The world of specialty coffee can be overwhelming, and learning how to read a coffee bag is not exception to that. It can sometimes come across as information overload — what is a process? What does MASL even mean? What are the fruits listed referring to?!
We’re going to break down how to read a Rogue Wave coffee bag label, which will make it easier to understand when it comes time to choosing your coffee.
We’ve broken it down for you into chunks, and working our way from the top counter-clockwise of this Panamanian coffee label, we’ll take you through our bag layout, one line at a time.
From the top right:
Country of Origin: at the top of our bags, you’ll find the country the coffee came from! You may have heard people say they prefer an Ethiopian or Colombian coffee, and what they’re speaking about is the terroir of that and the influence of that growing region on the coffee beans. But to keep things simple, the country of origin can help you choose coffees in the future if you find yourself enjoying one coffee from a specific region over and over.
- Hacienda Canas Verdes
Name of producer and/or farm: Without farmers and producers who grow and harvest the coffee, we wouldn’t be here. We believe it’s important to highlight these folks as we strive to create meaningful relationships with them. These farmers and producers from around the world share their products with us and if we can pay homage to them by putting their names front and centre of our bags, we’ll do it.
This refers to the literal way the coffee was processed from fruit to coffee bean. When picked, coffee cherries are processed by stripping fruit and mucilage of the bean, but not all coffees are processed the same. When you understand the difference between a washed and natural coffee, you’ll have a better grasp on the common flavour characteristics associated with these processes which will aid you in your coffee selection.
While there are four main types of coffee plant, the main type of coffee we bring in is of the Arabica species. What varietal refers to is the sub-species or the cultivar of the coffee plant. In this example, Catuai is the sub-species of the Arabica coffee plant.
This can be listed as “altitude” or M.A.S.L. (meters above sea level). Higher altitude coffees may have higher acidity and more complex flavours compared to their counterparts grown closer to sea level, and these higher altitude coffees can be more highly prized as the slower rate of ripening allows for coffee cherries to develop more sugars.
- Tasting Notes
In this example, the flavours listed here: plum, green mango, and cocoa butter are more than just for show. While coffee won’t inherently taste exactly like these notes, these are the flavours we pick up on our palates when we cup coffee. Here, the flavours remind us of the juicy sweetness of a plum, the tropical fruit snap of a green mango, and the round and nutty characteristics of almond and cocoa butter.