|Posted by Robert Booth on September 4, 2012 at 10:20 AM|
We get asked this question almost every day, and most people expect a single, straight-forward answer.
But, this seemingly simple question "What are good coffee beans?" is almost impossible to answer …
It is a bit like: “ how long is a piece of string??”
Coffee growing has come a long way, the production methods have been modernised and some of the plantations are state of the art modern enterprises owned by huge multinationals.
But, coffee still grows on bushes, sometimes high up on mountains and there are still plenty of (very) small -scale producers who work their crops manually, carry the picked berries on their backs down to their villages, pulp and turn the drying beans by hand and sell their small harvest through a co-op or on a regional market.
And, it must be said, it is not always the most modern and largest coffee plantation which produces the best coffee; sometimes the coffee-berries hand-picked high on a mountain in Africa produce an ugly little wrinkled bean which, when roasted, brews into the finest, smoothest coffee you can imagine.
There are a few things to consider when you talk about “good coffee beans”.
First of all: have the beans been grown and traded responsible? Which means:
• Have the coffee farmers treated their plantations/bushes with respect, without destroying native forestation and using destructive chemicals?
• Have the beans been grown and harvested in such a way that their quality is high and they are as uncontaminated as possible?
• Have the farmers treated their workers with respect and dignity?
• Have the farmers and their workers been paid a reasonable amount for their product?99
• Are the farmers and their workers able to learn new skills to improve their operations?
• Have the beans been traded in an as fair and honest manner as possible, ensuring an accceptable portion of the funds paid for the beans at the various stages of the trade actually ended up with the people who produced them?
If most or all these questions can be answered positively there is a good chance the market has supported the traders who, in turn, have supported the growers who , in turn, have had the incentive to produce good quality beans.
And that means that the green coffee beans, which come out of the bags at the wholesalers, are a good starting point for the makings of a GREAT coffee.