The Coffee Bag Labels

The Coffee Bag Labels

Buying coffee beans is a learning experience, especially when there is so much information on the bean bag. You're holding 'Nicaragua - Medium Roast Washed - Elephant Beans' in one hand and 'Brazil - Medium Dark Roast Honey Treated - Cadua' in the other, thinking what's the difference between these two bags of coffee? And which one is my favorite flavor?

Don't worry, this article will explain the bean bag to you, from variety, processing method, and recipe beans to roasting level, all the information will be told to you, and use this information to find out your favorite coffee!

Single Origin Vs Blend Beans

Single-variety coffees come from a specific region or estate, while recipe beans are made from a mix of different coffees, and sometimes there are "micro-origin, micro-batch" coffees, which come from a small part of a specific estate.

But why are they broken down into micro batches? Because coffee reflects the environment in which it is grown and how it is grown. The country of cultivation, region, estate, processing method, coffee variety, etc., all of them affect the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

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In addition, the roaster may feel that a blend of the several types of coffee that make up the recipe will taste better together than on its own. Perhaps it is a bright, acidic, fruit-rich Colombian bean, but with a vague feeling of a little less body to support its taste. (Usually espresso, such as Americano, latte will use recipe beans, in order to support the taste of coffee)

People who like fine coffee usually prefer single serve coffee, and the price of single serve is also higher, but whether it is a recipe bean or a single serve bean, the flavor performance can be quite exquisite. Don't reject a recipe just because it has a country in it, because a recipe can be made up of beans from three countries, which may create a flavor you didn't expect.

You can start with the same variety of coffee from different production regions. Guatemala is known for its acidity, balance, and spicy flavor, and compare it to Luanda, which is usually sweet and full-bodied. Try looking at two coffees from different regions of Colombia to try to understand the flavor profile of your favorite coffee country.

But remember, just because a coffee from a certain country has a certain flavor profile doesn't mean that all coffees from that country will have that flavor profile, so be open-minded and drink it for yourself.

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Roast Levels

There are many different names for roasting levels: light roast, medium roast, dark roast, Viennese roast, city roast, and so on.

However, if the roaster roasts the beans for a longer period of time, it may create a roasted flavor that overrides these original flavor characteristics. Unroasted coffee beans will have a grassy and sour taste, while over-roasted coffee beans will have a bitter, smoky taste and other overwhelming flavors.

Although people who like fine coffee prefer lighter roasted coffee, the truth is that each type of bean has its own most suitable roasting level, brewing method, and of course, its owner, why? Let's read on.

Light Roast

This type of roast has a distinctly fruity flavor, acidity, and aroma, and light roasting is suitable for beans that already have this flavor and aroma. Some people may say that light roasts are not as sweet, but this is not true. Since high-quality fine coffees have a rich flavor profile, it means that many roasters choose medium or light roasts to emphasize this part of the flavor profile.

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Medium Roast

Why do we list light and dark roasts first, and only list medium roasts here? Because medium roast does not have many characteristics, it is neither light nor dark roast. On the contrary, it is a medium roast that has a smooth taste and a roasted flavor without overpowering the original flavor of the coffee bean.

Dark Roast

When you taste a dark roast coffee, you get the flavors that come with roasting, such as toast, bitterness, and a very full-bodied taste. Fine coffee drinkers often hate dark roasts, and some even say that roasting to a darker roast is to cover up the imperfections that come with bad quality.

Roast Level For Espresso And Pour Over Coffee

Why is it important to discuss pour-over coffee and espresso roast levels separately? The reason is that espresso shows a strong flavor and is suitable for sweet, full-bodied roasts. Pour-over coffee, on the other hand, are generally designed to bring out the rich flavor of the beans.

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Processing Method

Coffee beans are actually seeds. When the fruit is ripe, it will be bright red, but it is very difficult to remove every layer of the seeds at the same time, which means that the seeds must be peeled or even fermented to remove the outer layer of the material.

  • Washed: After removing the coffee pulp through water, the coffee beans are dried. This treatment adds a small amount of flavor to the coffee and means you can taste the original regional flavor of the coffee beans.
  • Natural: The harvested fruit is slowly exposed directly to the sun. This treatment gives the coffee a sweet, fruity flavor, but the quality and stability of the coffee will be poor when it is not properly processed. However, if the coffee is properly sun-treated, it will have a very tasty coffee. This processing method is also more environmentally friendly.
  • Honey Process: This is a process where a portion of the pectin on the outside of the seeds is preserved for solarization, the more pectin is preserved, the sweeter and more robust the coffee will be.

