We’re talking here about shifting buying habits from large-chain businesses to those that are more locally owned. So in making these consumer changes, what better daily habit to focus on than your coffee consumption? In fact this is the easiest simple change to make if you want to start shifting your buying habits to the local level.
I love coffee. The aroma, the flavors, the different ways you can to drink it.. Appreciating good coffee is more than just the pep of energy it gives you. And if you’ve found yourself graduating from the big name brands that disappoint and leave much to be desired, read on.
Spilling the Beans
Large coffee chains and distributors can be focused on profit margins and numbers. This can lead to cutting corners in the quality of their product when they decide whether to meticulously select the best coffee beans, or beans that are good enough. Over-roasting is also a common technique for covering up the lack of quality and sacrificing freshness for shelf life. There is a learned culture of “darker is better” despite many coffee experts disagreeing.
Coffee of different sources and qualities are sometimes blended together, and a use-by date is often printed on grocery-store coffee bags but not the date it was roasted.
Locally-roasted coffee means you can better know the source and quality controls where it’s harvested, as they are often more transparent about where they source. The coffee can be roasted to the local cafe’s particular standards which allows for choosing beans that have integrity, quality, and haven’t been over-roasted to cover up lacking substance. If you haven’t tried a light roast, you might be missing out on the smooth richness of the coffee taste without the charred bitterness of dark or french roasts.
Arabica and Robusta
Arabica coffee is a type of higher-quality coffee grown in high altitudes. Much like the altitude and growing region matters for wine grapes, it also matters for coffee. Arabica coffee tastes better, and is the choice type for great coffee.
Robusta coffee is grown in lower altitudes. It often has more caffeine but is a lower quality and flavor. Robusta coffee is the alternative choice for lower-end coffee that focuses on delivering caffeine more than coffee flavor, and they can have a more bitter taste and pungent odor.
One problem is that many large coffee manufacturers blend arabica and robusta coffee to cut down on costs, or aren’t clear about the type of beans. Once again, the response of profits are placed ahead of quality. I’m not saying it’s mutually exclusive, but the more you’re informed the more you’ll know about what you’re buying. If quality matters to you, awareness and being selective about where you buy your coffee is a great first step to choosing quality over quantity.
A few reasons to buy coffee locally.
- Quality Coffee Beans
From the harvesting source and local roasting, to the unique artisan crafting of your barista, quality is often the focus of your local coffee shop that wants to build a customer base and set themselves apart from the competition. With locally-roasted beans, the shop can choose their source of coffee from harvest and can have it roasted to their specifications. Lighter roasts retain the natural properties of coffee.
- Inviting Atmosphere
Smaller shops often have less of a disconnect between the owners and workers, and makes for happier employees. The care and friendliness is often truly genuine rather than policy. If spending time in a shop where you feel welcomed is important, this may be a crucial reason to buy local.
- Helping the Local Economy
A dollar is like a voting ballot. You have a choice where to spend it, and who you are supporting when you spend it. By supporting a local business you help to make your community grow economically instead of making the big companies even bigger. You also support companies that have a closer relationship directly with their customers, instead of the top-down decision making structure of franchises.
- A Chain of Support
When you buy that locally-roasted cup, you’re also supporting the roasters and the meticulous coffee growers that harvest using high standards. And you’re supporting local entrepreneurs that work hard to make their business grow. Many local shops are engaged with the community in a variety of ways. I’ll give some specific examples of this from my own experience at Cafe Bella Coffee.