Flat. Bitter. Weak. Boring. Bland. This is how most caffeine conscious coffee lovers describe the decaf coffee they find. And other coffee lovers tell me they won't even consider decaf because it is all terrible.
But what makes it so bad? And could it be better? I was asking those questions too as I started out on my quest for great decaf.
It's all about the beans...
Decaffeination is an extra step in the process that enhances the value of coffee (in my opinion), but comes with an extra cost. Many companies choose to balance out cost profiles with their regular coffee rather than aim to create an incredible coffee. So to keep costs the same, many companies use lower quality beans or older beans.
If you start with bad beans and decaffeinate them, you won't end up with anything better, it just doesn't work that way.
That's why we use only the highest quality arabica beans. These are beans grown at high elevations, in good soil.
Our coffee cherries (the fruit the coffee beans grow in... yup, coffee is a tree fruit!!) are hand picked when they are very deep red and not earlier. By only picking the ripest coffee fruit, the beans will be a more even and better quality than if you just pull off a variety of different ripeness at the same time. Think about the difference between a banana with a bright green peel vs with a yellow peel. One is ready to be eaten and the other needs more time to mature. Coffee is the same way, you only want to pick it when it is very ripe.
[The beans on the right are great quality and look like what we share, the ones on the left...well that may be your other decaf]
And how you decaffeinate them...
There are a variety of ways to decaffeinate coffee, with natural ingredients and chemical solvents. All are deemed safe by the FDA and even the chemical solvents are almost non-existent after roasting.
However, our coffees are only decaffeinated with natural ingredients, like water or sugar cane byproducts. Our first coffee is decaffeinated with a natural ethyl acetate (EA), which is from sugar cane. The sugar cane is grown in Colombia and the EA is sent to a decaffeination plant in Colombia. EA occurs in fruit and there is more of it in a banana than in our coffee. And we are soon launching a coffee that was decaffeinated by Swiss Water, which using only water from glacial runoff to decaffeinate your coffee.
And how you roast them
Decaf can be a bit more challenging to roast and requires extra attention. If roasters don't really care about the quality of their decaf , they may not focus on the quality of the decaf roast. Also, if you start with bad beans that have no interesting characteristics to highlight, over roasting (i.e. burning) the beans covers up bland taste that was there to begin with.
Our coffee is freshly roasted in small batches, with lots of love. Our coffee is roasted with attention to the details and a delicate balance of art and science to make sure it knocks your socks off. Because we want to taste all of those incredible flavors too!
We invite you to try out our coffees and let us know if you can taste the difference