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Coffee Trends: Spring 2013

Trend or trendy?

May 10, 2013
By Brian Martell


Coffee has arguably has been responsible for the world’s best
innovations (inasmuch as keeping the researchers at their desks),
fuelled philosophical thought from the Age of Enlightenment to today,
and provided a livelihood to millions of people around the world.

Coffee has arguably has been responsible for the world’s best innovations (inasmuch as keeping the researchers at their desks), fuelled philosophical thought from the Age of Enlightenment to today, and provided a livelihood to millions of people around the world. It has been dressed in many suits, suffered through uncounted crises and experienced many renaissances throughout the ages. Sometimes what is old becomes new again, and other times there are variations on a theme to that which exists already. Over the last little while, coffee has made the news in relation to several notable commercial events.

Geisha coffee
Geisha gets its name from the Gesha region of Ethiopia, where it was first cultivated. Like many subspecies of Arabica, Geisha is not as commercially viable to grow as some of the more prolific subspecies. As with other Arabica subspecies that have fallen out of favour or could never be cultivated, Geisha does not produce the yields per acre needed to be economically viable. This is also becoming a problem for Maragogype (sometimes referred to as “elephant beans”), which cannot compete with other varietals and hybrids when it comes to value per acre planted.

Geisha became popular amongst the coffee intelligentsia about 10 years ago when a plantation owner in Panama decided he was going to resurrect this type of tree for commercial use. At his hacienda called Esmeralda, he started cultivating this low yield coffee for its gourmet qualities and marketed it as a very rare variety, worthy of a price tag in the mid $40 per pound-range. Claiming it was the only place in the world that grew Geisha, Esmeralda held the marketing monopoly on this product up until recently. Plantations in the Tarrazu Region of Costa Rica started to cultivate this coffee (interestingly enough, Esmeralda got its original plants from Costa Rica) for Starbucks, which started selling Geisha coffee (in the United States only at this point) for $7 per 16-ounce cup. It used to be available online, and at last glance, was priced at $80 per pound.


Green coffee extract
Late last summer, we began to get calls from almost everybody looking for green coffee. While we do sell it, what became clear was that people were not looking for green coffee per se, they were looking for green coffee extract – apparently the latest and greatest way to lose weight (without really trying). Dr. Oz conducted a small study of 100 women who were looking to lose weight but did not want to change their diets or exercise more than they were – if at all.

After the two-week study, the green coffee extract supplement group reported a loss of two pounds on average, while the placebo group also recorded an average loss of one pound each. The publicity this created caused a maelstrom of market activity with several supplement manufacturers. Demand for the green coffee extract pills shot through the roof as did production, with claims and counter claims of which pills were the real deal and which should be avoided. Still new to the market and lacking any comprehensive clinical studies, the draw of a miracle diet pill during a North American obesity epidemic was too tempting for many people to pass up. Interestingly enough, Starbucks started marketing a product line called “Refreshers” that contain green coffee extract and fruit juice. While Starbucks is not marketing this as a weight-loss supplement, those familiar with the added ingredient are probably looking to the Refreshers as a means to those ends. Most health professionals believe this too shall pass and be relegated to the “also ran” category of diet gimmicks.

“Usually when studies break the physical laws of the universe, there’s something wrong with the study itself,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute, in a December article in the Globe and Mail.
Barrel-conditioned coffee
A small micro roaster in Maryland has a new twist on flavoured coffees; using old spirit barrels to impart flavours into green coffee prior to roasting. This is done in very small quantities (about 100 pounds or less) and often is sold out before you can place an order for it. Traditionally, coffee is flavoured after being roasted. An American company has decided to experiment with flavouring coffee while it’s still green. Green coffee can and will pick up flavour components from its environment that can still be present after roasting. Old, used spirit barrels definitely have quite a bit of aroma, and this, theoretically, could be picked up by the green coffee and potentially survive the roasting process. I think the idea is worth the experiment.

Caffeine overload?
The premise of one nameless company’s coffee is that it has 200 per cent more caffeine than regular coffee. Recommended brew ratios are 2.5 tablespoons of coffee to six ounces of water, but the teeth in this claim come from the fact that the coffee is 100 per cent Robusta dark roast. It’s well known in the coffee business that Robusta has about twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica. My guess is that this company is counting on most retail coffee consumers not knowing there are two species of coffee. Where they really show chutzpah is in their pricing; only $19 per pound (shipping and handling extra).

Questions or comments? Visit Brian at

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