Have you ever wondered how Arbor Day Coffees are selected and the process they undergo before being delivered to your doorstep?
We are always on the lookout for the best shade-grown coffees around the world. We visit farmers to ensure Arbor Day Coffee is shade-grown under the canopy of the rain forest and verify that sustainable farming practices are implemented. Shade-grown coffee produces a higher quality bean and results in a rich and flavorful cup. In determining if a coffee meets our quality standards, we look at a number of different factors through a method called cupping.
Coffee cupping is a process used in the industry to measure aroma, taste and overall quality of coffee beans. The first step of cupping starts with roasting the green coffee beans. In fact, before coffee is roasted it is referred to as “green coffee” because of its light green coloration. Each country and individual growing region has its own unique flavors. In order to maintain each flavor profile during our evaluation, we roast our coffee to a light roast just after first crack—a popping sound made in the roasting process when moisture is released from the coffee bean. A darker roast tends to burn out the unique origin taste profiles and doesn’t allow for good samples of coffee.
Once the coffee is roasted, we measure and grind the coffee into three to five cups. This helps us identify any defects and ensure consistency among each set. Then, we smell the fragrance of the dry, ground coffee and look for any hints of distinct flavors and check for freshness.
Next, we add water—heated between 200 and 204 degrees— and let it steep for four minutes. While it is steeping, we smell the aroma of the wet coffee, looking for any deficiencies and examining its richness.
At four minutes, we “break the crust” of coffee grounds that have floated to the top of the cup and again, smell the aromas released by the coffee. Aromas in coffee can vary from flowery, fruity and herby to nutty, chocolaty and spicy.
As the coffee cools we begin the tasting process. We look for consistency in flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance and sweetness. By slurping the coffee, we are able to use all of our taste buds to determine the level of sour, sweet, salty and bitter flavors opposed to simply swallowing it. We grade each category and sum the total scores to see where it falls on a 100 point scale. Coffee is determined specialty if it is graded at an 80 or higher on this scale.
After a coffee is scored and approved as meeting our flavor profiles and quality expectations, we start shipping it to the United States to begin the roasting and packaging process.
What is your preferred flavor of Arbor Day specialty coffee? Tag us in a photo with your mug.