by Alex Bernier
Can you remember the last time you enjoyed a cup of coffee? How the scent of the beans, the sounds of the brew, the warmth on your hands and taste buds harmonized into an orchestra of perceptions to brighten your morning? The experience is like no other. For some, one cup of coffee can be the difference between productivity and utter disdain for the world, others, just like a fine whiskey, have developed an appreciation for the taste. Whatever your habit, here are four components to consider in order to get the most out of your warm cup of Joe.
The impact of caffeine on your health remains a controversial topic amongst scientists. As an informed consumer, you need to consider how and why you drink your coffee to make the best decision possible in your unique context. Do you drink it with two tablespoons of sugar and low-fat milk? Do you drink it because you need it to be alive? Do you get headaches if you don't drink it? Does it make you feel anxious or overwhelmed? Answering these questions should give you a good enough idea to make an educated decision concerning your consumption.
Do you drink coffee because you love the taste or because it prevents you from murdering your spouse? If you are only seeking a buzz, a commercial roast will do the trick. The beans are roasted in large quantities, for a short period of time at a high temperature, which maintains a high caffeine content in the bean. The only downside is the bitterness.
If you are into taste, you want to make sure to select a specialty bean, roasted in smaller quantities, at a lower temperature for a longer period of time than its commercial counterparts. This allows the bean to roast from end-to-end and release the bitterness while keeping all the aromas.
Packaging is another factor that influences taste. Air and light are the number one enemies of a coffee bean, which is why you want to avoid the bulk-waterfall silos in grocery stores. For optimal taste, a packaging offering a gas exchange seal allowing oxygen inside to exit without letting any in is ideal.
For added measure, certain companies will use a food film to keep your beans fresh for a longer period of time.
Lastly, avoid buying pre-grounded coffee, as a whole-bean will prevent the aromatic oils from evaporating until the brew.
Did you know that the most expensive coffee in the world is extracted from the excrements of an Asian palm civet, and can run you up to 600$/pounds? Surely, the price of any commodity consumed on a daily basis will always be an important factor to consider in your selection process.
Similar to selecting for taste, it is important to establish why and how much coffee you drink to determine the optimal quality-price ratio you are seeking. If you need an IV of caffeine permanently attached to your arm, you may prefer buying bulk commercial brands instead of artisan roasts or single coffee cups.
Environmental and Social impact
Because coffee is the world's most valuable traded commodity behind oil, it is estimated that 11 million hectares of the world's farmland, ran by 25 million farmers and coffee workers, in over 50 countries are involved in producing coffee around the globe. Surely, not all coffees are created equal, and it is important to make sure you are supporting a brand that doesn't undercut producers in third-world countries, and are environmentally conscious in the cultivation of their beans. This might mean paying a little more, but you'll know the people working hard for you to enjoy your favorite morning ambrosia will be able to feed their families without destroying the planet.
I will further explore each of these components in upcoming articles to provide even more information on this wonderful beverage we have been enjoying for eons. Until then, as we say in French, bon café!
Sources available upon request.