“I see that your Lush branded packages at the Kelowna Costco have two different labels. The two labels show the beans originate from two different geographic areas – either Sumatra or Mexico/Central America. I have tried both and noticed differences in the beans, the flavour and the acidity. What are the differences in the two Lush blends and how would you characterize them and brew them?”
First, it should be mentioned that coffee, like other crops is seasonal. There is a beginning, middle and end to the harvest that corresponds to a bell curve. Volume and quality of the harvest taper up, peak and then taper back down. Throughout this time coffee will be exported and ultimately roasted. There is a finite window from the time coffee is exported that its flavour is at its peak and acceptable. Let’s say six months to put a fine point on it. Some coffees last a little longer, others a little less but the important point is that you don’t want to see coffee from a given country on offer all year long.
Currently Guatemala is fresh and lovely and delicious but it’s tapering out and we’re now with just a few more arrivals left (and showing well, I should mention). When they’re gone, they’re gone. We won’t have anymore past September. If a coffee roaster were to buy enough to carry them (and you) through the year until next years crop, by December the coffee will be tired. By early spring it will be dead. Tasting sacky, or woody or “past crop” as we say in the industry.
All the coffee from Central America follows this similar timeline. Come late Fall through the winter and into early spring, you really don’t want to be drinking anything from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua etc.
Fortunately, you don’t have to as there are lovely coffees from Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil that are coming on line. They’re at their peak through the months that the Central American coffees are fading.
The take home message? Coffee is seasonal, and much like strawberries in December, just because you can get something doesn’t mean you should.
Secondly, coffee is dynamic. The countries and co-ops that are having a good year are always changing. We want to respond to that, selecting and using the coffee that is the best of what is available.
This year Honduras was sensational. The last two years not so much. In 2011 we bought a lot of Honduran coffee. In the previous two years we bought none.
Sumatra this year was problematic: limited supply, late deliveries, dismal quality and breathtaking prices. We bought next to nothing.
Coffee is seasonal and dynamic, so to stick with a coffee from a given origin or even co-op for that matter would be silly. And so we don’t. You will notice that within our bags the provenance of the beans can and does change.
Now I can hear some suggesting that this must impact the consistency of the taste, no?
As Emerson wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”
And so it is that we pursue consistency not for it’s own sake but rather we pursue a consistently delicious and enjoyable cup. We do that with considered and changing selections of what is available and what we deem to taste best.
I would humbly suggest that the details of origin are not necessarily the end all and be all that we’ve been led to believe. Is coffee from Peru different from Guatemala? Sure. But it is also quite similar. They are both high grown, washed, Arabica. They can both be outstanding.
Good coffee is good coffee, brewing up into an enjoyable cup, regardless of where it is from. For those who desire to know the provenance of their bean and the additional enjoyment that can provide, our iPhone app gives you those details and more.
For everyone else, we hope you’ll embrace the taste even as it may ever so slightly ebb and flow. Our end goal is always the same – roasting and blending coffees that are easily enjoyed and taste great, everyday, all year long.