Does The Quality of Coffee Matter?


I want to talk about a substance that is near and dear to many ‘a hearts… the beloved dark brew… coffee.

I was an “I can count on one hand the number of cups of coffee that I have had in my life” herbal tea-toteller until 2002. That was when I met my partner, Barry, who turned me on to the subtle pleasures of good quality coffee. It is a contagious joy that Barry expresses in his exploration of the dynamics of the coffee bean.

To the surprise of many who are satisfied with any or all of the commercial expressions of the black gold, there are varying complexities to the quality of coffee, as there are of wines. At a coffee cupping (coffee’s equivalent to a wine tasting) at The Merchants of Green Coffee, I was introduced to the acidity and body of coffee, the character of beans from the regions of the world and to the subtleties of taste on my tongue.

The key to great tasting coffee, is in the quality of the green beans, the freshness of the roast and proper brewing technique. There are 800 fragile oils in coffee beans which will become stale (due to exposure to oxygen) within 5 days after roasting, 3 hours after grinding and 15 minutes after brewing. According to the Merchants of Green Coffee, 95% of all coffee sold to the consumer is stale, as the minimum time that it takes to get coffee from the central roasting facilities to the consumer, is one week at best, and two months on average. Even vacuum packaging won’t save the coffee from its predestined breakdown. A seasoned coffee palate will notice the difference in flavour of a fresh roasted and ground coffee but do those people, who have been drinking Timmies, Starbuck’s or, gawd forbid, Nescafe, notice? Well, like all things sensory, it requires slowing down and paying attention. And maybe you don’t care. But does the poor quality of your coffee cause an increased risk to your health?

As mentioned, coffee beans contains 800 fragile oils. These oils, like those of other nuts and seeds, are broken down in the presence of heat, oxygen and light. They not only become rancid in flavour but also in how they react in your body. Essentially they become toxins that the body then has to eliminate. If your body has an efficient detoxification system and you have a good supply of the essential omega 3 and 6 in your diet, then it may not be a big issue. But without a healthy capacity to eliminate these toxic fats they find storage in your fat cells or immerse themselves into the cell membranes where they alter metabolism.  So not paying attention to the quality of your coffee might be adding to your weight gain and to your toxic load. I say ‘might’ because we are still waiting (or at least I have yet to locate) research that isolates the effects of coffee based on the freshness of the beans and the brewing.

So consider this a seed  to be planted in your mind.  The possibility is there that you might increase your pleasure and your health by not necessarily giving up your coffee, but by choosing higher quality.

Go for the freshest beans and brew you can find. Consider switching over to green beans that you roast yourself, (the Merchants will ship their roasters and beans worldwide) or find the local spots that serve only fresh roasts. Here is a listing of some of the best roasters in the city where you can buy coffee or ask them if they supply a coffee shop closer to you.