What to Know Before You Buy the Beans

Coffee expert Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee explains which countries produce what types of coffee beans, and sheds light on what "shade-grown," "fair trade," "organic," and other certifications mean.

Released on 3/24/2010

Credits

Starring: Mike Phillips

Transcript

00:00
(upbeat music)
00:05
(guitar music)
00:13
Hello, I'm Mike Phillips.
00:15
I'm with Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea,
00:17
and we're gonna go over a few things
00:19
that are important to know about when you're trying to buy
00:22
real high quality specialty coffee.
00:24
There's a variety of things that
00:26
you should look for on the label.
00:27
First and foremost is information about the coffee
00:30
you're buying as to where it's grown at.
00:32
Is it a coffee from Brazil?
00:34
Is it from Colombia?
00:35
Does it tell you where it's at inside of that origin?
00:39
Those are really important details to help you develop
00:42
your knowledge as far as what coffees from certain regions
00:45
taste like, so you can figure out what you like.
00:47
The second most important thing
00:49
is probably gonna be a roast date.
00:51
Freshness is absolutely paramount in good coffee.
00:54
After about two and a half weeks you're gonna see
00:56
a drop off in crucial things like the intensity
00:59
of the coffee and the aromatics.
01:02
So a really quality conscious roaster is gonna print
01:05
the date that the coffee was roasted on the bag in a way
01:08
that you can easily find it and decide exactly
01:11
when that coffee's passed it's prime.
01:13
When you're looking at a coffee,
01:16
there's a variety of things to take into consideration,
01:18
and one really important one is roast level.
01:21
The higher the quality of the green bean,
01:23
which is the original state of coffee before it's roasted,
01:27
the lighter you can roast that coffee
01:29
because the flavors that are in there are really good,
01:31
and you're not wanting to cover them up
01:33
with the effects of roasting.
01:34
The darker you roast a coffee,
01:36
say as with a French or an Italian roast,
01:39
the more you're gonna take into the bean
01:42
that flavor of the roaster itself.
01:43
So you're gonna get a little bit of smokier flavors,
01:45
a little bit more carbon in there,
01:47
and often times that's a practice that's used
01:49
to cover up for beans that don't have
01:51
as high of a quality level as you may find
01:53
in some lighter roasted specialty coffees.
01:56
If it's a really high quality driven coffee roaster,
02:00
you're gonna see a lot of information,
02:02
such as the varietal of the coffee,
02:04
the elevation that it was grown at,
02:06
information about different certifications it may have,
02:10
whether or not it's a coffee that's still in season.
02:13
All of these elements are bits of information
02:16
that are gonna help you sort through
02:18
the wide array of coffees that are out there
02:20
and find one that truly matches up
02:21
to the reputation of specialty coffee.
02:24
There's a number of certifications
02:25
out there that you're gonna see.
02:27
You're gonna see ones like organic.
02:28
It's a very common, that has reference to coffees
02:32
that are produced without the use of herbicides
02:34
or pesticides, but it doesn't really address cup quality.
02:37
Or pricing.
02:38
Organic coffees can fetch a higher price,
02:40
but it's not always stipulated.
02:43
Other things such as shade grown
02:45
refer to the environmental practices
02:47
that a farm might use.
02:49
And then you have other certifications,
02:52
such as Fair Trade's a very widely used and common one,
02:55
that refers mainly to pricing.
02:58
There are other certifications out there,
03:00
such as Direct Trade that ties in a lot of those elements
03:04
from pricing to mainly also including the quality
03:07
aspect of the coffee, which is a pretty handy one
03:11
if that's something that you're interested in
03:14
with regards to specialty coffee.
03:16
(guitar music)
03:20
(upbeat music)