One of the first things you’ll learn when you buy a bag of beans from Toronto coffee roaster Stereo is that not all coffee is created equal.
About 63 per cent of all coffee sold is what’s known in the industry as “commercial grade.” Commercial grade coffee can have any number of things wrong with it.
It could be something as minor as a high number of chipped or broken beans, which causes the affected beans to lose a lot of their flavour.
Or it could include beans with fungus damage (called sour beans; a single one can ruin an entire pot of coffee), or have foreign matter in it, like bean pods, a stick or two, or something less savoury (like bugs) ground up with the beans. Or it can be "past crop," which can be from last year or even several years old.
This is the coffee that goes to the major producers, the ones you find in grocery stores, and the stuff that’s usually for sale from the chain cafes.
Specialty coffee is the other 37 per cent. It’s graded by professionals who take 350-gram samples and look for what are known as primary and secondary defects (there are 46 commonly agreed-upon kinds of defects).
In order for coffee, whether it’s organic coffee or not, to be considered speciality grade, it needs to score at least an 80 out of 100.
This grade of coffee is considered mainstream throughout Australia and New Zealand, but in Toronto, chains and even many independent coffee shops deal in commercial grade beans. To get specialty grade coffee in Toronto, you need to go to an independent coffee roaster, like Stereo.
Stereo only serves and sells specialty grade coffee, coffee selected and graded with the same care and high standards that owner and roaster Geoff Polci uses when turning those highly graded beans into some of the best drinks available anywhere.
Stereo only buys coffee with a score of 85 or higher, with most being 87+, and some micro-lots, especially those from Africa, scoring 90 or more.
The wholesale coffee Stereo buys is always shipped from origin in what are known as grain-pro bags, which protect the beans from moisture, and don’t pass along any bag flavours to mess up your cup.