For the countless masses who stumble out of bed bleary-eyed and make a beeline to their coffeepots every morning, the journey that coffee has undertaken along the way may never cross their minds. That morning cup of joe is a drop in the cup of a $102 billion worldwide industry. Next to water and tea, coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world. In the United States alone, we drink about 400 million cups of coffee a day.
As with any industry of such a massive size, abusive business practices are an unfortunate reality. Over the past few years, consumers have become more aware of the manufacturing of their coffee and now look for certifications that ensure the coffee is produced sustainably. Sustainable farming means the coffee is grown with eco-friendly agricultural practices such as better crop-management and water-use practices, substituting harmful pesticides with pheromone boxes to ward away insects, using composted coffee bean waste as fertilizer, making coffee hulls into fuel instead of cutting down eucalyptus trees, and reforestation of at-risk natural environments. In addition, sustainable practices focus on garnering higher profits for the coffee farmers, who are largely located in impoverished areas.
To the dedicated coffee roasters around Stuart, the journey is the most important ingredient in brewing a great cup of coffee. Michael Mann, owner of The Roasted Record, has been passionate about coffee since he was 9 years old. “My parents would go for a cup
of coffee and send me next door to Ben and Jerry’s,” he recalls. “One day, I tasted their iced cappuccino and liked that much better!”
An accomplished golfer, Mann turned pro at 17, then went to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where he met Don Cox of Bald Guy Brew. Cox introduced him to the world of coffee roasting, and Mann became an avid student, connecting with other roasters and industry experts to learn everything he could about coffee. “I was pretty geeky and really wanted to learn the process,” he says. He started roasting his own coffee at home, but he couldn’t drink much of it—he only drinks about a half cup a day—so he started giving it away. Soon people were asking for more. So, in 2017, he poured his newfound knowledge into opening The Roasted Record in Stuart.
Mann learned early on about the importance of sourcing the right beans. “I concentrate on buying from people I know,” he says. “We know the producer and the farm, and we know how they grow their beans.” He sources his beans from growers in Sumatra, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Colombia among other countries, and he focuses on single origin beans. “We buy directly from one farm, and our labels usually include the name of the farmer,” he says.
Single origin coffee means the beans were grown in the same crop, which helps preserve the unique flavor profile of the beans. Blended coffees combine various beans that may be similar but not all from the same origin. Single origins are more authentic to the coffee’s
individual flavor, and a bean’s authenticity is an important quality to many roasters.
Like Mann, Dimitar Blangev is particular about where he sources his coffee from. The owner of 3 Baristas in Stuart, Blangev focuses on finding ethical growers in countries such as Brazil, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Honduras. “Sourcing from ethical, fair-trade growers is very important,” he says. “Farmers who grow fair-trade coffee receive fair prices, which leads to a better life for the farming families.”
To be labeled as fair trade, a coffee must be certified by a fair-trade organization and meet rigorous standards, ensuring the coffee was produced in an ethical manner that supports farmers and their communities while also protecting the environment.
Blangev’s passion for coffee also started early. “I opened my first coffee shop in Sofia, Bulgaria with my sister and my mom when I was 17,” he says. In 2012, he moved to the United States and opened 3 Baristas six years later. The walls of the coffee shop in the Monterey Shopping Plaza are adorned with pictures of coffee beans, and Blangev is quick to educate customers on the nuances of picking the right beans. He points out beans of
different colors and sizes and explains how the altitude where they are grown affects them. As a rule of thumb, adds Mann, beans grown at lower altitudes tend to be oilier with lots
of body, while higher-altitude beans produce sweeter, floral brews. Says Mann: “Coffee has 160 types of flavors, so I keep myself adventurous.”
The beans are only part of the equation though. How they are roasted has just as much to do with the final taste. “There is a lot of science involved,” Mann says about his roasting process, which he does by hand. He explains the air and gas controls, which allow him to adjust variables such as inner and outer temperatures, airflow, and cycle time to achieve the perfect roast. In Florida, roasters must adjust for humidity as well, and Mann incorporates that factor into the data he keeps on his roasting processes.
He compares his process to the collection of vinyl he stocks on a rack along a wall in the seating area, the namesake of the coffee shop. “It’s the analog approach,” he says. “It takes time.” In other words, unlike today’s on-demand music, records require attention. When one side finishes playing, you have to get up and flip the record over.
Ultimately, it’s the consumers who have the final say. “I let customers taste the coffee, then adjust it,” says Mann. Blangev also fine-tunes his coffee selections by encouraging customers to sample various roasts. “Before we introduce a new coffee, we share it with customers,” he says. In addition to roasting his regular coffees, Blangev micro-roasts, creating unique profiles for individual customers so they can have the exact taste they like. “I’m here to make your coffee the way you like it,” he says.
