Everyone loves coffee.... but do you know the story behind the bean?


Understanding and appreciating your cup of coffee.


For me the main focus of this year’s Primal Challenge is understanding where our produce comes from; whether it’s meat from a local butcher, fruit and veg from the grocer round the corner, or coffee from Kenya (well it’s not that local but coffee is a tropical plant so it’s as about as close as you're getting). 


Everyone these days likes to drink their coffee differently and I understand that taste is subjective. We all prefer something slightly different right? This may be the case when it comes to flavour, but the quality of the coffee definitely isn’t subjective. This little piece should hopefully give you a bit of a better understanding of why you should buy freshly roasted coffee from a roastery near you over instant coffee.


The majority of us are doing this challenge to improve our health in the long run, but both instant and freshly brewed coffee have pros and cons regarding health benefits so don’t, get too hung up on that. However quality wise there is a huge difference, so that is why i want to give you a better understanding of how to buy your coffee.


It saddens me to say this, but over 70% of brits still drink instant coffee and there really isn't a great deal to say about it. I understand that it’s quick, easy and mess free, but the traceability and ethics surrounding it are non-existent and this is something that is hugely important to us. Take a jar of instant coffee for example. Turn it round and look at what farm it comes from? How was it processed? When was it roasted? You can’t because this kind of information just isn’t accessible with instant coffee. Automatically I personally wouldn’t want to drink this even if someone told me it was the best coffee they had ever tasted, there is just no understanding of the product and its origins.


This leads me on nicely to start explaining a little bit about what we do at North Star and how we operate, which is very similar to the way the vast majority of speciality coffee roasters work. We work with a company a few doors down from HG3 called Falcon Speciality and they are a speciality green coffee importers. They place great importance on ethics and sustainable trading and this is something that is also very important to us here at North Star. 


Coffee is a commodity and is actually the second largest traded commodity after oil, would you believe. As a commodity, coffee is usually traded on the New York stock market which just doesn't give farmers the guarantee of receiving the money that they should do for the quality of the crop they have produced. Falcon however, trade outside of the commodities market directly with each farm to set a price that is far higher than what they would achieve on the market and is above and beyond the price of the Fairtrade premium. Every farmer is treated differently because every farmer incurs different costs throughout the production period. Most smallholder farmers might only own one hectare of land to grow coffee and will also grow other crops and sometimes keep animals such as cows. In other countries they could have hundreds of hectares of land just for growing coffee, with electronically operated machines which reduce the costs of labour significantly.


We work very closely with Falcon Speciality which allows us to understand the supply chain in more detail and this allows us to be transparent with our customers. This information can then be passed onto the final consumer by coffee shop owners and baristas. We want people to understand the origin the coffee comes from, the exact farm or cooperative it’s grown on, the owner of the farms name, the way the coffee was processed, the varietal and the altitude it’s been grown at. All these factors give people a chance to brew and experience better quality coffees and make them understand that they are making a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis, even if they don't see it directly. We are currently the only speciality coffee roastery in Leeds and in comparison there are over 70 in London. It’s been quite difficult to reach out to everyone about the benefits of buying speciality coffee, but as more roasters spring up in the North I’m sure this will become easier. It is a long process and over time it will slowly happen, but in the meantime try and avoid instant coffee and get asking questions at your local coffee shop!


I don't want to ramble on too much so if you have any more questions then feel free to email us at hello@ northstarroast.com. We do plan on having a coffee day down at the rosary soon so that you can get a better insight in what we do and also give you the chance to brew much better coffee at home. Please keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook for this. 


Ellis Hall