The best way to understand the difference in flavor is to compare and try sun-dried and washed beans from the same production area or even from the same farm to experience the difference in flavor for yourself.

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Coffee Varieties

There are many varieties of coffee trees, and each variety produces a different coffee. Let's take a quick look at the impact of varietal on the flavor of the final cup.

In broad terms, fine coffees are usually Arabica, which has a better aroma and flavor. Robusta, on the other hand, has a coarser taste and higher caffeine content, and you may have also heard of the lesser discussed Laibiria variety.

Moving on to the more subtle varieties: Kadura, Kadoorie, Bourbon, Tippika, Cuisinart, Pacamara, Elephant Bean, and so on. For example, bourbon has a higher sweetness, while cassis has a tea-like richness, jasmine aroma, and a rich flavor.

When you can taste the effect of the processing on the flavor of the coffee, try experimenting with the varietal differences. Try the washed bourbon and washed cadura from El Salvador, followed by the sun-dried bourbon from Luanda. The fascinating thing about fine coffee is that each coffee is unique and there are many factors that influence the flavor of the coffee. And we can try to appreciate these different characteristics.

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We see elevation labels on some bean bags that indicate how high the bag of coffee is grown, usually in meters.

So why should we care about altitude? Because the slower the coffee tree grows, the more time it takes for the fruit sugars to develop, which results in a sweeter and more aromatic coffee.

When comparing two estates in the same production area, the one with the higher altitude will have a cooler climate, and for this reason, higher altitude means better quality coffee. However, it is important to note that altitude can be misleading, for example, Brazil is cooler than Ecuador when the altitude is 1100 meters.

Take the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador as an example. Although the altitude is only 200 meters, the island has a cold climate, which allows for great coffee to be grown.

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The elevation is a useful piece of information when evaluating the quality of coffee, as it allows you to compare two coffees from the same production area, but even if the coffee is grown at a low altitude, it is best not to be too quick to judge before trying it.

Fair Trade / Direct Trade / Rainforest Certified

There are many sustainable certifications for raw coffee beans, and it's not easy to understand what all of them mean.

Fair Trade

Let's start with the best known, "Fair Trade". This certification means that coffee farmers are paid more than the international market price, but that doesn't mean they are paid enough to support their livelihoods.

UTZ Certification

By representing this organization, the certification provides training to coffee farmers to improve growing methods to increase productivity and quality, so UTZ would say that farmers have a better income as a result of this certification.

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Direct Trade

This is actually more of a "trading model" rather than a certification. However, many roasters who use direct trade beans will claim that this model leads to sustainability. The roasters buy the raw coffee directly from the farmers in the field, and often the coffee is of good quality. These roasters pay farmers much more than the international market price, often more than UTZ or Fair Trade certified farmers. However, some criticize this model, saying that it lacks regulation and is sometimes a marketing tool and that it is more difficult to track how much farmers are actually paid for direct trade than for Fair Trade and UTZ.

Rainforest Certification

Rainforests are planted in a way that is environmentally friendly and has minimal impact on the local forest water supply. Bird-friendly certification is similar in that the coffee is grown organically and helps to restore the local forest, thus contributing to the development of the local ecology.

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Cup of Excellence Competition

In addition to the certifications mentioned above, the bean bag will also have some indication of award winning quality.

The Cup of Excellence competition evaluates coffee beans submitted by farmers, which means that roasting methods are not included in the evaluation. Many coffee producing countries hold their own national Cup of Excellence competitions, so you may see a farm win both the Colombia Cup of Excellence and the Burundi Cup of Excellence, and you may see country names in the awards, such as "Best of Panama" and "Coffee of the Year Brazil".

Of course, there are many other coffee quality competitions, but this is the most recognizable and indicative one, with some focusing on ripe beans and others on raw beans.

With so much information on a small bag of beans, it can be overwhelming, but remember that this is only to help you find the best coffee for you. Take the time to taste and compare the differences in processing and origin, ask the barista for more information, and try new coffees to find out what tastes right for you.

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