Helping you to choose the right coffee
It can be very difficult to select the coffee that is best for you when faced with the array of choices a coffee lover finds at one’s local supermarket. As with most consumer goods, coffee does come in various guises.
OK, so you have no choice other than to buy your coffee in a supermarket. Admittedly, supermarket shopping is very convenient, but this convenience might sacrifice quality in the case of coffee and other artisanal goods. In defence of supermarkets, they have to deal in large and cumbersome quantities, and their daily lives are fraught with complicated logistics. It is very difficult, time-consuming and costly for them to manage each item on an individual basis, and this is why, as a generalisation, most of the coffee on their shelves is somewhat stale. What else can you do? If your local roaster is far away and freshly roasted coffee is not an option, your supermarket is a very good stop.
What is stale coffee anyway?
Coffee is at its best within four weeks of roasting. Thereafter, at a rate of about 0.5% per week, coffee starts losing its flavour. This is even faster when it is in ground form versus beans, the latter tends to hold its flavour a little better. Learn more about freshly roasted coffee.
Look for 100% Arabica coffee in your supermarket
Quite sadly, many product labels and attractive packages are intentionally designed to mislead consumers. For example, the words pure-coffee or premium-selected do not necessarily mean that this is good quality Arabica coffee. An “Ethiopian Blend” is merely a product name and does not mean that the coffee has any Arabica or Ethiopian beans (unless it states this). Another example is one can call a blend an “African Odyssey”, but unless the label specifically states which beans are in the bag, this is merely a trade identification or brand name and in no way represents a guarantee of quality.
The bag might still contain Robusta (Coffea Canephora) which, although biologically still a coffee, is a fairly tasteless and low-cost bean used as an extender or filler. Robusta rarely contributes anything to the quality of a specific blend. Be assured that if a coffee is marked as 100% Arabica – this is the starting point of your hunt for premium coffee.
In addition to the inclusion of Robusta, many blends contain quantities of low-grade Arabica beans. Sadly, there is no way of knowing this. Price and brand recognition will have to be your guide.
To summarise then, first look for the exact phrase ‘100% Arabica.’ This will eliminate most of the coffee. Now look for the words premium quality or similar, and also phrases which indicate the freshness of the product – coffee is after all a foodstuff and as such will deteriorate over time. If you’re still struggling between a few coffees, perhaps eliminate any coffee which is significantly cheaper. Look for the more expensive locally produced coffee which is sure to contain the best quality beans whilst also meeting the other criteria. Remember that whether it’s coffee, cream or cabbages, buying locally will help the community wherever you live.