Oh, rich and fragrant bean, bitter earthy, hot or iced a treasured friend, constant companion and helpmeet. At least, that is true when coffee is provided with a sense of mission and not just a desire for commission. But it seems that commerce is undercutting the joy so many of us expect from that dark and mysterious liquid.
According to the Wall Street Journal, even as the World Health Organization, after 25 years, finally agrees that coffee is not a carcinogen (although drinking anything that is too hot may be), it turns out that your coffee beans will be old and stale.
Blaming the coffee plant is useless because this is a manmade problem. In 2013, the coffee market crashed. Dealers figured they'd wait out the drop and so kept prime Arabica beans, which are the tastier and less bitter variety, in warehouses. But coffee in bean form isn't like wine. Aging only drives out flavor. Even the difference between one-year and two-year beans is noticeable, according to the Journal. They begin to taste of the fabric bags in which they ship.
Some of the beans in warehouses now are nine years old. The average is close to two years. This is not a happy circumstance for those who not only depend on a morning's gentle jolt but also like the taste of the brew. And where it will end up is "in generic brands that you might get at an institutional level," according to what Jorge Cuevas, chief coffee officer at coffee importer Sustainable Harvest, told the Journal.
Not that commerce hasn't had a long grip on coffee. Luigi Bezzera, considered the inventor of espresso, developed the concept as a fast way to make coffee and get workers back to the job more quickly.
Personally, I put my coffee trust in smaller companies, figuring they don't have the market clout and so are more dependent on customer reactions. And where the coffee doesn't taste over-roasted. (No offense intended to the dedicated Starbucks fans out there.) Scientists from the U.K. even have a brewing tip: keeping coffee beans in a freezer leads to more uniform particle size after grinding and a better cup, even if you don't have access to the liquid nitrogen (-321 degrees Fahrenheit) that the researchers used. But make sure the coffee is in a truly airtight container or it will absorb moisture, odors, and tastes.
Mmm, nothing like that first cup of freezer burn in the morning.