Isn’t there a famous quote, “The key to wisdom is knowing all the right questions”? Thank you for taking the time to send your inquiries our way. I thought I’d answer your questions in this Coffee Chronicle to share with others.
Question: “Is price reflective of quality?”
~ D. Foster Spokane Valley, WA
Simon Answers: “Ahhhhhh, the age old question applies to coffee, too. Yes, for the most part, the price of coffee is a reflection of it’s quality. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Coffees can be priced high due to short supply, mystique or marketing. Examples might be Pure Hawaiian Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain or Sumatra Kopi Luwak. But a good rule of thumb is, “there is no such thing as great, cheap coffee”. The best coffee in the world is grown at elevation in remote mountainous areas. It is nurtured during the growing stages, picked selectively and processed carefully. Subsequently, the better coffees command a higher price because of the great care, time and attention in their development. We are honored to find these quality coffees for you.”
Question: “I read somewhere that if my espresso tastes bitter or sour I should consider removing the crema. Is that right?”
~ P. Miles Grand Junction, CO
Simon Answers: “After 20 years in the coffee business, I have learned there are few absolutes. So, if espresso minus the crema is your preference, have at it. From where we sit, at Cravens Coffee, if the crema (rich, creamy intense extraction of coffee flavor that sits on top of your espresso shot) is “off-tasting” it is simply a symptom of something bigger such as improper extraction or the recipe for the espresso blend itself.
Espresso blending is difficult. It’s when you take different beans from different countries or origins and at different roast levels combine them for a specific taste profile. A recipe, if you will. It’s very subjective and harder than it sounds. If there are certain coffees we require for our blends, there are just as many roasters who would never choose those same coffees. Sometimes it’s a matter of taste. Other times it’s a matter of price. At Cravens Coffee, espresso blending is about achieving sweetness and body in the cup. We’d like to hear from you at email@example.com. What qualities do you value in an espresso?
Question: “Do I use less coffee if I use a coarse grind vs a fine grind?”
~ S. Post Kalispell, MT
Simon Answers: “Not exactly. Grind is relative to the time the coffee is in contact with the water. For example, French Press ground coffee is very coarse due to a 5 minute steeping process to fully extract the coffee flavor. Espresso, on the other hand, is finely ground due to the 20-25 second time the coffee is being extracted under pressure. In the middle of these two methods, drip brewed coffee, which is controlled by gravity and turbulence, requires a medium grind.”
Thank you for choosing Cravens Coffee!
p.s. Just for fun, check out our homespun video from last Sunday’s Eastern Washington Komen Race for the Cure. 90 gallons of coffee (!), inspiring stories and beautiful spirits. It was an honor to serve! Keep the spirit alive with a purchase of Survivor Blend thru the month of May!
Caffeine in Decaf
Question: “How much caffeine is in a cup of decaf coffee? How is it processed? Are there any chemicals used?”
~ Valerie, Post Falls, ID
Thank you, Valerie, for submitting this popular question.
Decaf coffees purchased by Cravens Coffee are all chemical-free! Different coffees are treated by different methods. Here are some examples:
Our Mexican Decaf coffee is a “Natural Process” decaf. This is a specialized procedure combining mountain water and an extract of sugar cane molasses, enabling a gentle caffeine extraction from the coffee bean while avoiding pressure or excessive heat treatment. By protecting the natural cell structure of the green coffee, flavor is preserved.
The Cravens’ Organic Mexican Decaf is decaffeinated using the Mountain Water Process. In this process, green (unroasted) coffee beans are immersed in water containing soluble components of actual coffee to help ensure the beans maintain their original flavor qualities during extraction. The caffeine is then separated from the bean using special carbon filters.
On average, 99% of caffeine is removed in any of the various decaf processes. US Federal regulations require that in order to label coffee as “decaffeinated” coffee must have had its caffeine level reduced by no less than 97.5%.
For example, an average arabica coffee bean is about 1.36% caffeine by weight. When 97% of that caffeine is removed, about 4/100th of 1% is left (.0408% of the coffee weight is caffeine).
Rest assured, Cravens Coffee places the greatest importance on proper decaffeination to guarantee the highest coffee quality and authentic flavor in your cup.
Thanks to Valerie from Post Falls, Idaho for her great question. Please submit your question to Simon, anytime, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for choosing Cravens Coffee!
Dark Shiny Coffee Bean
Question: “Does a dark, oily coffee bean produce a stronger flavored coffee than a light bean?”
~ L. Johnston, Spokane WA
Sometimes! If only it were that easy.
A dark, oily coffee bean usually signifies a bean that has been roasted longer, thus, releasing more flavor (the oils) from the hard bean. Sadly, sometimes an oily bean can also represent staleness as the bean has sat too long and has “sweat” it’s flavor out and is no longer fresh. In the end, you must trust that your roaster ‘roasts-to-order’ and offers you fresh coffee, everyday.
