Gourmet Coffee: What does it mean?

You may have noticed that many coffee shops and supermarkets are carrying coffee products lauded as "Gourmet." What, exactly, does the label "Gourmet" mean in the coffee world? The answer is somewhat complicated. A Gourmet coffee is classified by several sets of criteria including:
· Quality of the Bean
· Cultivating, Picking, Processing
· Roasting
· Blending
· Freshness

Just as wine deemed "fine" varies from year to year, country to country and region to region, so it is with identifying gourmet coffee.

The one unwavering characteristic of Gourmet coffee is that it is made from the best beans each coffee-producing country is able to offer. The best are the Arabica beans, harvested from plants that grow at altitudes above 3,000 feet. Grown between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in tropical or subtropical conditions, this high altitude produces premium beans--which are graded by density. The higher the altitude, the higher the density and the more prized the product. High-density beans make the most flavorful cup and merit the well-deserved "Gourmet" label.
Connoisseur-worthy coffees are often planted in the shade.Cultivating shade-grown plants yields a smaller crop, but makes for a much better tasting coffee that matches the standards of what constitutes a gourmet coffee.The shade slows the maturation of the coffee plant, which allows the coffee bean to fully develop--resulting in more natural sugar, better flavor, and less caffeine. Next, these top-quality grown coffee beans are carefully picked by hand, processed, and sorted so the premium beans are selected--in the country in which they are grown.
These beans are then roasted to perfection--once they arrive in the country that is importing the beans. The roasting process greatly impacts the taste of coffee. The degree of roasting required for a specific coffee bean will depend on the coffee bean's country of origin and its optimal flavor characteristics. Certain types of beans need to be roasted to a light brown color to release the flavor characteristics that make it gourmet. Another type of Gourmet coffee bean may need a different roasting process in order to qualify as truly Gourmet.
It is important to note that the specific blend of beans also can determine if a coffee may be termed gourmet. Unfortunately, many companies attempt to increase their profits by blending the fine Arabica beans with lesser beans, which dilutes the quality of the coffee. Gourmet coffee is usually made up of unblended, upper-altitude grown Arabica beans.
The final gourmet criterion is the freshness of the coffee.It is highly recommended that gourmet coffee is stored and sold in oxygen-proof bags. Try to purchase whole bean gourmet coffee that can be ground just before you brew it. Roasting coffee beans is fundamental to releasing the desired flavor characteristics of the coffee beans, but it also begins the oxidization process. Once a coffee bean is roasted, volatile oils contained within the bean become vulnerable to oxidizing, which will damage the quality of the bean and the flavor will change.


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