Or just a warm, brown beverage?
All kidding aside, we actually have a friend who says just that. Her theory is that if you are only going to have a couple of cups a day, you should truly have the best coffee experience possible.
A self-admitted "coffee snob", she boycotts many of the more popular national coffee chains, claiming that what they sell is "just a warm, brown beverage" but not coffee.
She finds it hard to believe that people who will go to great lengths to buy the best wine for their dollar, don't apply the same logic to the coffee they consume on a daily basis.
So, how do you ensure you are drinking great coffee?
Buy the best coffee beans you can afford. Locate a roaster of single origin, micro-lots who only roast in small batches and ship each batch within a few days of roasting.
Stop buying "grocery store", pre-ground coffee. Coffee brands that dominate the grocery store aisles roast a phenomenal amount of coffee per year. They bank on their customers either believing they can't afford a better coffee or keep drinking inferior coffee due to inertia and lack of knowledge. So, they often blend Arabica with lower-quality Robusta coffee beans. Our aforementioned, coffee-centric friend says "you may as well brew sawdust"!
Never buy the coffee beans in the gravity-feed displays in grocery stores. You have no idea how long those beans have been around since roasted. Furthermore, if you use the store grinder (part of the coffee bean display), you run the risk of "contaminating" your selection with other flavours that have been run through the grinder. We once (in desperation, because we had run short of our supply of single origin/micro-lot/fresh roast) bought a small amount of beans from the grocery offering and ground them on the spot. When we brewed the coffee, it came out tasting like some vile, chemical tasting peach overlay flavour. Again, a warm brown beverage - but definitely not coffee!
Buy whole bean coffee and make sure you determine the following info:
- What is the area of origin
- What period of time in the year is the coffee harvested
- When was the coffee roasted
There are other pieces of valuable information a good roaster will tend to provide. Look for evaluations of flavour (like chocolately, fruity, etc.), as well as the degree of roast. What grower (or cooperative) produced the coffee? Was it hand picked? Sun-dried? Is it Fair Trade or certified organic? At what altitude was it grown?
Experiment with roast levels. Many people believe they only like dark roasts. What many don't realize is dark roasts tend to mask the real flavour of the bean. Unfortunately, the large scale coffee companies (whose products you find in your local grocery store) tend to produce darker roasts because it's easy to consistently produce and a darker roast reduces the mass of the coffee - thus reducing shipping expenses. Try lighter roasts. They are far superior and you will be very surprised at the complex flavours you will experience.
Invest in a decent brewing system. Whatever you decide to use, keep it clean. While we use a very good drip system most of the time, we also really like the French Press system. Look for upcoming blog articles in which we will discuss a variety of brewing systems and the best methods to follow.
We don't mean to castigate every grocery store brand. There are a few truly respectable roasters who are producing quite decent beans and distributing them through grocery chains. But remember, truly great coffee is readily available and will be a much more satisfying indulgence.
Single-origin, micro-lot, freshly roasted is our mantra!
And you don't get that in a grocery store!
We love coffee so much, we decided to begin producing our own roasts. Our whole bean coffees are all from Africa (where a large percentage of truly great coffees come from) and are named after endangered or vulnerable species (in keeping with our support of charities who benefit species at risk).
Africa is often called "the birthplace of coffee". In our opinion, Africa is a source of excellent quality and extremely flavourful coffee beans. To ensure the best possible coffee experience, we roast in frequent small batches, taking care to preserve and enhance the natural flavours of the bean.
Try our recipe A Taste of Africa - Bran Rusks with our delicious coffees. A truly terrific combination!