Coffee talk can be filled with all kinds of specialized terms, and we don’t want to overwhelm you or make you feel subjected to coffee snobbery. I’m fascinated by coffee—its growth and processing, the complex chemistry involved in roasting, all of it—but I understand that some folks only want to know so much.
What matters most is that you sit down with a delicious, brain-stimulating cup of your favorite roast. At the same time, there are a few essential terms that might help you understand what you’re buying when you buy my coffee.
Single-origin coffee is what it sounds like: it’s coffee that derives from one location—sometimes even from the same plot of land—rather than being blended with other coffees. Unlike blends, single-origin coffees preserve the specific and distinct flavors of different countries, regions, geographies, and processing methods. Single-origin beans are often roasted to capture some of the “terroir” (French term generally referring to the flavor of origin). Finally, single-origin coffees tend to be grown on family-owned or co-opted, non-industrial farms.
“specialty” and/or “high-grade” coffee
In the coffee world, the “grade” reflects the quality of the coffee beans and the number of defects found in the coffee sample. Coffees that rate Grade 1 or better have no primary defects and have optimum moisture content for roasting. Sometimes, the beans are sorted several times to uphold these standards.
When choosing green coffees, I’m always looking for Grade 1 or better.
It’s difficult to find a strict definition of “small batch” in terms of weight. Instead, you’ll often see it associated with coffee freshness. When roasted coffee beans sit around—even if they’re stored in an air-tight container—they slowly lose freshness. Beans typically stay quite fresh for a few weeks, so roasting small batches ensures that you’re not getting roasted beans that have been sitting around for two months.
We label each bag with its roast date, so you know just how fresh your coffee is!
“Fair Trade Certified”
Fair Trade Certified coffee can be traced back to its specific origins, including every farmer, exporter, importer, distributor, and roaster who has possessed the bean. This is what we mean by “traceability” (tracing coffee from the farm to your cup), which helps create a transparent and equitable coffee ecosystem. Fair Trade Certified entities must register with Fair Trade USA, who guarantees Fair Trade farmers a guaranteed price on their beans.
Fair Trade also helps sustain coffee farmers by ensuring that they’re paid fair wages for their efforts.