For over 8 years we have been touting the quality and goodness of our coffee. Then we threw in a rant of two. Our message has been, “life is too short to drink bad coffee”. Now that I am reaching elder statesman age, we want to show people that one small coffee roaster CAN positively change the world, and inspire others to change things for the better.
Most of you, if not all, are familiar with Tom’s shoes. Their original model of buy a pair of shoes, give a pair of shoes has inspired many others to create similar business models of “buy one and we give one”. Please do not misinterpret what we are saying. This type of charity entrepreneurialism is wonderful, but it does not help the people who receive the charity get out of poverty.
We want to share with the United States if not the world that social capitalism is how we can positively change the world. Social capitalism is best understood as classic capitalism with a focus on improved social outcomes, or at least economic social responsibility. We have always had this as our internal goal but we feel it is time to bring this message to the forefront of our company.
Using Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee as the example, we only buy single origin coffee. That means we know the name of the farmer who grew the coffee and we know the farmer got paid. This is the reason why we proudly put the name of the farm on our front label. We want the farm to be rewarded for their work so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. In turn, they grow and they help their neighbors grow.
Here is the difficulty of touting this type of capitalism…because the farmer is paid well, everyone else in the chain makes a smaller margin. That is why there are very few coffee businesses that only specialize in specialty grade. But the good news is specialty grade coffee is growing and the supply is keeping up with the growing demand which means more and more communities are growing out of poverty. We truly believe there is more than enough for everyone.
We talked about grading green coffee beans and sampling coffee to find the best of the best. What comes next is equally as important. It is the roasting of the beans. If any of the other previous steps fall short then no matter how great the roast master is, the end product will fall short.
Up next is the creation of a unique roast profile for each coffee. We will not get much into this part because I have written about it before. The roast master is comparable to a head chef. The chef creates the ideal recipe highlighting the tastes and textures of the food. Then makes sure it is repeat the same way each time it is made. We create a way to roast the coffee to highlight different flavors and characteristics and to make sure it tastes the same each time, every time.
Today we are going to talk about the production roast. Roast Day! The night before my lovely bride Maxine creates a roast report. Each week she gathers all the order information i.e. new orders, subscription orders and change orders. She double checks everything because this is important to get right. All I have to do is weigh out the beans and throw them into the roaster, sort of.
Each batch will take 12-15 minutes to roast. If under 12 minutes, the beans will not have enough time to develop all their flavors. If over 15 minutes, the cell walls start to char leaving a smokey flavor in the cup. The first part of the roast will last 9-11 minutes which is on the boring side. I have to sit there and make sure the coffee is ramping up at a controlled rate. Then the first “crack” happens (popping sound from the bean). From crack to drop (taking beans out of the roaster), no matter what the ending temperature is 3 minutes. If it is a low temperature, then I have to turn off the gas and open the vents to slow the temperature rise. I must be very careful not to “stall the roast” (make the temperature go backwards). A stalled roast means we will not sell that batch. Less than 12 minutes or over 15 minutes means I will not sell that batch.
So much is riding on those last 3 minutes that my heart rate and blood pressure do increase as well as my emotions. I have thought about filming my facial expression during that time but I think the thought of being laughed at quickly nixed that idea. Just know that your smooth, perfect cup of Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee is made with a lot of time, care, energy, heart-stopping moments and love. All you have to do is sit back, enjoy and smile.
If the coffee passes our visual inspection then we will use a standard sample roast profile and let the coffee sit a couple of days. That is when the official cupping test begins. It is a very precise procedure. We coarse grind 13 grams of coffee per 5 ounce cup. We do this for 3 separate cups to make sure all 3 are consistent with each other during the cupping process. After weighing and grinding, we then smell the grounds which is the fragrance. taking note of the different subtle fragrances. 200 degree water is then poured into the grounds and we take note of any changes in the aroma. We wait three minutes and then break the “crust” (top layer of grounds) with a spoon and remove the crust, taking note of any other fragrance present on the spoon. We then wait an additional few minutes for the coffee to cool enough to slurp.
