We love coffee!
If you’ve shopped often at Green Owl, you’ve probably noticed that we’re a little obsessed with our coffee. And we’re not alone - every day in America an estimated 400 million cups of coffee are consumed. But if you’re one of the 65% of Americans who drink coffee every day, are you really getting the most out of your morning cup?
Out of Africa
The first step to a great cup of coffee is its growth. Coffee originated in Ethiopia, where the energizing effects of the beans were quickly discovered. While the beans were quite bitter, people eventually learned that by roasting them and adding water they could create a delicious hot drink that gave lasting energy. In the 18th century coffee-loving Europeans realized that the New World offered the tropical climate and high altitudes perfect for coffee cultivation and the global coffee trade was born.
Today, coffee is grown in over a hundred countries in the tropics and an estimated 125 million people make a living on its growth and distribution. In many tropical countries coffee accounts for half or more of their national exports. Only oil is traded more than coffee! While companies like Starbucks, Maxwell House (Kraft) and Folger’s (Procter and Gamble) dominate the market, most coffee is still grown by small-scale independent farmers in Central Africa, Central and South America and Southeast Asia.
Know Your Roaster!
So with so much coffee on the market, why is it important to buy from smaller roasters? The first reason goes back to how many places in the world grow coffee. Different varieties and growing conditions mean that coffees from two different countries, or even two regions within the same country, can have huge differences in taste. Most large coffee distributers mix all these coffee beans together. But smaller roasters, like Damiani, specialize in single-origin coffees. By concentrating on not just a region but on single farms and communities, Damiani is able to highlight the best flavors. Fruity flavors or a chocolate-like aroma don’t come from adding artificial flavorings; they come from the growing environment of the bean itself.
Of course, there’s more to coffee than just where the beans were grown. Green coffee beans are far from delicious. Coffee has to be roasted to bring out the best flavors. That’s where independent roasters like Damiani really shine. Coffee roasting is equal parts chemistry and art. During roasting a whole host of chemical reactions happen within each bean as water evaporates and sugars caramelize. Working in small batches, a master roaster can customize timing and heat levels to ensure that every bean is roasted perfectly. But big companies like Folger’s roast hundreds of pounds of beans at a time. Because they mix beans from several origins together there are variations in water content, acidity and sugars. It’s so impossible to get an even roast when working with such large quantities that companies have begun sacrificing freshness to add an additional drying step.
And freshness is something those large corporations can’t afford to lose more of. After roasting, coffee begins to lose flavor within a matter of days. It’s a lot like bread; you can eat it when it’s stale but it won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Our coffee from Damiani helps prevent this in two ways. First we sell whole bean coffee, never pre-ground. Ground coffee loses its flavor even faster so buying whole beans allows you to enjoy fresh-tasting coffee longer. Damiani also roasts coffee in small batches every week, which is then delivered to us fresh. Between packaging, shipping and stocking a can of Chock Full o’ Nuts can sit for months, making it stale before you even buy it. Small batch roasting from a local business ensures that you get the freshest, most flavorful coffee possible.
Independent roasters like Damiani don’t just make a difference to their customers. They can have a huge impact on the lives of the growers as well. Since the days of those earliest colonial coffee plantations, the industry has had a history of exploitative labor. While Folger’s alone makes over a billion dollars a year on coffee sales the average farmer makes only three hundred. Fluctuations in coffee prices cost American consumers just a few cents, but they can devastate small growers and their communities.
By paying higher-than-market rate, companies like Damiani help to provide a living wage to these farmers. This not only ensures their livelihood, but also encourages them to invest in their farms and communities. Damiani also supports charities that work on the ground in coffee-growing regions to promote education, provide healthcare, increase economic diversity and combat human trafficking. By investing in the well-being of farming communities, small companies like Damiani are able to improve the lives of growers and make it profitable for them to grow the highest-quality coffee possible.
Taste the Difference
Once you make the switch from generic ground coffee to single origin small-batch beans you’ll never want to go back. Whether it’s the full-bodied citrus of Colombian or the caramel tones of Ethiopian, you can taste the difference in every cup. Because Green Owl gets fresh roasted beans from Damiani every week you never have to drink stale coffee again. Stop in today to get a bag or try a freshly-brewed cup of one of our favorites.