Blonde, brunette, black

Dany Marquis

When I started roasting in 2005, the majority of my customers swore by the appearance of the bean, as roasted as possible, black, very oily, shiny. Italian roasting in the spotlight, drinking the strongest, roasted, black coffee possible had class, a distinguished person only drinks black coffee. Italy and all of Europe in the cup. There's something to be romantic about and feel sophisticated, with your little finger in the air while pinching your 3oz cup.

And now the wind is radically changing direction, in the United States, StarBucks is going there with its “Blonde roasting”, a light roasting which is giving a boost to the consumption habits of North Americans. Starbucks is only following in the footsteps (with different financial means) of independent American roasters and a few Canadians who have been promoting lightly roasted coffee for a long time. Some have even removed from their offer any roast exceeding the 2nd crack.

I have been involved in this approach for several years with my range of Prestige coffee made from a rigorous selection of green coffee, lightly roasted and which is only beginning, after 5 years of work, to become known. Our Latin blood and our common language isolate us from the trends of our neighbors, we are a little late to this trend and black coffee is still very popular. In our grocery store sales, from 2005 to 2009, Italian roasted coffee was the big seller. Starting in 2009, my sales shifted to the extreme with our velvety Mexican classic, a lightly roasted Chiapas coffee.

What's happening in the world of coffee?

Simple, many consumers are discovering that over-roasted coffee is bad and that coffee can be pleasant to drink. Beyond snobbery, we must face the facts: coffee in its coal state cannot develop pleasant aromas. Major turning point in the industry ahead.

Northern Europeans, who are avid coffee drinkers, figured this out a long time ago. In Germany and Scandinavia, brown coffee is king.

In terms of roasting, roasting Italian coffee is easy. Additionally, no matter what coffee (origin, blend, etc.) comes out of the roaster, the coffee will taste the same. The grain loses its subtlety and the aromas of its terroir. I could then substitute 50% Colombian with 50% Brazilian, and even a seasoned palate would not notice the difference. And I can swear to you that many roasters put anything into their strong blends.

Roasting can be summarized as caramelization of the sugars in the coffee bean through a process called the Maillard reaction.

This advanced caramelization stage will develop a charred, burnt caramel, giving a bitter, tarry, ashy taste and the famous medicinal taste that I call the “plaster” taste. And feeling like you're chewing a band-aid isn't necessarily a desired effect.

Light roasts are more subtle and difficult to create and control. For a roaster, it's easy to mess up a light roast. The time is short, the heat transfer occurs quickly, every second counts. In addition, consumers will more easily perceive a variation in the degree of roasting than with a strong roast.

I am delighted with the growing popularity of light roasts. We will soon see roasting companies stand out that work with beans like professionals and not as a commodity product. Anyone can buy a roaster and make black coffee, but knowing how to dose the roasting according to the terroir of the bean, so that the roasting fully expresses the potential of each bean requires deeper research and know-how. On a variation of approximately 0° to 15° after the first crack, there is a whole world of subtlety.

We will then move away from the dominant discourse in Quebec of the three levels of roasting (brown, half-black and full-bodied) to discover the multiple subtleties between brown and half-black (+0° to +15° after the first crack). And I believe that once consumers see the difference, we will see the emergence of roasting companies in Quebec that will stand out by emphasizing quality and the art of roasting. And believe me, I consider Brûlerie du Quai in this direction.

1 comment

  • Marie Paquet

    Très instructif! Merci d’e Aussi passionné!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published