We are judged by our peers on how loud we slurp. True awe goes to the loudest slurpers. During the tasting phase we will concentrate on each part of the coffee’s makeup. The categories are flavor, acidity, body, balance and aftertaste, all the while looking for the hint of taints. If a coffee makes it past this stage, then we continue to sample the coffee as it cools. For us to consider buying the coffee it must taste great at all temperatures.
The final stage before purchasing is verifying its origin. No matter how much we enjoy the coffee we will not buy it until we can verify the origin. Not only do we know where the coffee came from, we know the name of the farmer who grew and processed the coffee as well. We make sure the farmer got paid. We want the farmer to be rewarded for their hard work.
Geez, after reading this I just realized, I am one of those geeky coffee guys.
This is the last of our 3 part series of our caffeine tidbits. This one is the hardest one for me to write. The reason being is that it comes from researching reports for the likes of Scientific Reports, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Insitiute and Feinberg School of Medicine. Translating their findings into short English prose is no easy feat. But here it goes…
A group of scientists have discovered that people who are genetically wired to better perceive the bitter taste of caffeine are more likely to drink coffee despite the fact that bitterness has evolved as a warning signal to protect us against consuming harmful substances.
This is not a perfect analogy (since some spices are good for you) but part of the reason is much like the spicy food effect for spicy food lovers. The mind gets conditioned that something good will follow soon after the experience hits.
Here is the really confusing part. There are two types of bitterness to coffee, acid and acrid. Acidity is the first to hit your tongue. These relate to fruit acids like orange, lemon, apple, grapefruit. These are the actual caffeine tastes in specialty grade coffee (the only grade of coffee we buy). Acrid taste, on the other hand, comes after drinking coffee which hits the tongue as a sharp, biting acerbic aftertaste which one experiences from drinking lower quality grades of coffee. This taste usually comes from the impurities that are allowed into coffee.
So the brain of someone who drinks coffee just for the caffeine is conditioned to looking for the acrid bitterness to get it’s rush. This causes many of them to reject our coffee instead of allowing it to being a warning to them that they are consuming something that is bad for them. Listen to your taste buds!
Roses and sharks have something in common. They both come in many colors, shapes and sizes. Coffee does too. In fact, there are over 100 species of coffee. Several customers and friends expressed concerned because they heard in the news the several coffee species were going extinct. I was happy to put them at ease letting them know that those varieties were going extinct because the coffee they produced tastes horrible.
There are two species that are cultivated for our coffee cups, namely robusta and arabica. Arabica coffee can only be grown in the mountains and robusta coffee is grown in the low lands. Robusta is the commodity coffee. When one hears of the price of coffee going up or down on the news they are referring to robusta. Vietnam is the number 1 producer of robusta followed by Brazil. Robusta contains twice the caffeine of arabica coffee. Because of its high caffeine content, it is bug and disease resistant but it also tastes pretty horrible. While there are some folks trying to get robusta into the specialty grade class of coffee, I am of the school that it will never be accepted.
We only buy and roast arabica beans. Arabica beans come in several varieties. Of the plethora of varieties, we concentrate on 5. Another criteria we stress, is that the coffee is grown over 5,000 feet above sea level. At that level, the bean grows slower and becomes denser. As not to get too technical, it literally means there is more flavor packed into the coffee bean. Then it is my job as the roast master to bring out those different flavors and textures for you to enjoy at home. Our line-up of 7 to 8 coffees take over 140 tastings to choose. It’s not about the caffeine….it’s about the taste.
If you drink coffee, we’re confident you’ve had Brazilian Coffee whether you know it or not.
Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer.
In fact, Brazil is responsible for almost one-third of all coffee. The vast country is covered by over 10,000 square miles of coffee plantations. The majority of these are located in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná where the environment is ideal for consistent conditions for coffee production.
