Ode to the GrainPro Bag
Coffee has traditionally been a seasonal crop, following established cycles of growing periods, harvest periods, and shipping periods, resulting in peak-time availabilities of a few months a year for coffees from different parts of the world. Broadly speaking, coffees from the Horn of Africa and Arabia have been harvested in November-December (a pleasant alternative spectator sport to following the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, which I've never quite understood) and become available early in the following year. Coffees from Central America follow in spring and midsummer, and fall has been a time to savor coffees from the Indonesian Archipelago.
Well, no more. You've perhaps observed that we, who take great pride in going beyond the notion of freshness as being defined by the lapsed time between the roast date and when a coffee gets into your cup, to further account for the time that elapses between the time a coffee cherry was harvested at origin to the time the seed gets to our Roasting Works, are increasingly offering coffees that fall well outside the traditional harvest-arrival calendar. Why, we've had no fewer than 5 stunning Ethiopian coffees in our current rotation, exactly 6 months off the traditional calendar cycle.
What gives, you might ask?
Well, there is a conventional wisdom in the industry that global warming has dramatically affected crop cycles, both via its impact on growing cycles, as well as the impact major disasters like tsunamis and droughts have had on the times that farmers are able to harvest and ship coffee.
There is certainly truth to this thesis, but, while this alone could reasonably be expected to have negatively impacted quality and availability, somewhat the opposite has been true. We are being treated to some of the best coffees we've seen in years, at times we ought not to expect. Much of this is thanks to the humble Grain Pro bag. Long a packaging staple in the grain industry, it's a relative newcomer to the coffee world, where the quality of packaging has historically been defined by the tightness of the weave in the unadorned jute bags that we are so used to seeing. African coffees are generally packed in low quality jute bags, while Indonesians and South American coffees generally enjoy higher quality, tighter woven, burlap sacks. These green plastic doodads first started showing up in coffee warehouses in Africa and are now becoming increasingly common in Central America and Indonesia. They have allowed us to store contract coffees for much longer periods (6-9 months) than we used to, before we encounter the dreaded phenomenon we call "bagginess" in the cup. Yeah. Bagginess is what it sounds like. The taste of old jute in your cup. It comes from the coffee sitting unprotected in those bags.
So, not all plastic is bad. This neon green liner has done wonders for what we can offer in our lineup, and when we can offer it. When you see a coffee with an older harvest date (not to be confused with roast date) on our shelves, look also for a GP suffix. It indicates that the coffee was stored in such a bag, and consequently meets our unchanged standards for freshness.