How we source coffee
Coffee sourcing means planning far ahead, continually requesting, tasting, and comparing notes on samples from around the world. We do this so that as coffees go in and out of season, we can continue to provide the blends you love without altering the style and flavor that define them.
This is always a bit of a moving target. Like apples or wines, coffees of different origins have vastly different tastes and complex layers of notes, owing to their distinct backgrounds.
Things that affect coffee taste:
- Different genetics (like grapes, there are storied “families” of coffee varieties!)
- Growing conditions (soil, elevation, shade)
- And of course processing (wet, dry, honey, etc... learn more in our blog).
Sorting through coffee cherries
This variation is one of our key focuses for single-origin coffees, but presents a puzzle when maintaining the distinct profile of a year-round blend. It’s a bit like hitting a moving target, but it’s a challenge our roasting team lives for.
Accomplishing this means sourcing and sampling a lot of coffee. Sourcing exceptional green coffee is both an art and a science, requiring passion and patience. Our supply chain is an ever-expanding, ever-deepening network of relationships we’ve built with our importers, processors, and growers. We consider sourcing a labor of love that’s never laborious.
Our Q Grader and Green Buyer Tyler Zimmer gives some insight into our coffee sourcing program by telling the story of one relationship from Brazil.
Every bean tells us a story.
The countless hands that have cultivated the land, tended the tree, picked each cherry at its ideal ripeness, hands that pulped and washed and raked the beans dry, hands that loaded burlap sacks of green coffee into shipping containers, and finally, the hands at Kaldi’s that grade and roast and cup each lot before it would reach your hands, our guests and fellow coffee-lovers. We try hundreds of coffees to find the ones we most want to celebrate and bring to you.
Sampling a coffee — or cupping, as it’s known in the industry — is more about experiencing the coffee than quantifying it with tests and measurements (though we do a number of those, too). For years, cupping has been an important social ritual in the specialty coffee world, a shared practice across the globe. It's a chance to share the experience of new coffees with friends and colleagues and mindfully evaluate their attributes.
Each coffee’s natural and unique features are intentionally brought out by the cupping process.
Cupping coffee lets us evaluate things like:
The Kaldi’s roasting team focuses on how and where a coffee might be used; although most coffees we cup are perfectly delicious, a few questions always have to be asked:
- Is it the one for us right now?
- How will our guests like this coffee?
- Does it have the right flavor profile to live in our 700, or is it almost too fruity, too chocolatey, too lively?
- How does this coffee stack up as the “light side” of Cafe Kaldi?
An excellent coffee may not fit some or even all of our blends. Sometimes, a coffee that excites our roasters may not be right for any of our offerings at that time (but could still find its way to you as part of our Cupping Room Series).
WHAT COFFEE SOURCING MEANS TO US
Sourcing coffees that are not only high-quality and delicious, but also match an established flavor profile for a year-round blend is hard work. But we cherish the day-to-day routine and ritual of coffee, and we know you do, too. Your favorite cup of Cafe Kaldi or 700 should be just that: the rich depth of flavor you know and love. We hope to continue delivering that experience to all our guests and customers for many years to come.