Talk About a Scandal: Coffee


Special thanks to Flickr users Market Lane Coffee, ubrayj02, & turoczy for images.

Deep, dark, dreamy, perk-you-up java. Just the mere sight and smell of the magical coffee bean calls you to royally bow in its presence. Your taste buds are  dancing on the tip of your tongue, awaiting the sweet reward of that very first sip of your muddy cup.

Don’t be surprised– 3 out of 4 Americans drink coffee. Roughly 60% enjoy their routine and drink it daily. Here in Seattle, people watching and coffee cup counting should be a sport. We just aren’t as complete without our earthy, rich and zesty brew.

If we had sunnier weather, on the other hand…
 

All gripes aside, coffee seems to be under the radar as of late. This is for many different reasons. Today’s post will hone in specifically on coffee bean composition, and the concerning changes that coffee companies worldwide are making.
Why? Because coffee enthusiasts are griping– for good reason.

“The Bitter Truth”

Daily Finance wrote a short article covering the recent Arabica and Robusta scandal. If you are well-versed in coffee bean location and how this affects flavor and quality, you already may know about why this is concerning.
Being a coffee enthusiast, but not a coffee bean archaeologist, I found out that Arabica beans and Robusta beans are entirely different strains of java once they are brewed.

Arabica Versus Robusta

Arabica coffee beans originate from high and cool mountain environments and come in 25 different bean varieties. Many people consider Arabica as the “gold standard” in coffee bean. Why? Their “inferiority” in flavor: Arabica is the boldest, richest, and most full-bodied cup of joe.

Sounds like a dream?
Don’t worry. You’re likely already drinking it. 70% of all coffee production is based on Arabica beans. If you visit cafes or coffee houses, many of them refuse to sell anything but the best.

Everything that Arabica is, Robusta is not. Not to harp on Robusta, the response of Arabica versus Robusta is extremely apparent. A higher acidity and bitter flavor dominate Robusta’s best qualities.

Guess what? Because the demand in Robusta beans has risen, due to crop yields, coffee companies everywhere are infusing their delicious all-Arabica coffee with rudimentary Robusta.

Even though Robusta tastes worse than Arabica, the fact that there’s more Robusta available is reason enough to degrade coffee quality.

Kristine put it simply in response to Daily Finance’s post:

And, like in most cases, the change in flavor isn’t the only problem.

You pay more to get less.

We’re still being charged just as much money for our beans, without the high-quality Arabica beans our hearts have swooned over for decades. It has become a blended coffee.

Other Americans, like Lila, prefer to voice their concerns and empathize with many other coffee courting folks, disappointed in the loss of flavor and complexity in their java. “WHAT is the HARM?!” she writes. “Are you serious? It does NOT taste the SAME and we are being CHARGED the same.” 

This issue is also bringing up common complaints in the slightly sketchy, tasteless tactics of our food industry’s reputation. “At least the new ingredient is actually coffee beans. I wouldn’t have been, and would not be, surprised if it turned out to be … a filler,” commenter smjonz writes.

But, we’re living in a “recession.”

It’s easy to see that during our ever-changing global economic state, all aspects of everyday living are affected in their own way. This switch to Arabica-Robusta blends is being met with great resistance, and I hope to see major changes in the way that coffee producers and growers approach their product development.
Brand reputation and customer satisfaction used to be the marker of success– but when money seems to be a rare commodity, basic human values like trust and genuine intent are carelessly tossed out the window.

I wrote a quick and brief post on the lovely Jolkona blog last year in celebration of World Coffee Day, focusing on the environmental effects of coffee production. Offset your “coffee footprint,” and find out why this is so important.

What issues surrounding coffee have been “grinding your gears” lately? Do you drink coffee? How important is taste and quality in your coffee bean?

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Talk About a Scandal: Coffee

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