent at a singular point in history. We owe much to the one that, on a whim, chose to roast, grind, steep in hot water, and drink the brown goodness that came to be.
Here at Bunafr, coffee literacy is something we care about — it’s something we dedicate ourselves to. Immense resources and research have been directed towards the production of mass-manufactured commercial-grade coffee. It’s a lower-quality product, but it lets roasters hit the big numbers. Roasting on a large scale has more to do with efficiency than celebrating the unique flavors of different beans. That’s a job for specialty roasters who have educated themselves through painstaking trial and error.
Roasting and grinding beans in different ways leads to new flavor profiles. The best adoption of a coffee-driven lifestyle is to understand the reasoning behind acquiring non-processed green beans over its roasted counterpart. While every roaster has a signature way of doing things or their roast philosophy, most of them aren’t fully aware of the intricacies needed to manipulate coffee into achieving a variety of roast styles. To their credit, roasters are good at recreating the coffee that they enjoy, just at a much larger scale.
Every culture has its way of celebrating coffee through social events that revolve around the same. Good coffee is appreciated everywhere. That’s why the future of roasting is far from bleak. Our coffee gets ever so slightly better with each passing day because we learn something new every time we roast.
Digging deeper for deeper flavor
To the untrained eye, coffee isn’t much different from the rest of their groceries. This is a consequence of how easily available coffee has become. Aisles are filled with neatly stacked coffee mixtures, and not one discerning quality has been made apparent. Little to no information about the origin is passed along to the buyer. The farmers that spend up to 4 years growing an indigenous variety of coffee end up having to deal with less than generous middlemen. In the hands of enterprise-level roasters, the beans forgo their unique personalities. They start becoming the same.
Every cup of coffee tells a story. A story crafted by producers, importers, roasters, and baristas. It’s our duty to listen to them one at a time. But nobody likes it when stories don’t make sense. Coffee in the hands of big-name brands rarely has something to say that hasn’t already been said. They’re riddled with bitter endings, plot holes, and an all too formulaic approach to coffee production that has been tried, tested, and beaten to death.
The coffee of a particular region is highly distinguishable from that of another. Among the multiple terms that coffee brands tend to throw around, there are a few that count. Single-origin and traceability play a pivotal role in changing the way we consume coffee. Single-origin is often simplified to characterize a coffee that’s been sourced from a single producer, crop, or region.
Single farm & single estate mean that the coffee was sourced from one farm, mill, or co-operative. Some labels make it a point to display the name of the estate, lot, or paddock the coffee was grown on. This information represents the makings of a great product.
Single-origin coffee is terrific for another reason, its traceability. Consumers would be privy to information that would otherwise be buried six feet under. For good reason too. Upon acquiring the beans from different farmers, intermediaries found themselves gravitating towards darker roasts, thus creating a bitter but homogenous product. To make informed purchases, traceability adds tremendous value to both sides of the coffee equation. Buyers would get to know exactly where their specific coffee originates. Since people are subjective with their tastes and idiosyncrasies, preferences will be formed. This doesn’t devalue the rest of the farmers but rather caters to the markets the farmers originally intended.
If coffee is the protagonist, then the environment plays the supporting role. When a roaster specifies the origin, it’s accompanied by much more. Connecting with farmers by connecting with the coffee is a feeling that every enthusiast has felt. We get to understand the farm, land, people, climate, variety, processing, and so on. Much like wee lads, coffee is influenced by what’s around it & shapes out differently depending on its environment. Rainfall, altitude, agricultural practices, temperature, and several other factors have a cumulative effect on the final product. It works both ways though. Coffee has an impact on the environment too. The actions of the protagonist do affect the others. More on that later.
Green beans & black coffee
Acquiring single-origin roasted coffee solves a part of the problem, but there’s a better experience waiting to be had. Buying roasted coffee is like buying frozen pizza. It’s still pizza, but in the presence of techniques like that of New York, Neapolitan, Chicago, and Sicilian, DiGiorno’s starts to lose its appeal. With coffee, we’re at a considerable advantage. Origins like Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Brazil can be prepared at home with relative ease. Accounting for all types of single-origin coffees and preparations, every cup has the potential to become an entirely new experience.
At Bunafr, we like to take things a few steps further. To have true control over what goes into your morning cup of joe, roasting beans at home is the way to go. A part of appreciating coffee is recognizing your preferences in beans, origins, roasts, and grinds. It’s an adventure in its own right, and it keeps on giving. The path to discovering your coffee counterpart starts with being curious about the origin, and the way forward is made clear with partial trial and error. A quick query about a specific bean could lead to a treasure house of information, opinions, and stories from like-minded individuals well on their way to becoming coffee aficionados.
The other side of coffee consumption is dark. All of the glory, money, and control end up in the hands of opportunistic middlemen. Farmers struggle to break even but end up having to sell for next to nothing. Uninformed or sometimes misinformed buyers accept the inflated monetary value as they see it. Because to most, coffee is worth paying for. Behind the bright packaging is a product that’s been roasted to oblivion, killing off its redeeming qualities in the process. What’s left behind is poorly flavored caffeine. Real coffee is magical. Real coffee has character. Real coffee is for the realest of people.
Less than OK-cups
Fairtrade, direct trade, and all the other trades are great to hear from a consumer point of view. But the best way to ensure that the farmers are being treated fairly is to acquire green beans instead of processed. It’s great for everyone involved, it has a significantly lower impact on the environment, and your cup would take you to a new part of the world each time. Packaging, processing, and transit contribute heavily towards the already large carbon footprint of coffee production. Coffee subscriptions take it up a notch by adding another layer of logistics that can only be described as destructive. Bringing in the beans directly from the farm bypasses many steps of the process.
Pods (popularly referred to as K-cups) are small, individually packaged, fine coffee grounds capable of dispensing a single serving of sub-par coffee. The convenience of a pod is minor, but it reduces our interaction with coffee even further while multiplying the environmental impact several times over. Consumers aren’t even expected to look at the coffee. In one fell swoop, quality control becomes much easier to execute. Assuming that coffee pod brands haven’t already disbanded their QC departments, it’s evident that coffee is not a priority. People often voice out their negative opinions on K-cups. They call it tepid sludge, flavored caffeine, and less than OK-cups. At coffee court, they’d be guilty of several violations. Bad roast, poor packaging, lack of transparency about the source, and its environmental impact, to name a few. The bitter truth is that while the brand stays accountable for the crime, the sentence is carried out by the consumers.
Adopting the third-wave philosophy is worth its weight in beans. It’s about appreciating a quality product, respecting the fabric of the supply chain, and caring about the people that make it a reality. The producers, importers, roasters, baristas, and consumers play a pivotal role in sustaining coffee as a staple. It’s a choice that can change how we think about coffee, and the more people we have, the stronger the cause. With Bunafr, you become a part of the movement. By gaining access to hardware that lets you create specialty coffee at home, we’re honoring the efforts that went into actualizing the perfect cup of brown gold. With control over the roasting process, every cup of coffee is realized to its full potential.