April 22, 2016

Decaf: Some say, “why bother?” I say, “why not?”

The Specialty Coffee industry has come a long way to develop the quality of coffee. To innovate brew methods, to find exacting parameters for incredible espresso extraction and to educate our customers on the farming practices, growing regions and taste expectations of our coffee. What this has accomplished is customer demand for an amazing coffee experience that continues to grow.

For some, coffee equals caffeine. As important as caffeine is to coffee, for most of us it’s not the main reason we care about the beverage. We care about coffee – and serving amazing coffee – because of the complexity of the bean, the unlocked flavour potential, the craft and the pursuit of innovation in coffee. So why bother with decaf?

When the right conditions are in place, decaf allows people to drink more coffee. Decaf doesn’t have to be an inferior coffee offering. It can, and should be, a great tasting option alongside the other origins from which the customer can select. Customers love the taste of coffee. Of really good, hand crafted, quality coffee. However, some of them reach a point in the day when caffeine is preventing them from enjoying another cup. If they knew that a delicious coffee was available and they didn’t have to worry about the effects of caffeine, they would line up for it! Some see decaf as a healthier option – a way to enjoy everything they love about coffee, and not limit the amount they drink. What a great customer to satisfy. It’s coffee that we want to continue serving them – with or without caffeine. What’s important now is not to let your customers down with lousy decaf coffee.

Great decaf is achievable

How does delicious decaf get into your hopper? There are various routes, but the equation looks like this: quality green coffee + conscientiously chosen caffeine extraction method = tasty coffee without caffeine. Seek out a coffee partner who understands that selecting decaf coffee based on quality and cup profile is important to you and your customers. A good place to start is by understanding the quality of green coffee that is chosen. Many roasters and importers have origin detail and traceability for their decaf as well as regular coffee. Consider the type of coffee you want to offer without caffeine – do you serve mainly espresso based drinks or is a delicious single origin pour-over an option your customers enjoy. Either way, it starts with understanding the origin options, or blend you want to serve.

Here are some tips for making the most of your decaf offering

Talk about your decaf – be sure to label your decaf coffee, just as you would your regular offerings and be proud of what you have. You don’t have to just serve “Decaf” or “House Decaf.” Serve the origin, celebrate the blend and tell the story. Is the coffee from San Marcos, Guatemala? Organic Capucas Fair Trade Honduras? Is the coffee washed or natural? What varietals are included? Finally, don’t forget to include the decaffeination method as part of the coffee processing details. Be sure you know what makes your decaf delicious and communicate this to your customers. Your customers might ask, and with all the fantastic knowledge baristas have about coffee, it’s important to be able to speak about caffeine removal process as well.

Andrea Piccolo, Brand Manager @ Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company @swisswater

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