Quality Coffee May 29 2014
When we talk about quality coffee what exactly does that mean? It means care and attention throughout every step of the process until it reaches the consumers hand. One mishap in any of the steps will produce a poor quality cup of coffee. This is how we ensure quality at Desert Sun Coffee Roasters:
The first step in great coffee starts all the way back to the plant from which it came. The Coffee Plant will be ready when it has ripe cherries on it. All of our coffee is hand picked (as opposed to machine picked) to ensure that only the ripe cherries get selected for use. If un-ripe cherries get picked, they will impart off-flavors in the coffee. Imagine eating an un-ripe strawberry. Yuck. Since coffee is a large source of income for the farmers that we work with, they take a lot of care in picking only the ripe cherries from the coffee plant, and how they dry and handle the coffee before taking it to the coop. At the coop, they will test the farmers’ coffee for moisture levels and if it’s too moist, reject their coffee. The coop then sorts the coffee by size for consistency. They also sort out green coffee for defects. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has a list of standards and protocols which you can find here to learn more. In order for coffee to be considered specialty grade, it cannot have any primary defects, a maximum of 5 secondary defects, 0 quakers and a cup evaluation of at least 80 points (This rules out mainstream supermarket coffee). You can see the specifications here or you can click here to read about all the standards and protocols for specialty grade coffee. After the coffee has been rigorously sorted through, the farmer coop is ready to send samples to our importing coop.
Our importing cooperative, Cooperative Coffees, will receive a pre-ship sample for our evaluation. This sample is graded, sample roasted, tested for defects and scored by our on staff cupper/evaluator. They will then determine if the sample is to be accepted or rejected. If accepted, the coffee is shipped to our warehouse where it will again undergo a random sampling. From here we will once again decide whether to accept or reject the sample. Once accepted the coffee will then be available for us to purchase from the coop. We also manage a website called Fair Trade Proof that contains every document for the coffee from farmer to roaster.
Now that the coffee has been through several quality steps, when Desert Sun orders our green beans we can be assured that we are receiving the highest level quality of green bean. But that’s not the end of the quality process. Like I said before, quality must be assured throughout the entire process of the bean. When Desert Sun receives green coffee, the coffee is put into a humidity controlled room to best preserve the bean. Since we are a certified organic processing facility, this also means the beans are not exposed to any sort of chemicals. We begin our quality steps by sample roasting to profile the flavors of the bean. Sample roasting is our small roaster that we can roast small batches of coffee several different ways to see what flavor profiles each bean is capable of. After determining the best profile for each bean we will then re-create that roast in our large roaster. Every bean is roasted and cupped, roasted and cupped, again and again for quality assurance. Coffee cupping is a professional technique for evaluating the characteristics of coffee. The best of the best coffees are what we offer for our Single Origin line up; even our best single origins go into our blends.
Lastly, quality is also about freshness. At Desert Sun we roast to order, meaning that your coffee is fresh when you order it. Once roasted, the coffee is put directly into airtight bags with gas valve. This is because coffee, once roasted, degrades with exposure to air. Airtight bags ensure that the bean is not exposed and stays fresh while allowing the gases from the beans to escape. We wouldn’t want your coffee bag to explode!
Now we have a quality product. Every step in the chain has carefully been attended to and results in the highest quality specialty coffee. Now preparation is of the utmost importance. If coffee is incorrectly prepared, then a poor quality product will still result. The SCAA has a set of standards for quality preparation. It offers a Golden Cup Award to those who have proven their ability to brew coffee to defined standards of quality. Desert Sun has received a Golden Cup Award for our commitment to quality and proven ability to brew coffee according to the standards prescribed by the SCAA.
What is quality coffee? Quality coffee is care and attention to the product from farmer to cup. One missed step along the way can result in loss of quality. At Desert Sun we are passionate about quality and through the networks of small farmers and our importing cooperative we ensure that our coffee gets the attention it deserves, every step of the way.