We're in a seasonal transition of our coffee varieties right now, so I thought it'd be helpful to answer this question with a blog post. I wish I didn't have to respond to the question. I know as well as anyone that when you find that perfect cup of coffee, you want to keep enjoying it for mornings to come. Unfortunately, that's not how this industry works.
Let me explain: Although it may be easy to forget because of the way coffee is typically sold, coffee is a crop. It varies significantly in flavor from farm to farm and even year to year. Think about coffee like wine. Mass produced wines have less to them, but you know what you're getting, and you know you'll get that same thing year after year. However, the smaller boutique vineyards have good years and bad years. The vineyards work very hard to produce a better batch this year than the year before, but that doesn't always happen that way. It could be due to variables they control, but sometimes weather or a bug changes everything. Coffee farms are quite similar.
With the same analogy in mind, at Sagebrush Coffee, is we try to find the best coffee we can this year and roast it to perfection and then sell that. When we buy a perfect unroasted coffee, we cannot keep it on the shelf for more than about six months before it really isn't what it was when we started. This is where the wine analogy breaks down. With wine, it gets better with age. Coffee is the opposite. We have a small window of perfection. There always is a risk/reward decision to be made with every single crop.
Let me give you an example. At the end of 2012, I ordered an amazing Panama coffee. I loved it but didn't order a ton of it, because I wanted to see how well the bean sold. By the time I realized what I had, I could no longer purchase more. So the next year came, and that same farm brought their beans to the cupping table, and I went into the cupping process with the bias from the year before. It cupped OK, so I bought it... I bought a lot of it. I spent the next four months trying to recreate the perfection of the 2012 crop and was never able to do it. It was still a fine cup of coffee, and a lot of people loved it, but it just wasn't what I loved so much the year before.
This week, I ran out of the very well reviewed Peruvian Espresso bean. I hate that I'm out of it. I know of several regular customers that would love to have it remain on forever. I'm also running out of one of my all time favorite Ethiopians. I just launched several new Ethiopians and now have an opportunity to buy the latest crop of the old one. The buying dilemmas remain. Do I really want to tie up that much capital in one country even if they are all exceptional beans? Or should I look at more Latin American coffees and hope to find the 2nd half of 2014 version of the Peruvian that just shipped its last bag? The cupping table will be busy this next week, and I'll be making those decisions.
The Panama coffee situation taught me something. I have to cup and sell the best bean. That's what you guys have come to expect, and that's what we spend a lot of time trying to find and perfect the roast.
So if your favorite coffee is gone, try some of the new ones. Odds are the new crop from that farm went head to head with what we ended up picking and lost. At the end of the day, I want to provide for you guys the best coffee I can find and then roast it to perfection.
If you're not sure which coffee to choose, I suggest you start here.
Most of the coffees consumed worldwide are produced in Latin America. The countries within Latin America have an ideal coffee-growing environment with its moderate sunshine and rain, 70-80 degree temperatures, and rich, porous soil. Coffee originated in Africa around the 15th century and finally made its way to Latin America in the early-18th century. By the mid-18th century, Latin American countries evolved into being some of the top coffee producers.
Much like any other crop, there is a prime season for harvesting coffee. I will not go into all of the details of the coffee plant (that may wait for another blog post), but when the plant grows to maturity, it will yield a cluster of fruit. Also referred to as cherries, these fruit clusters are initially green and then ripen into a beautiful shade of red similar to a cherry. Within the cherries is a pulp and two oval-shaped beans that once harvested, processed, and roasted become the coffee beans we know and love.
As some of you may know, Ethiopian coffees are always my favorite. A dry-processed, fruit forward Ethiopian bean is always a winner in my book. For many years, they have been the world's best-reviewed single-origin premium coffee beans. As the 5th largest coffee producer in the world, Ethiopia has mastered the art of harvesting and processing the beans and the flavor profiles are perfectly complex and delicious.