Not all coffee is created equal. But you knew that. However, when you see the price disparity between bags of coffee on the supermarket shelf, to those direct from speciality roasters, it can be hard to understand that gap in the middle. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the supermarkets’ large buying power has secured savings that it passes on to you. But the reality is these coffees that can be 50% cheaper than speciality coffee are a far cry from speciality coffee.
Commodity coffee Vs Speciality coffee
We can get into the weeds of this quite quickly, but the short answer here is that most of the coffee you find in supermarkets is considered commodity coffee. That means it’s bought en masse and the quality doesn’t have to be that high, because it all gets blended and roasted in a way that delivers more generic flavours.
Meanwhile to be considered ‘speciality’, coffee needs to score over 80 out of 100 when cupped before sale. Now this isn’t a hard and fast rule to good tasting coffee, it’s just a benchmark to some semblance of quality at this stage in coffee’s journey from plant to cup.
We should mention that commodity coffee has long been guilty of inequality and exploitation. We only use speciality coffee and work hard digging into the ethics behind it. This usually comes at a premium, but it’s the only way we want to do business.
What’s up with those coffee bags?
Most BIG coffee companies use coffee bags made from what’s known as ‘mixed materials’ - usually a blend of foil and plastics. This is good at keeping coffee fresh while it sits on the shelf (more on that later) but it’s incredibly difficult to recycle. In fact, most of them can’t be recycled, and even the brands who offer a recycle service run through Terracycle fail to acknowledge the amount of resources and energy it takes to recycle them.
We’ve told you before about how we have waded through alternatives in coffee packaging. From delivering our wholesale coffee in reusable tubs, to only using retail bags that are 100% fully home compostable, it’s actually hard to get to the truth in a market abundant with green washing. We have ripped up and buried these bags ourselves, conducting experiments so we know exactly how long they take to break down. Are these bags more expensive? Yes. But is it worth it, you know it.
Ethics at the roastery
As well as making sure we bring in coffee that’s kind on the planet and people who grow it, we also stand by those principles here in Bournemouth too. The coffee has to taste damn good, but we scrutinise over our packaging, use solar and other renewable electricity, deliver by electric vehicle and constantly keep working towards causing as little impact to the community and the planet as possible. We pay staff fairly, and support organisations that are making a difference through initiatives like Planet Saving Coffee. We are constantly working on raising the bar.
How fresh is fresh?
When you buy a bag of coffee from us, we make sure you are getting coffee in its best condition. We know exactly when it was roasted, and how it’s going to behave when you get it home and start brewing. Grab that bag off the supermarket shelf, and it’s likely been roasted months ago. Naturally, this has an impact on the flavour of the coffee. Especially if you are buying it pre-ground.
We’ll be exploring more of what makes speciality coffee different, and explain where your money goes when you plump up for decent coffee. So keep your eyes peeled for future features on the subject.