Both agree that in order to enjoy the full flavor of coffee, the pour-over method is ideal. However, it requires patience from customers, as a good pour-over can take up to five minutes. “It’s like a meditation,” says Blangev.
With so many types of coffee to choose from, consumers often have a hard time deciding which to select. Mann has some simple advice when shopping for your next bag of beans: “Look for information on the label. The more specific it is, the better the coffee. If the producer is printed on the label, you know the coffee is going to be good.”
Flavor profiles of 4 common varieties
Arabica is one of the most popular and well-known types of coffee bean, comprising more than 60 percent of the coffee in the world. Grown at high altitudes in areas that have a steady rainfall and plenty of shade, it has a sweeter, more delicate flavor, and the coffee tends to be less acidic.
The next most popular bean is Robusta, frequently found in instant coffee and often used in blends. This bean grows best in hot climates with irregular rainfall and can grow at different altitudes. Robusta has double the caffeine as Arabica and, as the name implies, a strong flavor profile.
This is one of the most difficult types of coffee beans to source. The Liberica bean is grown in specific climates, and production is too small to market globally. Larger than most other beans in size with an irregular shape, Liberica beans give coffee a smoky taste.
Excelsa beans represent less than 10 percent of coffee production. Grown primarily
in Southeast Asia, Excelsa is closely related to Liberica but has its own distinct taste. These beans are often used in blends to increase the complexity of the flavor. —Valerie Staggs
Decoding Coffee Labels
When picking up a bag of coffee, there are a few buzzwords to consider. We take the guesswork out of choosing a sustainable option by breaking down some common stamps.
Perhaps the most ecologically impactful designation, shade-grown Arabica coffee is grown responsibly under a canopy of trees, preserving the area’s ecological biodiversity. According to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, “shade-grown coffee production is the next best thing to a natural forest” in terms of attracting avian species. In turn, the birds keep pests away from the precious beans.
Accounting for 20 percent of coffee production, sun-grown Robusta beans can contribute to deforestation, as the protective layer of shade trees is removed. Consequently, pest-eating birds disappear, leading to increased pesticide use. Because of the decreased natural growth, farmers can plant sun-grown coffee crops in higher densities, which depletes the ecosystem and encourages deforestation.
Fair Trade Certified
This stamp bodes well for those involved in bringing beans to your store’s shelves. The designation guarantees that the coffee was grown on a small, sustainable scale in safe working conditions, had minimal impact on the environment, and that workers were paid fair wages.
Although coffee bearing this stamp indicates that it was grown on large coffee plots, it does take workers into account, ensuring a standard of safe working conditions and a guaranteed local minimum wage.
As the name implies, farmers sell their coffee directly to roasters.
Coffees with this designation are grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides that harm farmers and the environment. The producers, exporters, importers, and roasters on this supply chain are all certified organic. —Abigail Duffy
Local Roaster Lowdown
5 places to get freshly roasted, responsible beans
Offering a wide selection of fair-trade coffee sourced from all over the world, 3 Baristas in Stuart also creates custom micro-roasts for individual customers.
Coffee Round the World
Featuring selections from 50 different countries, the Fort Pierce facility roasts its coffee on-site and ships within 24 hours, ensuring that your coffee is the freshest you can purchase online.
The Roasted Record
Located on Colorado Avenue in downtown Stuart, The Roasted Record is a coffee roaster, coffee shop, and record store all in one place. Owner Michael Mann hand-roasts fresh coffee selections daily.
With two cafés in Vero Beach and one in Honduras, Rio Coco sources only handpicked, high-altitude beans and slowly hand-roasts them in small batches. Profits are used to educate Miskito children in Nicaragua.
Founded in 2009, Oceana Coffee is one of the original Florida coffee roasters. Specialty, fair-trade, and organic coffees are roasted in small batches daily at the Oceana Coffee Roasting House in Tequesta.
After the Brew
After brewing a pot of coffee, many consumers toss the wet grounds right in the trash. With more than 150 million people drinking an average of three cups of coffee per day in the United States alone (that’s more than 400 million cups of coffee daily), 500,000 tons of coffee grounds end up in landfills every year. Keep methane-releasing grounds out of landfills with these simple repurposing projects.
Wet grounds can be a great “greens” addition to compost bins, upping the mix’s nitrogen content to grow happy flora, especially acid- loving varieties like azalea and rhododendrons. They can also be used to ward off pests and insects—just sprinkle some grounds from your next brew on top of houseplant soil.
For the Body
Combine half a cup of wet grounds with equal parts brown sugar and coconut oil for a luscious and invigorating body and scalp scrub.
For the Home
The aroma of coffee helps neutralize smells and even deodorizes the air. Leave used coffee grounds out to dry, then stick them in the fridge to keep things smelling fresh. —Abigail Duffy