What does fresh really mean? 

What does fresh really mean? 

In 1971, long before many of our current, often times self-proclaimed, coffee aficionados were even born, a relatively unknown chef opened a restaurant in Berkeley, California. Chef Alice Waters, armed with little more than a dream to entertain her friends, opened a quaint restaurant, Chez Panisse. As time went on and her customer base grew Chef Alice ran into supplier problems, something that most every owner of a growing business has to overcome.

To maintain ingredient consistency and supply volume Chef Alice began to build her local, Bay Area network for fresh, organic foods. Along with other contributions of the time from industry leaders like James Beard and Woflgang Puck, the Chez Panisse business model of fresh, organic, locally sourced ingredients with an emphasis on elegant presentation eventually led to what we know of today as California Cuisine. This food movement has grown well beyond just California and has revolutionized how we think about all things cuisine – including coffee.

Like cuisine, coffee has its own movements and trends and coffee’s most current movement has been dubbed “Third Wave Coffee.” Third Wave Coffee can be roughly generalized into an expectation for organic or at least non-chemical processing methods, a general push toward knowing where the coffee came from, a feeling of connection to the farmer, exploration of alternative preparation methods, and a high degree of emphasis on the end presentation. Third Wave Coffee is essentially where cuisine was in the 1970’s & 80’s during the California Cuisine movement. Like Peter Allen sang in 1985, “Everything old is new again.”

As the coffee industry progresses into the culinary arts arena, freshness tends to be a moot point. For example, a roaster in our nearby city imperiously proclaims that their coffee which was harvested at least two years ago and has been stored in an off-site, non-temperature controlled warehouse is roasted fresh daily….Not sure about you, but in our summation it is a misnomer to classify that as fresh.

Additionally, coffee is a plant that yields a harvest and just like how a garden bears fruit at different times all summer long, coffee will come to harvest at different times of the year in different regions around the world for various lengths of time. A more appropriate way to classify freshness would be to use the coffee harvest cycle as the timeline, not some “roasted fresh daily” gimmicky catch phrase. 

New Crop/Current Crop: Refers to the newest available coffee derived from the beginning of the harvest cycle.

  • Old Crop: Refers to the end of the harvest of the current crop’s cycle.
  • Past Crop: Coffee that has been held in a warehouse from the previous year’s harvest.
  • Mature Coffee: Coffee that is 2-3 years post-harvest.
  • Aged/Vintage Coffee: Coffee that has been held for several years and beyond. 

So, to us, roasting a Mature or Vintage Coffee from 2 or more harvest cycles ago is not something we’d be proud of nor touting as fresh. What we do at Copper Canyon Coffee, however, is specialize in obtaining Current & Old Crop harvests and roasting them to showcase the hard work of the farmers.