As more and more coffee companies cave to the temptation to adulterate with soy beans sprayed with chemical flavors and questionable trade practices, Equal Exchange may be the last coffee company standing to offer organic whole beans sourced from small producer coops, and roasted at a worker owned facility stateside. The company maintains its commitment to fair trade and supports many worthy causes. I recently had cause to engage in a lengthy discussion with reps at Equal Exchange and consider their inteigrity (and really great tasting coffee!) unsurpassed.
Having one of the East Coast's best roasters representing your state is very nice, and we're super happy for North Carolina and everything, but it's fascinating to see that decades on, Counter Culture, now every bit a national brand, still pretty much dominates the regional scene. Apart from Friday cuppings—always open to the public—at training centers in Durham and Asheville, you won't find Counter Culture coffee bars, which is okay, because it turns out that some of the state's top shops—for instance, the twin locations of Jubala Coffee, next door in Raleigh—act as terrific brand ambassadors.
Subtle Earth Organic Gourmet Coffee was started by Don Pablo coffee growers and roasters, an arm of the Burke Brands LL.C. It is certified organic and Non-GMO by CCOF. This coffee is made from special Honduran beans from the Marcala region. No chemicals were used on said coffee beans. The coffee cherries were used as fertilizer in lieu of insecticides. Additionally, the farmers also practice vermiculture. In this process, worms are used to break down organic food wastes to become fertilizer, and plant peppers are used as repellents. The Marcala region in Honduras is a known producer of excellent beans.
This is a subject of intense debate among caffeine junkies, but there are organic coffee drinkers who swear that they can taste the difference between natural and unnatural beans. Since organic coffee is naturally higher in antioxidants, who's to say that they're wrong? Their palette might be responding to the unique nutrients and compounds in their 100 percent arabica blends.
Over the course of the year, we reviewed fewer than a dozen darker roasts. Most were medium-dark at best; some barely that. The majority of darker roasts we reviewed were sent by roasters in Taiwan and most were espressos, reflecting both the time-honored espresso practice of emphasizing chocolate and sweetness through moderate dark roasting, as well as, perhaps, a preference in Taiwan for more traditional styles of espresso as opposed to the lighter-roasted, brighter style of espresso now popular with the leading edge of North American roasters.
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