In addition to being the top producer, Brazil is also the largest coffee consumer. Brazil took the title from the United States in the mid-2010’s.
Fun Fact: Along with Ethiopia, Brazil is the only other coffee producing country with a large domestic consumption.
Because of the sheer amount of coffee Brazil produces, there is not one specific kind of coffee that the country is known for. The country produces everything from mass produced cheap coffees (usually lower grade arabica), to complex and elegant coffees.
Coffee crops first came to Brazil in the 18th Century. Brazil has been the dominant producer since the 1840s.
Production as a share of world coffee output peaked in the 1920’s, with the country supplying 100% of the world’s coffee, but has declined since the 1950s due to increased global production.
A big factor in Brazilian coffee is the geography. Most of the Brazilian coffee is lower grown in grassland areas and in non-volcanic soil. The growing elevations in Brazil range from about 2,000 feet to 4,000 feet.
As we stated in our Speciality Coffee guide, these conditions are less than ideal for specialty coffee where 4,500 to 5,000 foot elevations are needed.
This is why most of the coffee in Brazil is grown to be “commercial” grade coffee where bulk and price are the prime considerations.
But that doesn’t mean Brazil can’t grow great coffee.
There are some areas where the better coffee is grown, these are the three main areas.
The best Brazilian coffee is soft, nutty, low acidity, and offers a nice bittersweet chocolate taste.
Because of this, Brazilian coffee makes for an excellent base for making flavored coffees. A good Brazil coffee can add a lot to espresso blends too.
Sitio Sertaozinho is another of the standout specialty coffee farms in the Serra da Mantiqueira region in the South of Minas Gerais.
The region is very hilly, and is the home to many microclimates within them. These microclimates produce a really interesting range of flavour nuances.
Region: Vargem Allegre (Happy Valley)
Varietal: Yellow Bourbon
Processing: Sun Dried Natural
Altitude: 4500 feet above sea level.
Our Sitio Sertaozinho coffee has been dried inside the fruit (dry-processed) so that some of the sweetness of the fruit carries into the cup.
It also comes from trees of the traditional Latin-American variety of arabica called bourbon.
Taste Profile: This medium body coffee was originally purchased to be our iced coffee, this coffee was too good not to offer in our lineup.
The coffee offers tantalizing notes of vanilla, chocolate, tangerine and brown sugar.
The vanilla and chocolate aromatics are subtle to our nose, but oh so enticing, and the standard roasted aroma we all expect when walking into the kitchen is noticeably more pure and rich.
Use a pour over method and you’ll get addicted to the first wave of aroma that arises with the steam from the initial pour.
You should be able to detect the notes of tangerine and the brown sugar. The finish is crisp and clean.
Tap Dancer’s Brazilian coffee is processed using a Sun Dried Natural process.
This is where the coffee is laid out to sun dry with the cherry on. This imparts a rich dry fruit flavor onto the coffee bean, and help adds to the body of the coffee.
Dry processing is a high risk, high reward way to process coffee. A lot of things can go wrong.
The seed or bean inside the fruit just sitting there at the mercy of the fruit surrounding it. If the fruit rots, the coffee will taste rotten or fermented. If microorganisms invade the fruit during that rotting, a hard or medicinal taste will carry into the cup.
At the most extreme medicinal end of this taste spectrum are the notorious rio coffees of Brazil, which are saturated by an intense iodine-like sensation that American coffee buyers avoid, but which coffee drinkers in parts of Eastern Europe and the Near East seek out and enjoy.
In fact, in some years these intensely medicinal-tasting coffees fetch higher prices in the world market than sound, clean-tasting Brazil coffees.
The potential harshness is the risk Brazilian farmers take in their attempt to achieve the round, sweet fruitiness of the best dry-processed coffees.
