I recently received an email from a customer.
In his email, he asked this:
2. I read your article on coffee and particularly the section on mold. I know that high heat from roasting does kill the mold, but I know from talking with Dave (from Bulletproof) that he is also concerned not just about the mold but also the toxins created from the mold, such as ochratoxin A which are not destroyed by high heat. I noticed no mention of this, so I wanted your thoughts.
Here is my response:
To answer your question, it's about mitigating exposure, buying great coffee, and then testing it individually. If you try beans, you get from a farm, and they test mold-free, well, you keep buying from that farm, and they hopefully don't change anything… right?
And if the beans test positive for mold, you stop buying from that farm/exporter and instead buy from someone else while repeating until you find a farm growing coffee without mold issues. It's all exaggerated.
Furthermore, you don't need to have a lab test to know that a particular bean makes you feel good and tastes great, just the same as you don't need to lab test folgers (or any other crappy coffee) to know that it makes you feel like crap and tastes like crap.
Testing Coffee Beans
Let's assume you were selling "lab-tested" coffee beans. When your batch of green coffee beans would "passes" a test, you would then approve that lot or farm and send them to your roaster to be roasted before being sold to the public.
The beans that don't pass your test would be ruled out for consideration. From there, you would add that grower and bean to your "approved" list of coffees.
Maybe you would do this until you had a few farms and exporters on your approved list—at least enough to supply the beans you need to fulfill customer orders. Then what?
You'd automate the buying process—or someone else would handle that, like the roaster, as is standard in the coffee industry—and you'd go about your life, business as usual. After that, how often would you test your beans?
Once a quarter? A few times a year? Once a year? Who knows…
In reality, you could test your beans in a year and still market your product as "lab tested," regardless of how shady that seems. After all, it's still true, right? (And such is a typical example of the subtle ways marketers can spin language.)
Finally, make people sign an NDA before letting them in on your testing process and protocol (which is precisely what a specific famous brand requires). And that's one way to do it.
Now let's remove lab testing from the equation and look at a way to produce the same result of finding a delicious-tasting coffee that's low in mold and grown concerning the environment and the end-users Health.
Instead of testing your green coffee beans in a lab, let's say you use "human trials," e.g., you and others you trust that knows coffee test some green coffee beans from a few select coffee producers.
After receiving your beans, you fresh roast them to various roast profiles and send each person home with a few ounces of each roast to test. You instruct them to try the beans with a few brewing methods and without added cream, butter, sugar, etc.
You also instruct them to listen closely to how they feel after drinking the coffee—an hour after, 2 hours later. Finally, you ask them to rate each coffee from 1-10 on the feeling spectrum.
Then you compile the results and choose the clear winners. You then add this list of winners to your "approved/tested list."
In each method above, you end up with a specially curated list of premium coffees that taste great and make you feel great. You might even end up with the same list of coffees from the same farmers by following completely different curation/testing methods.
At Wild Foods, we used the latter method for creating the Wild Coffee line of Organic, Single-Origin, Fair Trade coffees.
Our Wild Coffee beans pass any lab tests with flying colors. Especially considering the hundreds, possibly thousands, of human trials our beans have undergone at this point (friends, family, and Wild customers).
I wanted to address this topic because of our frequent questions about our coffee beans. I want to point out how some people mistake the trees for the forest in the case of mold and coffee.
Since the point is to find fantastic coffee that tastes great and doesn't have mold issues (the forest), whether or not beans are tested does not change the coffee itself, it merely gives you one way of testing beans (the testing method being the trees).
If you buy "lab-tested coffee beans" and find they don't taste great and don't make you feel that awesome, then perhaps you should factor that data point into your conclusions.
Yours in Health,