The coffee bean is technically a seed, and it is tucked inside the fruit of the coffee plant; much like the stone pit of a cherry. It is called a bean simply because of the physical resemblance. While many varieties of coffee beans exist, the two most common types are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans dominate the market. They lend to a smoother, slightly acidic taste and they are usually, although not always, deemed the higher quality bean. Robusta beans, as the name suggests, tout a bolder and more bitter taste. They contain at least twice the amount of caffeine as their Arabica counterparts.

When I moved away from a grocery store that carried Equal Exchange three or four years ago, I remember checking, and you had to order it directly from Equal Exchange, and wait for standard shipping. I guess thanks to the Whole Foods merger, now you can get this right on Amazon. I was excited to discover this, but the mislabeling is a bummer! Amazon, please fix!


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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