Brazilian Coffee is common, but our speciality coffee is not. You’ll enjoy this medium body coffee. It’s perfect for iced coffee or piping hot. Enjoy.
Sumatra coffee beans are considered to be some of the finest beans in the world and have become a staple of coffee shops throughout the US.
Hailing from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, you can expect Sumatra coffees to have a rich, earthy flavor.
Coffee was first brought to Indonesia by Dutch settlers in the 17th century.
Sumatra is a part of the Sunda Islands, located in Indonesia. Sumatra means “Island of Gold,” in Sanskrit. Maybe that is why Sumatran coffee farmers grow fantastic world-class coffee.
While other Indonesian islands often have large coffee plantations, Sumatra is composed mostly of smallholder farmers.
The coffee growing area of Sumatra is divided into two primary regions.
The majority of Sumatran coffee is grown inland from the southern coast. Typically this coffee is marked or labeled Mandheling or Lintong.
Sumatra coffee that is grown farther west is usually marked Gayo Mountain. Gayo is located near Lake Tawar and produces some superb high elevation, shade-grown coffee, cultivated at heights usually between 3300-4800 feet.
Our Sumatra coffee is from the Kerinci region.
This coffee is grown in the Jambi region on the slopes of Mt. Kerinci. The Kerinci region is nestled in lush mountain highlands near Mount Kerinci, the tallest mountain (which in reality is actually a volcano) on Sumatra. This area is located just south and on the western side of Sumatra.
Volcanic Mount Kerinci provides a lush home to grow our Sumatra Kerinci at 5000 ft above sea level.
Sumatran coffee beans are some of the heaviest, smoothest, and most complex coffees in the world.
Coffees from Sumatra are most commonly processed using a method called wet-hulling. Wet-hulling is also known as Giling Basah processing.
This type of processing creates a coffee that leaves the farm with a much higher moisture content than other methods.
Here’s that unique process broken down.
This moisture level is a much higher level than coffee from most other regions. In most coffee processing methods, coffee beans are dried until their moisture levels around 9 percent when they leave the processing facility.
This means that coffee has higher than average moisture content when it is bagged and exported to its destination, and this moisture has an effect on the flavor.
While there continues to be some experimentation among coffee processing methods in Sumatra, the cultural predominance and economic advantages of wet-hulling will keep this the dominant process for years to come.
Those that enjoy the unique coffee of Sumatra often describe it as an earthy flavor. If you are familiar with wines, it’s described as terrior.
Sumatran coffee beans are very low in acidity and produce an aroma that ranges from maple syrup to chocolate to toasted almonds.
You can expect a cup of Sumatran coffee to be smooth and full-bodied with a robust, dry finish. You can also expect a distinct note of baker’s chocolate.
Because of this wet hulling process, the flavor profile of Sumatran coffee is well suited to darker roast coffees.
A low acidic coffee is perfect for people who find stronger blends too harsh on their stomach. For example, our Sumatra Kerinci Medium Roast is actually our strongest coffee. But because the quality of the beans is so high it’s the cleanest Sumatra we have ever cupped.
The nutty sweetness of Sumatran coffee allows it to be enjoyed both at breakfast, and or after dinner.
Coffeeresearch.org describes Sumatra coffee as one of the heartiest and most complex blends in the world, making it a must for every coffee enthusiast.
We currently have two Sumatra coffees available, a medium and a dark roast. But don’t be fooled by the type of roasting. Specialty coffee’s use the type of roast to bring out the flavor profile, not to determine how strong the coffee is. For our Sumatra coffee, our medium roast is much stronger than our dark.
Taste Profile: THIS IS OUR STRONGEST COFFEE. The cleanest Sumatra we have
ever cupped. notes of white pepper, ginger and mango
Taste Profile: Full body deep rich coffee with notes of mocha, cinnamon and a delightful nutiness
So that’s a full run down on Sumatra Coffee. What else would you like to know? Have a question, just leave it in the comments section.