Do you know how many countries produce coffee? Google says 70. Wikipedia lists 51. And the National Coffee Association lists 49. The real question is how many can you name? If you’re like most people you could shoot off 5 or 6 at least. Most people recognize Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya, and Guatemala for the outstanding coffee they produce. Yet little known coffee destinations are coming out of the woodwork with some really spectacular offerings. Places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, the pacific island of Timor Leste, and our southern neighbor Mexico. The question this all brings up within our team is: “how do we make sure people have access to all these great coffees?”
Accessibility as a Value
This idea of accessibility aligns with our core values so deeply that it’s a part of every decision. If you’ve found this blog you’ve probably already noticed that we offer some standard blends* (things like Canopy and Versatile) and you’ll notice some standard single origin* coffees (like Huila, Colombia or Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia) and, if you visit often, you’ll notice a selection of single origins that rotate in and out every few months. This is a key way for us to provide the best access to some of the best coffee being produced.
Blending Coffees to Increase Accessibility
When it comes to those standard blends, they are, firstly, there to provide consistency and stability. Secondly, they allow us to provide a unique mix of flavors not found in a single origin. And thirdly, we can create coffee blends for specific purposes. If you take our Canopy blend, our signature best seller, it’s meant to be enjoyed any time of the day in a drip pot or a pour-over. It’s a classic coffee with a lighter body, plenty of sweetness, and spectacular balance. Our Essentials and Versatile blends, on the other hand, perform well in a drip pot but we created them with an eye towards Espresso. Essentials for your classic caramel/chocolate espresso shot with a hint of citrus tang and Versatile for a more creamy and sweet shot with pops of berry flavors. Blends provide us with the consistency that you can’t always find from year to year with coffee from a single origin.
Accessible Single Origin Offerings
Speaking of single origin coffees, the regions we have chosen as our standard single origin locations are based on two key factors. 1) These regions are well known as staple specialty coffee regions. The Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia grows truly unique coffee, with a wide range of flavors available to the discerning buyer. The Huila region of Colombia as well as the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica have been steadily increasing the quality of their coffees for decades and there’s no end in sight. 2) Our customers voted! Not like going to the polls but over the years we have had customers come back again and again for our Colombian, Costa Rican, and Ethiopian single origins. An important caveat to remember – and part of the adventure of seeking great coffee – is that our standard single origins can, and should, shift slightly in flavor profile from year to year, because the coffee crop from a specific region changes from one year to the next. More rainfall or sunshine, warmer or cooler temperatures, and political and economic factors all play a role in producing a specific crop of coffee (we’ll write more about this in a later post).
At this point you may be asking “what about all those other 67 regions that don’t ‘qualify’ as a standard single origin regions?” Good question, that’s why we have a rotating selection of coffees that we offer for a limited time. This enables us to pick up coffee from Papua New Guinea or Peru or Tanzania when we come across a really unique lot. This gives you access to a rotating selection of great coffees from places that you may not generally see on your grocery store shelves. These are also the coffees that are showcased on our Roaster’s Choice subscription!
This is only a part of the discussion about accessibility, however, and the next post will delve into the other side of accessibility: what this value means for our producing partners and those often forgotten in the coffee production process.
*I wanted to also point out that this system of standard blends and standard single origins enables roasters like us to lay the groundwork for extending this value of accessibility to the farmers and others in the green coffee supply chain. We’ll tackle this in more detail in the part 2 of the blog post.