Basic coffee facts

coffee photo

Shade-grown coffee. Is this something new?

No. But, thankfully, it’s a matter of something old being new again.

Coffee is naturally a small, shade-loving shrub that up until about 40 years ago was always grown alongside other shade-loving agricultural crops under the canopy of the rainforest. Grown in the shade, coffee is easily cultivated without the need for chemical inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides), so it’s a crop well suited to be grown organically and in harmony with the natural environment.

With the development of trees that could tolerate the sun and thus produce higher yields, producers began clear-cutting rainforest areas, shifting coffee from being one of the lowest impact crops on the environment to one of the highest. Farms went from being shade- covered, biologically diverse operations with no or little use of agricultural chemicals, to single-culture enterprises requiring huge amounts of fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides. This full-sun, industrial-style method of coffee cultivation eradicates the winter homes of North American migratory birds by destroying habitat, as well as poisoning the environment.

Fortunately, many small growers continue to produce their coffee crops in the shade of the forest canopy. And, more and more growers who had previously abandoned their traditional methods are now realizing the destruction this has caused, and are today returning to the old ways. These traditional, conservation-minded farmers are the ones we seek out when sourcing our 100% shade-grown coffees.


darker the roast vs lighter roasts

I’ve always thought that the darker the roast and bolder the brew, the more caffeine there is in a cup of coffee. But a friend just told me that it’s the lighter roasts that have the most kick. Is this true?

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Yes, though different species (Arabica vs. Robusta) and varietals (Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, etc.) can have different caffeine content, and the way the coffee is brewed can also change the values. For instance, a “typical” 8 oz. cup of brewed coffee contains on average between 60 – 100 mg caffeine, compared to 45 – 100 mg of caffeine in a 2 oz. double espresso.

Robusta coffee, an overall inferior, bitter-tasting species of coffee widely used in inexpensive mass market blends, instant coffee and some espressos, contain about twice as much caffeine as do Arabica coffees.


Among Arabica coffees, however, the differences in caffeine are slight. The roasting process reduces the amount of caffeine, but the amounts are actually minimal. If you’re wanting more caffeine, have another cup. If you’re looking to reduce your caffeine, a dark roast isn’t the answer. Go with a decaf (which, by the way, still contain a small amount of caffeine).


What brewing method do you recommend?


That’s like asking what our favorite coffee is. It depends on the day of the week. Oh, and the particular coffee we’re brewing (though that can change, too). In short, it’s all about individual tastes. Check out our Brewing Guide for the how and why of each method, and decide for yourself which is best.


Which of the coffees is your favorite?

Well, on any particular day the favorite might be a South or Central American, Mexican, Indonesian or African – light roasts, dark roasts or in between. It really doesn’t matter. It’s always changing. And that’s a good thing, because it reinforces my belief that variety truly is the spice of life. To my palate, none of our coffees are better than another. They’re simply different.

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That difference is what makes sampling coffee, wine, beer, cheese, oysters or barbecue so interesting – and enjoyable. Different origins, regional twists, and even the environment a product is produced in create the unique regional and artisinal foods we celebrate. We’re all about trying new foods and beverages, and we always encourage our customers and the curious to do the same. There are always new discoveries to be made, new combinations to explore, and new methods to try.

Each coffee boasts certain characteristics that are distinctive to a particular place of origin, and our small-batch, artisanal approach to roasting brings out the best flavor and aroma characteristics in every batch of beans.

An Ethiopian coffee, for instance, will likely burst with berry and citrus flavors; a Sumatran, dark chocolate and spice.

A favorite? Don’t ask us. Experiment, try different coffee types and decide yourself.


Buying locally vs your regular ground coffee

OK, so you stress buying locally, and seem to concentrate your sales close to home. How, then, can you justify selling to online customers hundreds or even thousands of miles away?

Good question, because at first blush it might seem that selling online to customers hundreds or even thousands of miles away is a contradiction to our locavore principles. But, put simply, it’s not. Let me explain.

You see, though we always encourage people to shop close to home and buy products that are locally produced whenever possible, the reality is that buying local isn’t always that simple – at least not when it comes to finding the variety, quality or method of production that a person might want or demand. So, if you can’t find what you’re looking for locally, you should at least be able to feel good about buying online from a company or companies that share your ideas and sensibilities in regard to those products. That’s what we offer.

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For instance, all of our products are certified organic, and most are either Fair Trade CertifiedTM or Rainforest Alliance Certified®, as well. And, to help reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels used in shipping our products, we pay a carbon offset fee on every shipment.

So, if you CAN buy local, DO. If you can’t, then feel good about finding and buying from a compatible, conscientious company that you can embrace and that embraces you.

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