Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Deconstructing Decaf at the SCAA

May 1: Jose Ramirez, Director of Coffee at Farmer Brothers, graciously included me as a co-presenter of his SCAA lecture titled, "Deconstructing Decaf." 40 participants filled the room on a Sunday morning! Jose walked us through the technical details on the various decaffeination processes -- including a new one using triglycerides!

Photo (right) -->: Decaf Kenya AA Meru - green sample next to 3 other regular green coffee samples at an SCAA booth.

For my part, I shared the marketing complexities of decaf, focusing on the relationship between costs, pricing and quality. By clarifying the fact that there are two extra costly steps to getting a decaf coffee, people are better able to see why quality compromises are being made all the time. We looked at locations of decaf plants on a world map, comparisons of how much each decaf process costs, compared mark-up practices for pricing decaf and shared consumer data and marketing tips for decaf.

It was great to have 2 participants in the room from decaffeination plants -- Descamex and Maximus were represented. The best question/quote, I thought, was from Alfredo Rego of Idaho who asked, "why is it at a coffee show like this, you go up to a beautiful espresso bar like Counter Culture has set up and they have 5 amazing coffees -- but no decaf? Isn't everyone a little over-wired and caffeine weary by 3pm on day 3?" Couldn't agree with you more, Alfredo!

Hopefully the roasters in the room are now better able to choose to put QUALITY and TASTE FIRST. This typically means asking one's supplier/importer as many questions about the origin, age and storage of the green coffee as one asks about any regular coffee -- and worry less about which decaffeination process. Whether a coffee is decaffed using water or methylene chloride will make less difference to the taste than whether the green coffee was full of defects or a good, fresh, clean coffee.

Thanks to all who attended! Check out Artisan Coffee Imports for more information and guidance on finding great tasting decaf coffees.

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