I enjoy experiencing a healthy variety of excellent coffee. Typically, to get a good variety of coffee you are looking to satisfy both of these criteria:
- Variety of region.
- Variety of roaster.
Preferably, I try to get my coffee from a local shop that has this variety. When a coffee roaster opens a coffee shop, you can expect the coffee served will be from that roaster alone. The roaster will provide coffee from a variety of regions, however. A good example of this scenario would be Stumptown Coffee, Intelligentsia Coffee, or more locally to San Antonio - Brown Coffee. There is a variety of the beans available, but they’re all from one roaster. This is not a bad thing!
When a coffee shop opens without its own roastery, they will carry coffee from a wide variety of established roasters. Their bean retail shelf will look something like this:
This is also not a bad thing. You, the consumer, get to sample coffee roasted by some of the best roasters in the world. Eventually, though, the coffee shop may open its own roastery. When this happens, the variety of roasters goes away fast - the coffee shop vertically integrates. In San Antonio, Local Coffee followed this pattern by recently opening Merit Roasting. They still bring in other roasters’ coffee, but not as much as before. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing!
To sustain a healthy variety of excellent coffee, I recommend a subscription coffee service. On a set schedule, you’ll receive beans from one or more roasters (variety of roasters) from one or more regions (variety of region). I’ve posted multiple times about coffee from Blue Bottle, a subscription service our team pitches in for at work. However, Blue Bottle is a roastery which means they do not satisfy both criteria.
Some good subscription services that will satisfy both:
Both services are well established and will send you excellent coffee on a schedule. This way, you can get access to a wide variety of roasters that roast coffee from a wide variety of regions. If you’re new to coffee it is a fantastic way to figure out what you like. Coffee is an agricultural product, like wine. Different regions and different time periods will yield different tasting coffee. Try a bunch of things. Find out what you like!