The craft of artisan coffee is a story of selectivity. The perfect cup has to start with perfect beans, which can only be found on certain farms at certain times. Knowing what to look for and understanding what makes these beans special — then carefully selecting the very best of them at each step of their journey — is the only way to unlock the coffee's full flavor potential through roasting.
Nobody is better at identifying exceptional coffees and achieving consistently unmatched quality than Peet's buyers. Their extensive knowledge and tasting skills give them an incomparable talent for choosing the world's finest premium beans, but their passionate efforts and unwavering dedication are what truly define the identity of Peet's coffee. They work tirelessly with the network of skilled growers we've established over more than 30 years to implement our exceedingly high standards for cultivation, and return every year to ensure those standards are being maintained.
Starting at the Height of Flavor
Coffee trees of many different types flourish around the world, yet only two species are cultivated for commercial purposes — arabica and robusta. The best flavor comes from the older "heirloom" varietals of arabica, so that's what we insist on for Peet's coffees. Although successfully transplanted across Africa, Latin America, and Asia, these tropical evergreens are fragile and require precise growing conditions to yield high-quality coffee. They're intolerant to frost but thrive in cool temperatures where they also have partial shade to protect them from too much sun.
We select beans strictly from high elevations, ideally 4,000 to 6,000 feet, with volcanic soil rich in nutrients. The nighttime temperatures at these heights drop significantly, without freezing, slowing the growth of the coffee cherries and allowing them to develop more concentrated flavors with better acidity. This is what produces the very finest arabicas, but it's just the beginning of the crop's path to your cup.
Handpicking with Patience
Only fully ripe coffee cherries produce top-quality beans. So when it's time to harvest, our growers individually handpick just the fruits that are completely ripe and ready to be processed. It's not the fastest way; there can be months between a tree's first ripe cherries and its last. But the truly quality-conscious growers send pickers out as many as five times per season to harvest ripe cherries, because they understand such selective picking practices are essential to making their coffee good enough for Peet's.
Respecting the Traditions
There are two time-honored methods of processing harvested coffee cherries, and meticulous selectivity is vital to both. Most premium coffee growers release beans from their cherries using what's known as the washed method, a multi-step approach in which beans are soaked, pulped, fermented, rinsed, dried, hulled, and ultimately graded. This process affords numerous opportunities to single out the most superior beans of the crop, yielding coffees that are clean, crisp, and high-toned with exceptional liveliness. Costa Rica is an exemplary washed coffee.
The more commonly used technique is the dry, or natural method — a hands-off style that starts with laying the picked cherries on the ground to slowly sun-dry. After two or three weeks, the green beans are hulled with grinding stones or modern equipment. This coarser type of processing gives natural coffees fuller body, heavier texture, and more rustic, earthy qualities. It also requires enhanced scrutiny, as weather variations and microorganisms in the pulp can diminish quality and consistency. But with the level of care and attention we put into their sourcing, our natural coffees rival their finest washed counterparts. The Arabian coffee in our Arabian Mocha-Java is a highly regarded classic, as are the top-grade natural coffees of Sumatra. We wouldn't buy anything less.
Buying for Deep Roast
The stewards of Peet's commitment to selectivity are VP of Coffee and Roastmaster Doug Welsh and Roastmaster Emeritus Jim Reynolds, an industry authority with over 30 years of buying experience. They receive hundreds of green coffee samples every season and taste the most promising, along with others of interest, then select only those perfectly suited to Peet's unique deep roasting style.
Even after negotiating prices with farmers and bidding at auction, Jim and Doug continue sampling each lot. They first taste an approval sample to make sure it's the coffee we purchased. Once the shipment arrives, they cup from it at random to compare against the approval sample before accepting the delivery. Coffee that doesn't pass their series of tests doesn't get into our roasters' hands, period. If there are any signs a shipment is damaged, tainted, or incorrect, they cancel the order. That's how we make sure the Peet's coffee in your cup is always of the highest quality.