What motivated the addition of a Dark Roast to the Necessary menu?
From day one, Necessary Coffee has existed to bring easy drinking, deeply satisfying specialty coffees to as broad a group of coffee lovers as possible. While the response to the original Necessary lineup has been incredibly positive since its launch in 2019, we have received many inquiries highlighting consumer demand for intentionally sourced coffees that are presented at a darker roast degree than our existing Necessary coffees. In response to this feedback, we are excited to add Necessary Dark Roast to the menu to support broader buying from coffee farmers and to add a great option for folks who enjoy their coffee on the bold and smoky side!
If this is a “Dark Roast” how would we describe the other Necessary Coffees (in terms of their “roast degree”)?
The first thing to emphasize here is that there is no universal standard for roast degree. With no objective reference for “dark roast”, “medium roast”, or “light roast” there will always be room for interpretation on the part of the roaster and personal preference on the part of the coffee drinker. Put another way: one person’s “dark roast” is another person’s “medium roast”; one person’s “medium roast” is another person’s “light roast”!
It’s also worth emphasizing that the outside color of a roasted coffee bean doesn’t tell the whole story of how that coffee was roasted, or how it will taste in the cup. Visual inspection is one piece of helpful information, but tasting is always the most important step to take when evaluating whether a particular coffee is a good fit for your personal preferences.
Necessary Dark Roast is our team’s take on this classic and nostalgic style and we hope coffee lovers who tend to prefer dark roasts will enjoy our interpretation. For us, the entire Necessary Menu falls in a general “Medium to Dark” zone when it comes to roast degree. Necessary Dark Roast is the most “developed” coffee on the menu: visually it is the shade of dark chocolate and there are small amounts of coffee oils on the surface of the beans that reflect its prolonged roast time. The other Necessary coffees are less developed, exhibit a lighter roast color, and are not roasted long enough for oils to be expressed.
One final thing to note when thinking about roast degree: as coffee is roasted darker its flavors tend to reflect the roasting process more and more and reflect the original ingredient, and the place and particulars of its origin, less and less.
As an analogy, think about the complex, deeply caramelized flavors that a tomato exhibits if you eat it after simmering it in butter for hours, as opposed to the bright, juicy flavors that you experience if you eat a perfectly ripe tomato fresh off the vine with just a splash of olive oil. Both experiences can be truly delightful, but one showcases cooking technique and one keeps the focus on the ingredient, and the garden. Darker roasts are more comparable to the slow-cooked tomato sauce, lighter roasts are more comparable to the minimally seasoned slice of fresh tomato.
Necessary Dark Roast is the coffee on our menu that offers the most in the way of “roast-driven” flavors. Necessary’s sister company >Passenger offers an amazing spectrum of coffees that are developed with a much lighter touch to emphasize “terroir-driven” flavors. With Necessary Blend, Necessary Burundi, Necessary Colombia, and Necessary Ethiopia we are choosing more of medium roast profile to offer a balance of these qualities: more roast-driven than Passenger, but more terroir-driven than Dark Roast.
Where is this coffee from?
Part of the reason behind our decision to not list a country of origin on the Dark Roast retail bags is that we want to retain flexibility to buy coffee, strategically and situationally, in support of our core sourcing partnerships. Put another way, the green coffee that we purchase for Dark Roast may come from a new producing country, or multiple producing countries in future years.
With that said, we are proud to share that this inaugural Dark Roast offering is from Brazil, purchased from producers in the region of Espíritu Santo. Our specific lot from the 2021 harvest is a regional community blend, composed of coffee bought from multiple small family farms - most of which are located in close proximity to Santa Maria de Jetibá.
Why the Espíritu Santo region?
Espíritu Santo has been on our radar as a fascinating coffee producing region for a number of years. Brazil is the number #1 country in the world in terms of total volume of coffee produced annually, a fact that reflects a particular model of coffee production. Many Brazilian coffee estates are incredibly massive in scale, and often feature production methods that are highly mechanized to maximize yields. Most Brazilian coffees are processed as naturals or pulped naturals - reflecting the dry, warm, low altitude climate that characterizes many Brazilian coffee producing regions.
Espíritu Santo is a fascinating outlier within the coffee producing regions of Brazil. In contrast to many better known Brazilian coffee regions, Espíritu Santo is quite hilly - making it impossible to implement the large scale mechanized production that is common elsewhere. This is a region of small family farms rather than sprawling coffee estates (think of farming approaches in the Appalachians as opposed to farming approaches on the Great Plains). Additionally, the region is quite close to the ocean which means that the climate is cooler, windier, and wetter. The humidity of the climate means natural processing is much more difficult to execute consistently, so fully washed coffees - usually a rarity in Brazil - are very common in this region.
Our sourcing team is still at an early stage of information-gathering on the Espíritu Santo front, and it remains to be seen what we might be able to build with our contacts there in the future. But for now, we have been incredibly impressed with the quality of the coffees that we have tasted from this part of Brazil, and hope that this initial Dark Roast project may be the first step towards a broader partnership in the region.
Who did Necessary work with to source this coffee?
One of Necessary’s core supply chain partners is Osito Coffee, a specialty importing company that we work closely with to build ongoing sourcing relationships with coffee producing communities in Colombia, Ethiopia, and Burundi. Osito secured this particular lot for us in collaboration with a large Espíritu Santo-based cooperative named Coopeavi. Coopeavi has traditionally traded commercial-grade coffees (the Espíritu Santo region produces a large amount of robusta in addition to arabica), but are motivated to begin expanding their presence in the specialty market. This community blend for Necessary Dark Roast is a first step in what may become a broader collaboration with Coopeavi. To that end, Necessary’s sourcing team hopes to visit Brazil later this year, to explore possibilities for the future!