Conventional coffee advice tells you to buy the freshest roasted beans, and grind them as you need to make coffee. Don’t buy more than you need for the week: Fresh is everything.
But now, there’s aged coffee, a growing trend.
Aged coffee is not analogous to old, stale, flat coffee. It comprises specially selected beans, that are aged using techniques that bring out the best aged qualities.
While the marketing message compares aged coffee to aged balsamic vinegar, whiskey, wine, etc., that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Still, aged coffee isn’t exactly new. The first coffee drunk by Europeans was aged.
THE HISTORY OF AGED COFFEE
Venetian traders first brought coffee to Europe in 1615, but it wasn’t a “quick trip” from Venice.
At the time, all imported coffee beans came from the port of Mocha, in what is now Yemen. It traveled south by ship around the Cape of Good Hope, then all the way up the west coast of Africa, continuing northward to England.
By the time the coffee arrived, exposure to salt air over time significantly changed the taste of the coffee. When coffee was subsequently grown in Indonesia, the voyage was even longer.
Europeans came to prefer the flavor over “fresh” coffee. In fact, when the Suez Canal opened in 1869, greatly shortening the voyage, Europeans still preferred the aged coffee to the fresher beans.
And so it came to be that some coffee was intentionally aged for six months or longer in large, open-sided warehouses in shipping ports—plenty of salty ocean air to transform the beans.
Over time, preferences changed. Fresh coffee beans became the preferred type of coffee in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.
However, everything old is new again, and aged coffee has become the old new style to try.
Here’s more history of coffee.
AGED COFFEE HAS BEEN IN THE U.S. FOR A WHILE
Starbucks has been aging coffee for certain single-origin coffees and for signature blends, such as Anniversary Blend and Christmas Blend.
At Peet’s, you can find Aged Sumatra Coffee.
Boutique producers also have introduced customers to the joys of aged coffee.
Ceremony Coffee in Annapolis has a Barrel Aged Coffee Series.
Water Avenue Coffee in Portland, Oregon sells Oak Barrel Aged Sumatra Coffee and Pinot Noir Barrel Aged El Salvador Coffee.
So is aged coffee a connoisseur product, or a marketing throwback to the past?
It is definitely the former! Everyone who savors a full-bodied cup of coffee black should try it. Why black? Well…add too much milk and sugar and you won’t taste the marvelous nuances.
What To Know About Aged Coffee