The myth of locally roasted coffee

The myth of locally roasted coffee

February 15, 2018

There’s ongoing discourse in the coffee industry on ways of supporting coffee communities to climb the value chain. In this piece, we deconstruct the mythical arguments that have pushed away from the potential of origin roasted coffee as a sustainable solution.

But first, definition origin roasted coffee is when coffee has been processed and roasted in the origin of production, ideally by local community members.

If you’re a connoisseur of specialty coffee, you’re probably accustomed to the idea of buying your coffee from a local roaster. You’re supporting the local economy, the coffee is fresher and you know exactly where your coffee is coming from. Well, let’s deconstruct that:

Photo by: Bryan Tipton

 

  1. It’s better for the economy: although the idea of purchasing locally produced products is economically and environmentally sustainable, the same principles don’t apply for products which were not ‘produced’ in your community. If you’re a consumer in Colorado or Berlin, you’re not buying locally by purchasing coffee that was produced in Costa Rica or Kenya. Just because it was roasted in your city doesn’t make your cup of joe a local one. This needs to be demystified because so many corporations continue to use it as a marketing tool to attract third wave consumers. In perspective, would you consider your phone locally produced if it was only assembled in your city? In a globalized world, it is quite difficult to quantify most things as local products but if you’re trying to stay woke, then stay fully woke.
  2. It ensures better quality: Recently, I met with a renown roaster in Berlin and posed this question of coffee freshness. They said to me, the problem often isn’t how old the coffee is. Instead, the problem is how fresh the coffee is. The myth that the fresher your coffee is, the better it tastes is simply untrue. As you can see below, although the freshness of the aroma in your coffee may deteriorate each week after being roasted, the peak quality of the coffee is reached only after the first week of being roasted. Coffee which has been roasted in origin can reach you a week after being roasted, and it is still extremely fresh and at its peak consumption state.
Photo by: Boot Camp Coffee

3. It’s more transparent: the idea that coffee that is locally roasted is more transparent is also difficult to understand. Recently, in my effort to better understand this phenomenon, I visited several local roasters in Berlin. I asked each of their roasters for the source of their coffee and more detailed information. With the exception of a couple, most of the roasters were buying their coffees from a single importing company in Germany. They all knew their coffee was coming from ‘Finca X’ or ‘Finca Y’ (finca=farm) but upon further inquiry, they had no idea how much the farmers were earning for this coffee or details of working conditions in these farms. Just because local roasters have a Fair Trade label does not guarantee proper conditions or transparency.

When we started Bean Voyage, many consumers, including some early adopters challenged our idea of selling origin roasted coffee through our website. Many of them were worried about the consistency of our product and its quality. To be honest, we did face some of these challenges at first. However, with dedicated training and a positive feedback loop between the consumers and the farmer roasters, we have been able to consistently satisfy customers with coffee that ranges from 83–86 (out of 100) on the specialty coffee grade. Are we at the level of champion roasters based in major cities? No. However, with continued training and practice, we are sure that most of the coffee will be of the highest quality (beans and roasts). If you haven’t already, try one of our offerings of origin roasted coffee from Costa Rica.



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