One of the core values that underpin everything Edgcumbes does is the importance that it attributes to freshness, says the company’s managing director, Alice RendleOne of the core values that underpin everything Edgcumbes does is the importance that it attributes to freshness, says the company’s managing director, Alice Rendle

We believe coffee always tastes better when freshly roasted. Most people would probably say that this is a self-evident truth and certainly in the world of food the message seems to be a given. We all know the benefits of food that hasn’t been over-processed, has been locally sourced and produced without too much intervention. Blogs and ‘influencers’ are evangelical about food that is packed with nutrients and bursting with flavour and goodness and generally this applies to food that is freshly made.

Yet how often is this truth applied to coffee? Many retailers don’t consider coffee to be a ‘fresh’ product – you will rarely see a roast date on the bag. Even pricier premium labels in supermarkets have a best-before date extending 12-18 months, denoting a product that’s more than a year old. But why? There are two predominant reasons. First, the supply chain is more profitable with products that have long shelf lives, and second, many people don’t realise how important freshness is to the taste of coffee. When customers drink our coffee they can taste the difference, and it can be a revelation!

We roast our coffee daily in a Giesen drum roaster, and never sell coffee that is more than 12 days past the roast date. Coffee comes from the seed of the coffee cherry fruit and like any other plant-based product it loses flavour and brightness over time. Commercial packaging will keep the beans fresh for a time but not for ever. We roast and post to trade customers within a day of order, as do many other speciality roasters. The fresher the coffee is, the better it tastes.

Older coffee will taste flatter and lack roundness of flavour even if a barista is making it beautifully and using the best-quality beans. Customers are discerning and once they have experienced freshly roasted coffee, they will notice the difference and seek out cafes that make this part of their USP. Roasters are springing up all over the country and this can only be a good thing for caterers, who can be confident that the coffee they source is freshly roasted. When a cafe owner can visit a roastery and see how the beans are roasted, it is a much more powerful story to tell their customers. We find that staff are more engaged once they have witnessed the roasting process and are keen to share this knowledge.

There is a danger that some of us in the coffee business can get a bit worked up over the grade of coffee, the flavour profile and a particular process the coffee has undergone. This is all fine, and no one would wish to detract from a true appreciation of how lucky we are in the UK to access some of finest speciality coffees. You wouldn’t eat stale bread, so let’s not drink stale coffee. As I always say: “Just-roasted coffee… just tastes better.”

[CREDITS] Alice Rendle is the managing director of Edgcumbes, a Sussex-based cafe, coffee roasters and tea blender since 1981; edgcumbes.co.uk