LITTLE JOURNEY INTO CLASSIFICATION

Discovering more and less relevant coffee grade type...

 

 

The growing interest around the world of coffee leads us to clarify some classification related terminologies, starting with the two most widespread and influential species on the market: Arabica and Robusta.

 

 

green coffee beans 02

 

Photo: McKay Savage

 

First of all, as many will already know, we are talking about two products coming from different tree species.

 

Arabica was the most commercialized species, the first that was bought by man to be appreciated in the cup. The low caffeine content (0.7% -1.5%) and the low resistance to various soil diseases make it cultivable at altitudes above 900m. Arabica is considered of higher quality as compared to other species, in fact all top range coffees are closely related to this species, unfortunately most of the Arabica produced falls within the commercial range and often of a low quality.

 

The Canephora species, commercially called Robusta, can grow at lower altitudes and it’s much more resistant to soil diseases as it is made up to 3.5% of caffeine content. It was first marketed at the beginning of the 20th century and today represents 30% of the world coffee production. Robusta is often considered inferior and commercial compared to Arabica but without it we would not even have the Arabica species, it is indeed its mother plant! The gene of the Arabica species descends from the union between Robusta species and a species called Coffea Eugenioide, which is now barely produced.

 

Many variables influence the taste of a coffee, but if you were served a Robusta and an Arabica perfectly worked from tree to cup, you would find how Robusta tends to have a more neutral, woody, bitter and heavy character. Arabica, on the other hand, would have a more characteristic profile, with higher acidity, a lively sweetness and complex aroma.

 

Until the twentieth century all the coffees consumed in the world were Arabica, but in the middle of the century Robusta was established in the market thanks to the higher fruit production yield (almost double compared to Arabica), but also due to its distinctly heavy sensory profile that found the perfect dimension in espresso blends.

 

Robusta, in fact, used judiciously, may be able to round off and enrich body of espresso blends.

 

Recently, with the World Bank support, Robusta was planted in large quantities in Vietnam. In many cases it is coffee produced massively and with drastically low standards. All this translates into a final product with mainly moldy scents. These coffees can be sold at much lower price and mostly going to instant coffee production as compared to other better quality Robusta.

 

Today we see a huge development of Arabica and Robusta hybrids, such as the Catimor varieties, which combine excellent resistance to soil diseases while maintaining very high cup quality.

 

And the Fairtrade?

 

Let’s try to clarify this topic, what Fairtrade means and what it unfortunately does not guarantee.

This certification was introduced in the 80s to safeguard producers from market fluctuations, guaranteeing them a minimum price paid that would at least cover production costs.

The idea is positive and in the large slice of the "commercial" coffee market can certainly have advantages if properly applied.

 

One of the negative aspects can occur when the agreements to fix the minimum price are concluded in the periods in which the market is falling, this removes the possibility for producers to earn more at times when the market is rising.

Furthermore, Fairtrade does not guarantee high quality.

 

Rather than using a quality focused model, guaranteeing a "premium" price, Fairtrade has concentrated everything on the request for a higher price to the importer and the consumer even without much quality control.

 

It is therefore important not to be hypocritical thinking that Fairtrade is based on quality and the only real way to fairly pay a farmer. Many companies are constantly working to get fair prices even without the Fairtrade brand.

 

Coffee roasters are certainly responsible parts of the coffee trade and nobody wants to oppress farmers in order to speculate and get rich.

 

Speciality coffee, on the other hand, allows producers to get up to 3 times higher price than the C market. The current situation, which has lasted for decades, unfortunately puts a strain on the sustainability of coffee farmers.

 

The idea of ​​fair price for the farmer, so that he can have a better quality of life and a reward for his efforts, is very simple and is the only way for a sustainable working model. For years coffee buyers have not been interested in the quality of the product, including multinationals that still do not care about it, so the only variable was price, which has always led to a decline in quality. The introduction, in the early 1980s, of the speciality market, led growers to increase their quality standards, also allowing an increase in the prices of their products.

 

 

Peacocks only selects speciality coffees which are paid up to three times the market price for their quality. This encourages farmers to improve their standards, trying to get a better price and giving the consumer a higher quality product. All of our coffees are carefully picked and processed, evaluated and classified by professionals before being classified as “speciality”. Moreover, roasters and farmers are increasingly given the opportunity to meet and discuss products in order to find those most suitable for consumers, a unique way to find stable and lasting agreements.

 

Importers then often deal directly with farmers and cooperatives to grant prices and guidelines for higher quality. In this way there is a direct connection between price and quality.

 

Speciality coffee already have an associated premium price, because importers and roasters pay a higher price since even the final consumer is willing to pay more for a higher quality product. Peacocks constantly collaborates with importers directly connected to producers which also have the chance to organize origin trips discovering farms and the entire production process. All this gives us the possibility to trust completely the work of all parts involved in a chain we can consider for everyone fair.

 

To finish off, we would like to suggest you not to choose how to purchase coffee purely based on what certifications you read, try to discover more by asking your roaster information on the coffee you buy, prices, sustainability, relationship with importers, farmers and more. The majority of speciality coffee roasters will be more than happy to answer all these important points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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