June 22, 2014 by Beans Ahoy
Stop! I haven’t gone mad. Well maybe a little. I must have for the review I bring you today. That’s right…I have reviewed a decaffeinated coffee. Oh the shame!
Before I look at this coffee I should explain a little about what decaf is, how it is produced and why I don’t like it. The first decaffeination process was called the Roselius Process. To cut a long story short, it’s awful, using benzene as a solvent to remove the caffeine. Needless to say this process is no longer used. Mainly because they discovered that Benzene causes cancer attacks the liver, kidney, brain, lungs and causes DNA mutations. All in all, pretty bad stuff.
The next process is the Direct Method. Again chemicals such as Dichloromethane or Ethyl Acetate are used to wash beans over several hours to remove the caffeine. Sounds swell doesn’t it? I mean at least it’s not using Benzene right? Well it sounds fine until you discover Dichloromethane is also used in paint stripper and de-greasers. Ethyl Acetate is at least a bit better, after all that occurs naturally in wine, but in concentrated forms it’s also used in nail varnish removers. So all in all these methods are also nasty.
That brings us to the Swiss Water Process. This is by far the ‘friendliest’ method of removing caffeine and the process that the Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. uses for their coffee. Instead of using chemicals to remove caffeine from the coffee, the Swiss Water Process uses, as the name suggests, water. Green coffee beans are soaked in water for about 10 hours. However, doing this removes more than just the caffeine, it also removes many of the chemicals that give coffee its flavour. In a bid to overcome this problem the Swiss Water Process per-impregnates the water with these chemicals using a batch of green coffee. The result is…better, but not perfect. When you start messing with the chemical composition of coffee you are going to alter its flavour. As simple as that. No amount of substitution will fix this fact.
It’s with this background that I review the Decadent Decaf Costa Rica. I will start by saying, if you are going to drink decaf then this is pretty good. Personally, I don’t like it, but there is no denying that the quality of coffee used is higher than that in most Decaf coffee. From a personal perspective I think my opinion is best expressed as, the coffee lacks character. The flavour is a little two dimensional and lacks the brilliant subtleties of many of the Costa Rican coffees of recent seasons. This may be down to the coffee to begin with, but is more likely going to be down to the Decaf process. The coffee is just a bit…how do I put this kindly…dull. I’m also not sure this is caused by the roast. I don’t believe the roast is ideal for this coffee, but it doesn’t detract enormously.
The final issue is this, and it affects all decaf coffee, this issue is ‘why’? Why take caffeine out of coffee? It’s like a summer holiday without the sun, or a football game with only one team. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am the one who is not seeing the light, but I can say one thing without hesitation, and it is perhaps Decadent Decaf’s saving grace, and that is that if you are going to lose your marbles and buy decaf – Buy this decaf. There is no doubt that all of the decaf I have tasted in the past has been retched, foul, awful bile burped up by beelzebub himself. This isn’t. While I don’t rank it with top end specialty coffee there is no doubt that it is miles ahead of regular decaf. On that note I genuinely hope Decadent Decaf does well. After all there is a big market of people who react badly to caffeine and who can be found hanging by their nails from the ceiling at 2 a.m., or those who, for medical reasons can’t drink heavily caffeinated beverages. For those people Decadent Decaf is the answer.