In the UK, we drink approximately 55 million cups of coffee per day. Considering we spend 22% of our time in the workplace, we can safely assume that a large percentage of our coffee intake occurs there. But do we know the quality of the coffee we consume there, or if it is best suited to our workplace needs? Today, we’re going to be discussing how to choose the perfect coffee beans for your office or workplace
Most businesses are price conscious, and the refreshments don’t escape this consideration. The price of coffee beans differs according to various factors. Firstly, if we are using branded coffee beans, we can generally expect a hike in price. The big Italian coffee brands, such as Illy, Lavazza, and Segafredo can command an increased price (whether or not this corresponds to an increase in quality is a matter of much debate).
Where your coffee is roasted can also have a massive impact on how much you will pay for your beans. Coffee roasted locally will generally be significantly cheaper, as this will cut down transport and logistic costs for your supplier.
We all know that coffee can vary significantly in quality, according to where the coffee beans have been grown, how they have been dried and washed, as well as the ratio of arabica to robusta beans. Predictably, higher quality coffee will command a higher price…. But may well result in happier employees – it’s a balancing act!
Morals & ethics
As a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of the ethical cost of our food and drink upon the people who grow and supply it to us. Coffee is no exception to this consideration. By choosing Fairtrade coffee, we can be sure that all those involved in the trade and growing process receive fair pay for their work. As well as receiving fair pay, the communities involved in Fairtrade coffee growing receive investment into their local community; from housing and healthcare, to education and leadership programmes.
As well as the human factors, Fairtrade coffee organisations also seek to increase and preserve biodiversity in the areas in which coffee is grown and processed. They also support environmental sustainability by employing sustainable, organic, production methods, in fact 85% of certified Fairtrade coffee is organic.
When it comes to most people, the most important factor in choosing their coffee beans is the taste. We all know that the taste of coffee can vary dramatically, what we may be unaware of is why. There are three factors that affect the taste of your coffee; the type of bean used, the colour of the bean, and the region in which the bean has been grown.
We could write essays on how the region in which coffee is grown affects the taste, but for now, we will just specify the taste! Coffee grown in Central or South America tends to taste clean and sweet, coffee grown in Africa tends to be fruitier and complex, whereas coffee grown in Asia tends to be rich and earthy.
The type of beans used is fundamental to the taste of coffee. There are two types of coffee beans; robusta and arabica. Arabica tends to be considered ‘higher quality’ (although this is not always the case, Maxwell House instant coffee, for example, uses 100% arabica beans!). It is grown in high altitudes, and this tends to produce a smooth, sweet, and soft cup of coffee, often with a slight acid tang. Conversely, robusta is easier to grow, and can be grown at lower altitudes. This produces a bitter, woody, nutty tasting coffee – some consider it to be ‘harsher’, but we would refer to it as strong.
If specifying the regions and variety of your coffee beans sounds complex, follow the simple rule of examining the colour of your coffee beans. Beans that are lighter in colour tend to have a smoother taste. Beans that are roasted for longer amounts of time develop a dark and shiny appearance (this is because more oils are bought to the surface of the bean during the extended roasting time), these produce coffees that are bolder and bitterer. Darker coloured beans tend to have less caffeine content lighter or medium roast.
The organic question
Debate is abound in the food and beverage industry as to whether organic food and drinks are superior to their more chemical infused brothers and sisters, and the coffee industry does not escape this question. Conventional coffee beans are among the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world, utilising synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. This also affects those growing and handling the crops, and the biodiversity of the local area. Organic coffee beans are unadulterated from the addition of chemicals and pesticides, using only organic fertilisers such as coffee pulp, manure, or compost.
Many state that the chemicals used in the process of growing non organic coffees are carcinogenic (such as the US Environmental Protection Agency), as well as disrupting hormone and immune system function (you can read a little more about that here).
If there’s one thing we know about coffee, it’s that it goes quickly! Take the time to experiment with blends and varieties, gather feedback from employees and colleagues until you find a coffee that works for everyone. As with most things, the best option may be ‘the middle way’, a coffee which is not too smooth, nor too strong, with a medium caffeine content. A coffee for the many!