How to waste good coffee: Part 2

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A trip to Target this morning left me with a “small world” coffee experience and simultaneously reminded me of something I’d written a while back, so I thought I’d take a moment to briefly describe what happened.

No matter how many things I have to cross off of my list while shopping at Target or how flustered I get trying to keep track of my almost-4-year-old amidst aisle after aisle of potential distractions—Vacuums! Blenders! Lightning McQueen! Fruit snacks!—I *always* make time to browse the coffee section. Not that their selection is all that compelling per se; I just like to keep tabs on how it changes.

So, today at the local Tar-zhay I came across a 10-oz. tin of Guatemala El Socorro, which placed first in Guatemala’s 2011 Cup of Excellence competition. Score, right? Not.

In the blog post I referenced earlier, I was critical of how Target’s Archer Farms brand cheapens specialty coffee such as El Socorro. Here’s a relevant quote:

“…Coffee Bean International regularly bids for high-ranking “Cup of Excellence” winners all over the world and provides the freshly roasted fruit of their labor to Target, which then packages it in nice-looking tins and lets it sit in their stores’ coffee sections for up to a year (my source on the 12-month shelf life is the last post in this thread). Seems like a shame to me. If you can find these beans literally right after they’re made available, they *might* be worth trying, but I doubt Target could get them distributed sooner than 6 weeks post-roast.”

6 weeks? More like 6 months in this particular case, as the “best by” date on the bottom of the El Socorro tin I saw read “08 JUL 2012.”

I had to laugh at first, because the day before I’d polished off a 12-oz. bag of the very same coffee, bought through ROASTe. Except that my batch was fresh (expertly roasted to order by Olympia), 2 oz. larger, and only $3 more expensive since I don’t pay for shipping here (thanks to Prime).

Which El Socorro would *you* rather buy? It’s pretty much a no-brainer.

I’m not laughing now, though. The more I think about it, the more I feel borderline angry about how Target apparently muscles out smaller competitors in COE auctions and then manhandles their delicious winnings. And, yes, I do mean delicious. Olympia’s description of El Socorro is right on: “Aromas of cedar and flowers open up into flavors of citrus, caramel, and spice.” I don’t know that my Aeropress has ever made better coffee than it did with these freshly ground beans. They deserve rock star treatment, in my opinion. Instead, Target ships them all over N. America more or less stale from the beginning, undoubtedly destined not to live up to their true potential in the cup. From what I’ve read and gathered via email with Olympia, it sounds as if they had to work extremely hard to get their hands on El Socorro outside of COE. I can’t help but wish that more people were able to taste this coffee the way Olympia showcases it. Sure, the farmers get paid either way, but their efforts seem to go unrecognized in Big Box Land.

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