Yes ladies and gents it is official and fully supported by the latest International Coffee Organisation (ICO) report… Like in the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, things in the world of coffee are not necessarily what they seem. You have indeed been drinking lower grade coffees these last few years!
The coffee trade knows, to its chagrin, that the past 18 months have been a ‘heckuva’ roller coaster ride, with $3 a pound breached on the NYC and differentials going inter planetary! The result of this was not only retail price increases, but also—wait for it—the joy of lower grade coffee to boot! How can this be? Where are the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’ to this equation?
Well, unfortunately there is no natural balance to this story, because as Arabica traded on NYC became ‘gold dust’ Robusta traded on LIFFE suddenly became ‘cheap as chips’! The resulting arbitrage between the two indexes suddenly made industry skulduggery, such as Robusta and steamed Robusta, an interesting and economic buy! As a result, your good old friendly corporate roaster rushed out and bought tons of Robusta and fiddled about with the blend, to make it a tad cheaper and maintain their margins
Nothing new really for the big boys, who focus much effort not blending to achieve a better roast, but to achieve the technical ‘nirvana’ of flavour families, where different, inevitably cheaper original coffees are interchangeable with their more expensive brethren. Reuters reports that in the US marketplace, for example, there was a jump in Robusta imports in Q1 2012 of 80% over the preceding year, whilst Arabica imports dropped by knocking on for 40%; this on top of a tripling of Robusta purchases throughout 2011!
Similarly, Volcafe reported earlier this month that European inventories of green coffee had seen 2 m bags of new Robusta demand emerge recently. Such recipe component substitution smacks of big corporate brands maintaining their secret recipes only to enable margin maintenance at the expense of quality and consistency of performance
As the market now eases back I doubt we will see the brands rushing to reinstate their original recipes—why should they? We have got accustomed to the cheaper stuff, so enjoy! Only one major brand has had the strength of character to admit to flavour family engineering and increased Robusta usage: Massimo Zanetti, who supply Hills Brothers and Chock Full o’ Nuts, and is known in Europe as Segafredo, owned up to increasing Robusta in their blends to keep prices down. Well done for being honest, Mr Zanetti! The truth will out…
Guru (Andy Grelak) writes for Aromo Coffee. They are coffee experts focussed on providing convenient and tasty ways for the caffeine addict to take their medicine. Aromo supplies excellent ESE Coffee pods and superlative Senseo pods, both of which offer the espresso and filter connoisseur a no mess, no fuss, super fresh and environmentally conscious method to make stunning coffee. The guys at Aromo also have a range of Dualit branded capsules which make a brilliant and economic alternative to Nespresso capsules.