My First Coffee Roaster Tour at Amavida
I imagine if you are reading this you are already a big fan of specialty coffee. Whether you brew at home or visit one of Amavida’s cafes, you have a go-to caffeinated drink. When choosing the type of coffee to enjoy over breakfast, have you ever stopped and wondered what the words “roast”, “origin”, and “flavor notes” on the bag actually mean? I have heard these words circulating throughout my various coffee shop experiences, often from baristas and coffee aficionados, but I didn’t fully understand them. What is the difference of roast profiles? Why does origin matter, and is single-origin better? And coffee, well, tastes like coffee right?
These questions have been at the forefront of my mind and I wanted to learn more. I would consider myself a casual coffee drinker, only buying things like the occasional latte (truthfully mostly tea-based lattes) so I knew I had a lot to learn about the world of organic coffee. When I learned that Amavida was one of the few coffee roasters in Florida and offered public roasting tours and coffee tastings for free (yes free!), I was intrigued. I already loved Amavida for their fair trade and sustainability practices, so I was even more excited to learn about the behind-the-scenes action.
Upon arriving I was immediately welcomed and offered some freshly brewed Guatemalan coffee. Before beginning the tour, Amavida’s Director of Coffee, Martin, explained some of the basics of coffee. Here are a few key takeaways I learned from our initial coffee conversation.
Where Does Coffee Come From and What is “Origin”?
If you didn’t already know, the coffee bean we are all familiar with is actually a little seed that comes from the coffee plant. The seeds or “beans” are grown inside of a coffee cherry (pretty amazing, right?). The coffee we drink comes from various countries where coffee can be grown and produced by farmers, known as the origin. You’ll see the names of countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, and El Salvador adorned on bags which just means that particular bag of coffee beans came from that country of origin.
Amavida takes buying their coffee to the next level. They work directly with farmers and farming cooperatives to choose the best organic coffee for you. Many of their relationships with the farmers have lasted for ten or more years and are still going strong! That means you are getting high-quality specialty coffee that is unique in flavor all while being completely fair trade and grown with sustainable environmental farming practices.
Coffee and Flavor Notes
Before the tour if you would have asked me “what does your coffee taste like?” I would have responded with “like coffee?”. I didn’t have the words or the palette to describe the different flavor profiles of coffee. Like wine, coffee can have different notes. Flavor notes are completely natural and determined by a few factors: the coffee’s origin, how it was produced, the soil and other plants that grow around the farm, and the roasting of the beans themselves. Your favorite Florida coffee roasters are the ones who find the perfect way to roast the beans to give them an optimal flavor that pays homage to the unique characteristics of the beans’ origins.
You’ll notice words such as honey, chocolate, tropical fruit, or jasmine on the labels of roasted beans, these words are indicative of the flavor notes, not how the coffee is flavored. It definitely takes time and some palette training to pick-up some of these notes, but once you understand what notes are and sample coffee during the taste tasting portion, you’ll be better equipped to taste and describe them. So next time you pick up a bag of Amavida’s fair trade coffee, you can now know what to expect in terms of flavor notes.
The Coffee Roasting Process
Up until the roasting tour, coffee roasts and the process of roasting was a bit of a mystery to me. Another reason why the free tour appealed to me is that I could see the roasting process from beginning to end. Amavida is rooted in transparency. The tour led us through the roasting and storage room. There was coffee stored in burlap bags from floor to ceiling, waiting to be roasted. The smell was heavenly, a true coffee lover’s dream!
At the tour, you’ll be able to see the entire roasting process from the beans in their natural green state to the coffee bean we are familiar with, a warm, rich brown. The entire process takes approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, you’ll be able to sample previously roasted beans and have a chance to ask all of your coffee questions.
My favorite part of the tour? Clearly tasting the various single-origin coffees was amazing, but my favorite part was learning more about Amavida’s mission. With community and their environmental impact in mind, Amavida set out to reduce their carbon emissions. From installing a Loring convection roaster, which reduces CO2 production from roasting by 80%, to partnering up with Taking Root, they take their impact seriously. Through their efforts, they achieved 100% carbon neutrality this September.
Join the Public Coffee Roaster Tour!
This experience was very educational and enlightening. If you ever wanted to learn more about where your coffee comes from and see the roasting process yourself, I highly recommend you take a tour! Every 2nd Thursday of the month, Amavida welcomes groups of 8-12 to their free roasting tour and coffee tasting. The next tour is on November 14th. Sign up through their Facebook events page and bring a friend or two.
Article and imagery contributed by Brianna Fox-Priest. Get to know more of her work at the Socialista Podcast or on Instagram @bysocialista