Finding the right coffee supplier is serious business.
Consider a time when you were in a new city or had just moved to a new neighbourhood. If you’re anything like us, we’re betting one of your top priorities was sourcing out a local cafe that ticked all the right boxes. Or you may be new around here and wondering who the best coffee roasters are in Brisbane?
If you’re sitting there nodding your head, we’re also willing to bet it wasn’t just the coffee being served that you took into consideration when sourcing this new haven of the good stuff. You probably considered the aesthetics of the place, how friendly the staff were (pleasant but not too chatty right?), how easy it is to grab a seat, and how comfy those seats were. We could go on but you get the idea.
Well, picking the right coffee supplier is just as important – and varied – as picking the right coffee shop. Whether you’re in the market for keeping the kitchen cupboards stocked with the best beans around, or interested in a supplier for your own coffee shop or cafe endeavour, there are a number of considerations to think about.
IT’S NOT JUST SUPPLY AND DEMAND
It’s good to note that many coffee suppliers have diversified not only in the different types, but also the qualities of coffee they provide (so you can usually find one that will be able to offer you a good variety to choose from for your own personal tastes).
Broadly speaking, coffee beans are split between two main plant strains: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans tend to be more common (especially in Australia) as many agree they are less bitter than Robusta, providing a pretty decent in cup experience.
With that knowledge safely tucked away, here are a few considerations we suggest pondering when picking a coffee supplier:
1. Their Roasting and Brewing Experience
Truman Capote is quoted as having said: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour” and while that may certainly be true, it’s definitely not the condiment you want when choosing coffee beans for that satisfying brew.
Experience counts for a lot in this industry, so it’s worth taking this into account when choosing a supplier. The more years the roasters have under their belts, the more skilled they’ll be at not only delivering consistent quality again and again, but they’ll also be ready with all the expertise to answer your burning coffee questions and conundrums (they might even be so kind as to provide a top-notch blog for you to access …)
2. Check into the Origins
It’s an often-overlooked thing but the origins of your coffee beans have a huge impact on their quality and taste profiles.
Asking the question around origins helps you begin to build a profile that works for your taste preferences. If sustainability and organic are also important boxes that need to be ticked for you, querying the origins of your beans is the only sure-fire way to make sure those boxes get the big fat tick you’re looking for.
It’s definitely worth keeping notes around the origins of different beans you try, so when you’re reviewing a potential new supplier, you can make sure there’s a good match on this front.
3. Keep it Fresh
We’ve discussed the importance of freshness and finding the sweet spot of fresh for optimal enjoyment of your beans – so it’s easy to see why it’s also an important consideration when weighing up a supplier.
For optimal freshness and drinking time, it’s generally recommended that beans are their best for around 15 days after they’ve been roasted. Your beans will still stay pretty tasty for up to 30 days after roasting, but after this point, they tend to lose a lot of flavours and are generally considered ‘stale’.It’s those first 15 days after the roast that you’ll really be getting the most out of your beans and all the flavour notes they have to offer.
When picking a supplier, you want to see openness around roasting dates, a lot of effort put into the best packaging to keep those beans fresh, and an overall conscientiousness about delivery time frames and reminders for when you should be thinking about restocking.
4. Sample It Out
There’s no point getting sucked in by flashy logos, branding, marketing and price points if the goods don’t actually deliver, well, the goods.
This is especially important when looking into a supplier for commercial or business means. A good supplier will be interested in making sure you get a real sense for what their ‘product’ can deliver, and in that case should be open and willing to share some samples.
Samples are about more than simply tasting the beans, it’s also about building a relationship and the roasters developing an understanding of your needs. As we mentioned, many coffee roasters have a real diverse range available, so if a select sample package doesn’t quite hit the spot, a good supplier will seek feedback, offer alternatives or be straight up honest that they’re not right for you.
5. Know What You Want
What you really, really want.
Even a starting point is better than nothing at all. A good supplier will want to develop an ongoing relationship with you but giving them a headstart on where to begin when it comes to what you’re looking for will see things off to a good start.
Many roasters often have long lists of different blends, roasts and single-origin beans, so the more input you can have when selecting samples, for instance, will see you getting a better experience than simply stabbing in the dark. A great roaster will be keen to advise you on the best beans for what you’re looking for and be happy to keep switching things up until they hit the right mark for you – the customer.
If you’re just after a bag of beans than this list pretty much should help you on your way, however, if you’re seeking extras you might also want to consider if the roasters offer:
- Tours of their warehouse and facilities
- Additional training or resources
- A Coffee Quiz to help you get the most out of their beans
Just for an example of course ….