Why do coffees taste so different?
From the tree to your cup, there are many different factors that can affect the flavor and taste of your coffee.
- Variety - The variety, cultivar, or hybrid of coffee tree your beans originate from will determine a specific flavor profile common to all trees of that variety.
- Environmental - The conditions that the tree is grown in will greatly affect the final product in the cup. The type of soil, altitude, amount of sunshine, amount of rainfall, temperature, humidity, amount of shade or lack thereof, all of these factors can change the taste for better or worse. The same coffee trees growing on different slopes of the same farm can have noticeably different flavor profiles.
- Processing - Every step along the way during processing, if not done carefully, has the potential to turn an otherwise great coffee to one that is simply average, or worse. Harvesting and sorting must be done with an eye on quality throughout the harvest. If the cherries are left to ferment too long or are dried improperly, they can become "foxy", a term used to describe a defect where the green beans develop a reddish brown color and have a noticeable "off" taste. Wet weather during the drying process can be devastating to the entire crop.
- Storage and Shipping - How the beans are stored and for how long is another critical step that can adversely affect the coffees quality. Delays in shipping can greatly influence the cup quality, resulting in much lower prices for the farmer.
- Roasting - It is said that while it is impossible for a roaster to take a bad coffee and make it better, it's very easy for a roaster to take a good coffee and turn it into garden compost. Roasting coffee is half science, half art, and knowing when and how much heat and air to apply during the roast can only be learned through experience.
- Brewing - If our coffee has successfully completed its several thousand mile journey and made its way from being a fruit on a tree to beans in our bag while maintaining its inherent quality all along the way, it now comes down to how well the barista or consumer can prepare those beans to bring out all the flavor nuances that are locked inside and create a beverage that is both enjoyable and satisfying.