Now back to your great question… In the final cup, strength of flavor is a ratio of coffee grounds to water. In other words, you can brew strong coffee with a lightly roasted bean if you leave the water in contact with the grounds longer. Conversely, you can weaken a strong, dark roasted coffee if brewed for a short period of time. However, if brewed equally, the dark roast will have a more pronounced and lingering roasted aftertaste, often associated with “strength”.
It might also be helpful to know that higher grown coffees are more flavorful. The more carefully prepared and properly roasted, the better the coffee whether light or dark. And, of course, in the end the best tasting coffee is what tastes best to you!
Italian vs French
“What do the roast names mean? What is the difference between Italian and French roast?”
~ D. Auburn, Missoula, MT
There are many roast level names for coffee and just as many reasons for using them. Northern European, Vienna, Cinnamon, American, City, Fully City, Espresso … to name a few.
Every roaster has their own designation of how a bean is roasted to completion. Not unlike a chef deciding the doneness of a steak or an artist knowing when the painting is complete. At Cravens Coffee we use roast level names to designate the degree of darkness and oil development of the bean. Development happens throughout the whole bean, not just the surface. Our lighter degrees of roast are Northern European and Vienna. The darker degrees of our roast levels are Italian and French. Each roast level is intended to bring out the “perfect point” of flavor in each bean as defined by the roaster. We thank you for putting your trust in Cravens Coffee Company.
For the second year, Cravens Coffee is honored to bring you Coaches vs Cancer Blend. A special custom blend created by Marcy Few, Robin Rice and the folks at Coaches vs Cancer. We took care to combine just the right coffees for a full-flavored, hearty cup. Perfect for brewing at home or creating your own espresso work of art.
Marcy and Robin chose a coffee grown by Cravens’ friends at family-owned Finca Vista Hermosa in Guatemala. Grown in the highlands of this beautiful country, this coffee has a spirited flavor. Just like our wonderful Zags!
Thank you for choosing Coaches vs Cancer Blend. With your purchase we’ll donate proceeds to help send a child to Camp Goodtimes this summer. This local camp brings respite and joy to children battling cancer.
Look for Coaches vs Cancer Blend at locally owned grocery stores throughout the Inland Northwest during the month of February and March. Go Zags!
With a new year comes new opportunities for taking care of you, our valued Customers. See what’s in store….
A new face. Our Facebook page has moved. Why? It’s a long story, but it has something to do with a little apostrophe. Whether you have ‘friended’ us in the past or new to facebook, please follow Cravens Coffee on our new page so we may better serve you. New upgrades provide you the latest coffee news, crop announcements, special promotions, events and the occasional element of surprise. Friend us, like us, share us and we will deliver!
New to Twitter! Yep, old dogs apparently can learn new tricks. We dared to venture into the world of tweeting and live to tell about it. We promise to share with you helpful and insightful tweets. Thank you for following us.
A new venture into videos. Given we prefer preparing your coffee each and every day to producing videos, we won’t promise genius behind the camera but we will promise good coffee fun. Find our YouTube tab on our new Facebook page for short video clips we hope are useful and entertaining. Who could resist Simon slurping and spitting at the cupping table or his latest adventures to the coffee farm? We look forward to hearing from you!
Let’s not forget new crop coffees. Our recently popular Tabu Jamu coffee will continue as we just got word the fine farmers in Sumatra have produced a second year crop, which we have secured for shipment. What was intended to be a one-off coffee treat was so well received by a select few specialty coffee roasters, including yours truly, the coffee has turned into a longer term relationship. Learn more about this unique coffee on our recent blog here. At stores now!
Here’s wishing you a prosperous and happy new year!
A word we all recognize but what does it mean? Back in 1993 while roasting our very first holiday coffee, we named it Yuletide Blend in honor of the winter festivals of centuries gone by. Why mess with a good thing? Yuletide, a time of celebration and an act of good cheer. “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin”, as the lyric sings.
There’s much to enjoy about the holiday season – crisp, snowy mornings, specially baked cookies, gatherings with family and friends. Whatever your holiday favorites we offer Cravens Yuletide Blend to help you celebrate.
Yuletide Blend is a rich combination of Sumatra Mandheling and the finest coffees of Central and South America for a full-flavored, bright cup. We combine several coffees grown in distant lands to celebrate the holidays – and honor our faraway friends for all they do so well. Costa Rica Monte Crisol’s sweet, tangy, up-front flavor lends sparkle, then perfectly matched with Mr Irham’s IKA Sumatra Mandheling providing a fruity, spicy body at the finish. We include just enough French Roast to elevate the complexity.
Cravens Yuletide Blend – our way of sharing the warmth of the season with you. Cheers!
Available at area grocery stores and coffee shops serving Cravens Coffee.
It’s just fun to say! Tabu Jamu. Pronounced “taaboo jaamoo”. Or, as conjured up by diligent Ryan, while carefully stewarding our coffees through the roasting process, “Tattered Pajamas” or “Tatooed Llamas”. Why not?
The name, Tabu Jamu, means Forbidden Healer. A name selected by the gentleman who discovered the coffee in Sumatra and brought it to our attention. After being taken through the farm, he was sitting with his hosts in a sidewalk café when a lady, dressed in blazing colors, bird plumage, beads and necklaces rode up to them on a bicycle. The attached basket overflowed with unusual looking paraphernalia. She cackled and laughed at them, then moved on slowly.
