Every coffee we buy for Passenger is special. Every sample we receive is rigorously tasted, and re-tasted to make sure it is a coffee we would be proud to sell to our customers.
When deciding to purchase a coffee, everything from seasonality to traceability is considered and that doesn't even begin to touch on the quality of the coffee itself. In addition to be being a coffee of high quality, we want any given coffee we are purchasing to fit the role which it is going to fill. For example, if we are searching for a coffee to fill the role of the bass notes of an espresso blend, and we end up buying a screaming (that is to say: lots of top note acidity) Kenyan coffee that scores a 91* and is loaded with fruited acidity, we wouldn’t exactly be doing our job well. Said Kenyan may be an amazing coffee, but a solid 85 point washed El Salvador will fit the role better. I know I am generalizing, but I am doing so to explain that while the overall quality of a coffee is extremely important, the qualities (as Thompson Owen of Sweet Maria’s puts it) are equally important.
Is the coffee fresh? More importantly, does it taste fresh?
Some coffees hold up better than other coffees, so simply giving a number of months that green coffee is good for is not helpful.
The length of time a coffee can be around without showing age is dependent on loads of things… only one of them being the amount of time that has elapsed since the coffee was harvested. A well processed, properly dried washed Ethiopian coffee may taste perfectly fine 14 months after harvest, whereas a Honduran coffee dried too quickly on a blazing hot patio could be showing signs of age before the coffee even leaves Honduras! For this reason I sometimes think “age” is an inappropriate term for the flavors I am talking about when a coffee is past its peak. I typically try to be straightforward and say that I taste “wood” or “paper” rather than saying “age.”
We aren’t going to pretend that every coffee we buy we went and shook hands with the farmers, negotiated a fair price and hugged the entire family to seal the deal. Nor does any one certification (Fair Trade, Organic, Utz, Rainforest Alliance, etc.) equal traceability (or farm/farming standards for that matter) in our eyes. Very simply put there are people who are able to source coffees better than we are able to because it is their 100% focus and we are proud to work with these partners! Passenger Coffee does not yet possess the resources to travel to every origin which we purchase coffee from. We do, however, have the resources to pay premiums for coffee which ensure a level of traceability that makes us feel comfortable and confident that the coffee we are roasting matches the values we care about. Coffee is all about relationships, from seed to cup. We will continue working with sourcing partners whose reputation is spotless and who we personally trust. Beyond that we will begin to travel the world and meet farmers we are already working with through our sourcing partners as well as to search for new and exciting coffees.
Quality and Purpose
Passenger will only buy coffees of the highest quality possible.
For us the two most important factors when determining quality are the cleanliness of the coffee and the sweetness in the cup. The other qualities of the coffee fall under purpose.
Does the coffee correctly fill the role which it should? This question is stretched a bit when it comes to our seasonal single origin offerings, but still very important. If we only had super bright coffees with shining citric acidity we may be excluding a portion of our customer base who is interested in the more intrinsic coffee flavors: cocoa, toasted nuts, etc. - the bittering flavors.