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High quality coffee beans

How can you identify a high quality coffee bean?

The quality of a coffee bean can shine through at any stage of the coffee process. The origin, method of harvesting, drying, processing and roasting of coffee can each contribute to the overall quality. Therefore, it’s important to recognise factors which contribute to a quality coffee bean, from the very beginning. 

High quality coffee bean plants

The coffee plant, and its species, are not recognised by the majority. Many find it surprising to learn that coffee beans begin life as cherries on a coffee plant. From here, they undergo a long journey before they arrive in our cups.  

A high quality coffee plant is reliant on a few different aspects:


Coffee plants are susceptible to their origin (they only grow in certain parts of our planet). These coffee growing countries are all close to the equator and make up what is known as the coffee bean belt. 

Although each coffee is unique to its region, spawning unique flavours, there are obviously a lot of similarities between these regions, to be able to produce coffee. Coffee plants require certain climates which offer altitude, humidity and rich soil composition, in order to flourish. 

Higher quality coffee beans tend to grow at a slower pace, in their natural environments. Hence the resurgence of shade-grown coffee. Rather than growing coffee at a quicker pace, in open coffee plantations which use chemicals and pesticides, shade-grown coffee rely on the elements and biodiversity to yield larger clusters of coffee cherries.

Leaves, blooms and yields

A tell tale sign of a quality coffee plant can come from its appearance. Ideally, a coffee plant will showcase dark green leaves spanning around four to six inches in length and about half as wide. In addition, a waxy surface indicates a healthy coffee plant, as do thick clusters of bright, white, fragrant flowers along the branches. 

Around eight months after flowering, the rich, red coffee cherries will be ripe enough for picking. Once again, the greater the cluster, the greater the yield – leading to a higher quality coffee plant.

High quality coffee bean farming

Despite coffee having originated somewhere around the 17th century, coupled with the fact that many methods of coffee farming have remained the same over the centuries, new technologies and ideas are helping shape and revolutionise a new era in coffee farming. However, the search for the highest quality coffee beans remains.

High quality green coffee beans

There’s a debate as to whether or not green coffee beans can possess real quality until they’ve undergone the long journey to your cup. Each stage of the coffee process can contribute to the overall quality of your coffee but before that, there can be a couple of tell-tale signs.

Size and shape

Symmetry, no matter what it is in, is aesthetically pleasing. The same applies to green coffee beans…but for good reason. The closer the green coffee beans are in being identical to one another in shape and size, the more evenly they will roast and produce a well-rounded, even flavour. If a yield contains too many varying sizes and shapes, they will roast differently, creating inconsistencies in the flavour.


It doesn’t take an expert to identify quality green coffee beans. Like any visual assessment, you are looking for any imperfections. The same applies when analysing the colours of the coffee bean. 

If you notice any fading or paleness, it could indicate insufficient drying or that the beans have been stored in humid conditions. Additionally, other colourations could suggest damage from water pollution, contact with debris or oxidation. Either way, these factors can be detrimental in  creating a bland coffee.

Man holding coffee beans close to his nose using a spoon.


If you have the opportunity to do a sniff test before purchasing, you should do so. You will be able to detect if the coffee beans have come into contact with anything from pesticides, smoke or if they have begun to ferment. 

High quality coffee bean roasting

One of the final stages of the coffee process is the roasting. This is where the real quality shines through. Although aspects such as the packaging, storage and extraction of the coffee can contribute to the final opinion, if you misconfigure the roast, your product will be inferior.

Roast date

Like most consumables – the fresher, the better! Coffee begins losing its freshness as soon as the roasting phase is complete. Therefore, the quicker it’s packaged, the more superior the freshness and overall quality of the coffee. 

If the packaging does not display an exact roast date, it’s advisable to avoid it. A premium coffee will clearly label the roast date. Ideally, the coffee will be consumed within 2-3 weeks of that date, for best results.

Roast colour

The colour of the coffee roast influences the overall flavour profile. This is often down to preference and customer requests. 

A lighter roast tends to draw out more smooth, acidic taste, whereas longer roasts bring out a rich bitterness. 

Expertise in this area can be the difference between a high quality coffee or a poor one. Literally, seconds can make all the difference, as well as a sound understanding of the cooling of the coffee beans. 

Quality coffee beans and Lincoln & York

Our entire operation has quality coffee at the forefront. From our sourcing and buying, through to our roasting and tasting, we ensure we’re utilising all of our knowledge and expertise to deliver a premium tasting product to our customers. 

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