The world of online coffee subscriptions has become crowded and problematic: Most subscriptions work with a similar model — coffee drinkers settle on their favorite flavors and method of making the coffee, and then the company chooses a bean bag to suit it. It’s hard for coffee drinkers to tell if they’re getting something good and hard for coffee companies to stand out. But Quintal Coffee breaks that rather solid mold and ships great coffee while they do it.
Quintal differentiates itself from most other online roasters by answering one of the current challenges in specialty coffee: How do you prepare a fresh, delicious cup? The answer that Eduardo Omania, an engineer by training, has settled on is one that is gaining traction in the coffee world, but remains uncommon: coffee roasting where it is grown, a system known as original roast.
The high-quality coffee beans that most of us usually buy, either via a company like Trade or directly from our favorite roasters, come from the country of origin as unroasted, green beans. “The coffee we drink in the United States is often green for three to four months,” says Ever Meister, an Epi contributor. “Then there is a long time to charge it and no matter how long it takes [prepare] Those green bags—maybe looking for coffee that was harvested eight or nine months ago.” Sitting without roasting the better part of the year doesn’t help coffee in the flavor department. Omania guided me to a lengthy academic study in Annals of botany Explore why. There is a lot of chemistry that may not interest you, a coffee drinker, but the primary finding of this study is that “Prolonged storage of green coffee is accompanied by a typical deterioration in quality.” The way to avoid losing quality and flavor is to roast the bean while it is still viable, i.e. alive and able to grow the coffee plant.
That’s what Quintal does, roasting Central and South American coffee beans as soon as possible after harvest, then shipping them directly to subscribers once a month. After working my way (very quickly) through a few bags, I found that the coffee had a real depth of flavor that is sometimes missing from even coffee that was recently roasted in the U.S.
The original roasting model also means that the coffee Quintal sends out is actually seasonal — something not many people think of when they think of coffee. But coffee is at its peak of flavor right after it is harvested and this happens at different times in different parts of the world. “Right now, it’s coffee season in Central America,” Omania says. We get coffee from Honduras, Costa Rica and then Colombia. We will probably drink coffee from Peru around October when that coffee is in season.”
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In addition to providing excellent coffee, Quintal does some service to the countries we all depend on to keep us in need. Most of the credit (and money) for getting good coffee goes to boutique logo roasters from San Diego to Portland, Maine, which they definitely are. Not coffee country. “The farmer, the producer, has been taking care of coffee crops for years,” says Omania. “Then that green coffee is exported and within 15 minutes, or however long it takes to roast, the roaster gets all the glory.” Meister said most bluntly, “Producers have historically been kept out of conversations about quality…They were considered ignorant of what tastes good. There’s this colonial colonial attitude that only Americans can roast beans.” Omania, whose grandmother owns a coffee plantation in Colombia, strongly believes in the need to transform the coffee trade to become more equitable in producing countries. Right now, for a $20 bag of coffee, Omania says, three or four dollars are left in the producing country. He’s thinking of an original roasted model that can be doubled or even tripled.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a coffee predicament with which subscription you’re using, or if you’re still trying to figure out which one to use, an order from Quinta can change your morning routine. And it might change the coffee-making routine, too.
Originally featured on Epicurious