Sourcing high quality beans is one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of the coffee roasting business for us. It may well be, or become, just as important to you too. When sourcing our coffee, traceability of the coffee beans we buy is essential. We want to be able to trace those beans right back to the farmer – and even the field in which they were grown.
So many coffee beans are produced en masse by huge, faceless organisations who own many, vast farms. Their aim to produce as many beans as possible, as cheaply as possible. Often lots of chemicals are used to ensure the beans taste exactly the same year after year. This definitely isn’t what we at Norfolk Coffee are after.
Coffee is similar to wine, in that the crop each year should be slightly different depending upon the temperature, the rainfall, the amount of sunshine etc. Many, many factors will affect how a coffee will taste from one year to another.
Coffee farmers do not get huge returns for growing such a popular product so we always want to know what he or she is getting paid when we buy his or her beans. Even the Fairtrade price for coffee is shockingly low. If the farmers return isn’t what we consider high enough, we don’t buy the beans.
We work closely with our two importers. We let them know what bean varietals, country of origin and quantities we are looking out for. They know that we will only buy beans with complete traceability and of the highest quality. When they have beans they think we will be interested in we will sometimes go to their lab and do a cupping or they will send samples to us to try before we decide whether to purchase them.
Often we are lucky enough to get to meet the farmers who produce the beans we purchase. Their enthusiasm and passion for their product is infectious. We find this inspirational and certainly makes us even more determined to do them justice with the end product.
We are always looking for new coffees, either as a single origin coffee for filter or as part of an espresso blend. Our blends are always evolving.
Occasionally we come across a bean which amazes us. We recently roasted our first Pacamara beans from the Montes Urales farm in El Salvador and were absolutely blown away by the way they roasted and the awesome taste they gave in the cup. Our importing partner now keeps an eye out for Pacamara beans and updates us as to what is available.
When we have decided which coffee to buy, we do a few sample roasts. This is to find which profile gives the best taste for that particular coffee. There are so many variables such as temperature, airflow, burner power, the amount of beans in the drum, drum speed and also the weather. These all affect how a coffee will roast and how it will taste in the cup.
The day after roasting the samples we all get together and do a blind cupping. This primarily consists of drinking (or slurping) lots of black coffee, brewed in exactly the same way, and deciding which tastes the best. As the name suggests, we don’t know which coffee is which until we check the names under the containers.
The coffees that scores the highest are the ones we use either for our espresso blends or as a single origin. Everyone tastes coffee differently but we always looking for a coffee that is naturally sweet and has distinct flavour notes.
We then produce a label with all the information about that coffee along with the flavour notes.
Every week we will be tasting all of our different coffees to ensure that we are producing the same high quality coffee and flavour as we did with the highest scoring sample roast.