She was a medicine woman, faith doctor or, in Indonesian parlance, a Forbidden Healer, which in the native tongue is….Tabu Jamu.
As unique as the name, the coffee does not disappoint. A true micro-lot coffee prepared in the traditional Sumatra natural-process-style. This means the coffee has experienced an abbreviated de-pulping and washing procedure followed by a drying stage designed to maximize the development of fruitiness and cocoa-like body.
From a small town on Lake Toba in Sumatra, this coffee is truly special and delivers a syrupy, hoppy flavor with spicy undertones. We roast Tabu Jamu in both our lightest and darker profiles to feature it’s unique attributes at contrasting roast levels.
In response to my last blog entry “In Defense of Fair Trade” many of you insightfully asked, “Is all Cravens Coffee Fair Trade Certified?” Thank you for your question! Answer … it is not. While Cravens Coffee is pleased to report we pay a premium price to the farmer (above 40%) to ensure fair trade practices we have instilled a model of “Trust and Verify”.
“Trust and Verify” is the Cravens Coffee system of identifying coffees from a limited number of origins that do not have links with Fair Trade USA. We like to go a mile deep, not a mile wide, gathering as much information about a coffee source as possible. Growers, millers, exporters, communities are critical. We then verify through country visits and first hand confirmation. As the saying goes, “it is amazing how much you see by looking.” Nothing could be more true when visiting coffee farms, mills and communities. Walking through a farm, picking cherries, getting hands in the soil is invaluable. The look of the mill. Is it clean and organized? Is it big enough not to be overwhelmed at harvest? Experience the community and its services to the families. Is there a library? Where do the children learn? This is ALL verification, and part of what we do with our coffee, whenever and wherever possible.
Is “Trust and Verify” BETTER than Fair Trade? No, but like Fair Trade, it has an end in mind, which the coffee roasting community should subscribe to – quality of coffee, quality of life.
Trust and Verify.
Thank you for choosing Cravens Coffee,
Trust and Verify.
Coffee roasters vs Fair Trade? Some newer coffee roasters claim they do it “better” than Fair Trade. I’d like to weigh in.
As the first Fair Trade certified roaster in the region, we at Cravens Coffee supported programs supporting the farmer early on. Details of the fair trade model are well documented (transfairusa.org) and include: fair minimum pricing for green coffee, representation through local co-operatives and addressing humanitarian issues such as safe working conditions and child labor.
While Cravens Coffee is clearly an entrepreneurially-founded business believing in business freedom, market forces of supply and demand and the concepts of competition through quality and service, coffee has unique inherent complexities. It is a third world agricultural product traded as a first world commodity leading to severe downward pressure on coffee prices at the farm gate. In dignified working conditions, true Specialty Coffee needed a mechanism to ensure earned value was realized. Hence the international Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) and the US branch Transfair USA, whose name recently changed to Fair Trade USA, was created to serve.
Fair Trade is not perfect. We studied the model before certifying, and continue to monitor their efforts. They are open and communicative. But for a small roaster to say THEY do it better than Fair Trade is curious. Fair Trade has an assertive third party certification mechanism to ensure the stipulations for growing, picking and milling are all adhered to. Then they audit the finances and accounting of each co-operative to ensure the farmers are being paid correctly. They attend the Co-operative leadership meetings to ensure the agreed upon principles of democracy are embraced. There may be elements of this that sound like imperialism and/or socialism. But having seen the process and the results, it is quite the opposite. This is sustainable capitalism.
Quite simply, the roasters who say they do it “better” have absolutely no methods or mechanisms to do so. They are not able to monitor, audit or verify anything. If they say they have “people” who do that, who are they? The most over-used phrases in coffee at the moment are “Direct-Trade” and “Farm Direct”. Everyone is buying direct (apparently). Some roasters are truly doing so. I have a couple of colleagues in the business who travel 9 months out of year sourcing coffee for their companies. They are truly Direct-Trade (living on planes, trains and automobiles!). But for the roasters who say all this, yet have not traveled to countries of origin (not being judgmental – real coffee travel is hard), to say they are doing something better than Fair Trade is disingenuous.
Thank you for choosing Cravens Coffee,
Burka Estate is one of Tanzania’s oldest specialty coffee producers, located in the slopes on Mt. Meru in the shadows of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Northern Tanzania. Owner Alex Rechsteiner practices an eco-friendly and responsible approach to the environment and neighboring communities. Burka has its own nursery schools, for 100 pre-schoolers, and constructed two primary schools just outside Arusha.
Burka Peaberry is a washed, shade-grown Arabica coffee featuring a distinctive jasmine floral note and a blackcurrant, wine-like flavor. We are lighter roasting this coffee to accentuate the profile. A peaberry is when the two beans inside a coffee cherry, grow together as one.
This coffee will be available at selected locally-owned grocery stores soon. You can also purchase the Burka Estate on our online store.