The Roasting Of Coffee

garyscottadamson

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Apr 8, 2007
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Am I correct in believing that coffee is NEVER roasted before it enters the country in which it will be sold? Surely if it was it would loose freshness.

If somebody claimed that whilst working in the Harbours of New York, they could smell coffee, from ships that had for example come from Brazil they'd be lying??

Could someone please help me. I realise it could be slightly off-topic.
 
Hello G.S.A. Actually a lot of coffee is roasted in countries other than where it will be consumed. For instance, the big italian roasters (Lavazza, Illy, Tazza d'Oro, HausBrandt etc) buy UNROASTED coffee from produing countries, send it to Italy in containers, roast and then re-export to markets all over the world.

However- it would be pretty rare to "smell" coffee that is arriving roasted, packaged proffessionally in sea containers from Brazil. Packaging systems generally allow coffee to de-gas; thus somewhat releasing aroma during the process. However I would doubt that the timeframe from roasting, packaging, stuffing a container and then the sailing time to NYC would be short enough to mean that containers of roasted coffee arriving from Brazil would have such an aroma.

I would also say that the Port facility for NYC is actually not in the city at all (containers are not pulled off boats under the Brooklyn Bridge). The main port is actually in New Jersey. Could be the "aroma" is from roasting plants nearby?
 
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garyscottadamson

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hahaha, I should have probably mentioned this, but I am talking 1930's.

Do you know anything about the importation of Coffee in the 30's, I guess it would have come in via large sacs.

But would the coffee be already roasted?
 
Interesting. Ok, lets try and tackle this one piece-by-piece.

In the first half of the last century, the coffee barons of America were the financial equivalents of Bill Gates today. Names and Brands that still exist today- Maxwell House, Folgers, MJB, Arbuckles, Hill Bros, A&P, Jewel and even Post's (C.W Post started Post a a company producing an alternative to coffee...finally Post ended up as the massive General Foods group) all were very powerful companies, backed by powerful families, with enourmous political clout.

Brazil at this stage was producing more than half of the green beans that the American roasters and companie listed above were buying. In simple terms the Brazilians were producing more and more coffee, year by year. More coffe than they could infact sell. Since the early part of the century, the Braziian Government had been somewhat bailed out by American and European Banks through a system called "Valorization". Essentially coffee was stored and sold as the price rose (if there was crop failure). If the price dropped coffee was put into warehouse in Sao Paulo and stored. This system worked fairly well- for a while. The scheme was finally called "Coffee Retenton"...money was being borrowed based on the "theoretical" value of coffee being held. More warehouses were built. Just before the Wall Street crash 30 million (60kg) bags were in storage- 100 million new trees were beginning to produce cherries. This was more coffee thn the entire world consumed during 1 calendar year.

Then 2 weeks before the October 29th crash of 1929- the Global coffee market crashed, with Sao Paulo Coffee institute, which finacially managed the huge number of bags being brought (and not sold) going broke. Things eventally got s bad that- I quote from Mark Pendergast here "in 1937 Brazil burned 17.2 million (60kg) bags of coffee when the total world consumption was ony 26.4 million bags. Only 30% of what Brazil harvested, reached the world market that year"

Now- at the time New York was the home of the Coffee Exchange. New York was also a major port; the busiest port in the US- this was before containerisation so produce was often sent in Bales- that were sent in groupage configeration stored in ship holds. These bales were off loaded in Manhattan, not Newark Port in NJ where all major contaner traffic lands in NY today. For sure, at the time, a great deal of coffee was coming into NYC- but I suspect with the huge political clout ofthe families and brands I listed above...most of this coffee would of course be green (and probably purchased very cheaply!)

So I guess in theory- yes it is possible that the person in question could have been involved in off loading Bales of coffee in Port New York in the 1930's. Whether this could have been roasted coffee (from Brazil) is more of a difficult one to confirm. Hill Bros (on the West Coast) invented vacum packing in 1900. By the 1930's packaging was both very sophisticated for marketing and also designed to keep coffee fresh. I think roasted coffee arriving in sacks/bales without being prepacked, would be unlikely. Roasting and sending coffee from Brazil using tramp steamers would have likely have taken weeks- no direct sailings back then, steamers ff loaded-loaded cargo at many ports along the way. Also without decent protection, the roasted coffee would have become tainted by other cargo, salt spray, coal/coking smoke and of course oxyidization. And apart from these, and the political considerations- the financial reasons for bringing in greens over roasted means it seems very unlikely a businessman would follow this path.

Finally, of course, this is my views on the coffee trading of the past. I was not there - no where near being born as my parents were kids themselves. I do know that the Brazilian government at the time did do a lot of barter trade with companies and governments all around the world. There must have been some NY or eastern seaboard companies that could have done barter deals for roasted coffee. If this was the case, it is possible that roasted coffee was unloaded (although the smell may not have been as pleasant as it could have been if the coffee ws fresh).
 

Davec

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Oct 18, 2006
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In the UK we have an advert for Kenco coffee (who apparently use the same high quality arabica beans in their instant coffee, as they do in their ground coffee).

The advert shows some young apprentice, talking to the master exporter, stating he has the wrong coffee (going out from what looks like an African coffee plantation) to their Instant Coffee factory.

This coffee is of course already roasted and packed in Hessian (burlap) coffee sacks, transported uncovered on the back of a truck in 80% humidity and then presumably loaded into the damp hold of a container ship for the next 3 weeks.

By this time it presumably reaches the Kenco freeze drying, instatification plant to be placed into a jar of Instant coffee....for that special Kenco taste.....what crap they expect the public to believe.

So yes, coffee is roasted on the plantation, bunged into a hessian sack and shipped to it's country of origin :lol:
 
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garyscottadamson

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Kenco don't do ground coffee do they?

Oh yes, and you forgot to mention the fact that Kenco only use "Whole Beans". This is apparently one of the reasons that kenco instant is sooooooooo good!

ahhh, that advert drives me crazy! I don't think i've seen it for a year or so though
 

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