Why Would You Buy Your Coffee Beans Online?
It's an obvious question and certainly one that I am asked fairly frequently. After all, it's a question that I need to be able to answer when explaining why I set up Cape Coffee Beans in the first place! So, in this first post for our newest blog, I thought I'd start by outlining why I think buying your coffee beans online is a good idea.
I'd like to clarify up front that none of the points below are reasons not to buy directly from an artisanal roaster. If you're lucky enough to have one in your area, enjoy their coffees and want to support them, that's fantastic. Unfortunately most people in South Africa aren't so lucky, which is why Cape Coffee Beans was born. For all except those lucky few, here's why you should consider buying your coffee online.
One quick side note - the Cape Coffee Blog is going to feature general posts and thoughts about coffee rather than brew guides or information about our roasters. We have blogs for each of those subjects as well!
This is the most important point, and probably enough of a reason in itself to buy your coffee beans online. Coffee is a perishable product. While finding consensus on when coffee is at its best is difficult, everyone agrees that after a certain point, it will start to decline in quality. Many people are surprised by just how quickly that happens.
Various factors including style of roast, packaging and environment will affect the timelines but most people say that coffee beans will "peak" (i.e. be at their absolute best flavour) 7-14 days after roast. Some recommend using your coffee beans within that 2 week window but many will say up to 4 weeks is perfectly fine - some even say up to 6 weeks is ok. I personally find that plenty of coffees still taste great at the 4 week mark - only a few do after 6 weeks (though some surprise you with their longevity).
Perhaps more importantly, every roaster has their own ideal window during which they want their coffee to be consumed. They use this as a guideline when they plan their roasting schedule. When you buy your coffee online, you're getting the coffee at the same level of freshness that you would if you visited the roaster yourself, plus just a couple of days for delivery. Unfortunately that's not always true when you buy coffee beans off a shelf, particularly from mass market retailers.
Support of local roasters
It might surprise you a little to see a point about supporting local in a post about shopping online but please bear with me. Much to my surprise and chagrin, the majority of supermarket shelf space devoted to coffee in South Africa contains bags of beans roasted, not just in a different city or country, but on a different continent.
The wisdom of this from a logistics perspective and certainly from a freshness perspective (see above) is questionable but all those points aside, why would you buy coffee beans roasted thousands of kilometres away when we have plenty of fantastic coffee roasters right here in SA? Unless you have a strong desire to destroy the environment or overpay for a product, it would seem that the rational choice would be to buy coffee roasted in this country.
Note: Happily, some local roasters are also making it onto a few supermarket shelves now - that's a step in the right direction!
Some people like to drink the same coffee, day in and day out, and there's nothing wrong with that, but part of the fun of coffee for me is adventure. Exploring all the different flavours that the coffee world has to offer is a sincere pleasure and what makes it even more interesting is experiencing the variations on those flavours that a masterful roast can bring out.
Some people don't appreciate that sourcing great beans is also a big part of the roaster's task. Here in South Africa, there are many coffees that you will only ever get to try from the one roaster who managed to secure some of it. For me, this is one among a number of great reasons to try out the beans that a variety of roasters have to offer. That's difficult to do via most other channels and is one of the great advantages of shopping for your coffee online.
It may be an obvious point but that doesn't make it any less important. I think you need to invest time in your pursuit of coffee, particularly when it comes to learning about it and brewing it. Given that there are only so many hours in the day, you might as well save a bit of time on getting the coffee beans to you. If the added convenience of having fresh coffee delivered to your door prevents you having to make the choice between nothing and instant (I'd choose nothing), then it can't be a bad thing!
The Bottom Line
Having said all of this, shopping for your coffee beans online is a means to an end, and it's the end that is important: to drink high quality, fresh coffee, prepared by a local artisanal roaster. This business was launched to give more people the opportunity to do just that. But however you're sourcing your coffee beans, if you're supporting the South African speciality coffee industry, that's what's important!
Founder of Cape Coffee Beans