5 Questions About Coffee, Answered

During our Tasting at Ten last Friday, we fielded questions about our coffees and the state of the coffee industry in general. Here are the top five most-interesting questions that we were asked on National Coffee Day!

What is the history of coffee and how it is prepared today?
While this is a contested topic, most experts agree that the consumption of coffee originated in Ethiopia as far back as 950 A.D. and some sources even claim that coffee was first consumed as a food by mashing the beans. The first instances of coffee being roasted and consumed as a beverage date back to the 15th century in Yemen and by the 16th century, coffee had spread to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and northern Africa.

How should you store your coffee?
The optimum way to store our coffee is in the bag that it came in. Our bags have a one-way valve that maintains freshness over time. Rolled up tight in our bag and stored in a cool, dry place like a cupboard is fine. Don’t put coffee in the fridge or freezer though, these places have high humidity that the coffee beans can absorb, which can change flavor and diminish quality.

What contributes most to the flavor in coffee? Is it nurture or nature?
According to Tim Hill, our quality and coffee purchasing manager, environment is the key component in the quality of coffee. Next comes the variety of the plant, and then the actual way the coffee is processed. However, this doesn’t mean that great coffee only comes from a select few farms. With the right process, great coffee can be achieved almost anywhere! It’s really a combination of all of these factors that results in how the coffee tastes once it gets to your cup.

What regions or farms are we actively investing in right now looking toward future crops?
According to Tim, we are actively trying to work again in Indonesia—particularly Sumatra. He also says that China has some amazing potential but, at this point, we haven’t come to any conclusions about partnering there yet. We take every partnership seriously and are thorough in the selection of all of the farms we choose to work with.

Was there a specific turning point where Counter Culture started to focus more on quality versus just sustainability as a company?
Counter Culture has always put quality at the top of the list, with sustainability being an important factor in how that quality is achieved. Since our founding in 1995, however, the way we define quality has changed over the years. We have moved away from the large commercial operations that exist mostly in Brazil. We’ve also led the industry in terms of quality by becoming one of the first roasters to sell shade-grown coffee in 1997 and by becoming the first certified-organic roaster in North Carolina in 2002. We view quality and sustainability as going hand in hand: without one, the other doesn’t exist.