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Understanding Your Coffee Bag Label

Understanding Your Coffee Bag Label

Wait a sec! Before you tear into that fresh new bag of coffee beans, how about a little tour around the bag to reveal the story behind the coffee you're about to brew.

Probably the first thing you notice is the roaster's name and logo. It could be an old favourite you've bought many times before and you know their brand image off by heart. We love the traditional family crest on the Oughtred Blindside Espresso, the bold graphics stamped on the East Van Roasters bag. Then there are coffee roasters with names that'll spark your curiosity -2% Jazz from Victoria, for example.

When choosing a bag of coffee, here are some of the certifications and categories to look for.


The country where the coffee was grown, sometimes even the region within that country. If it's a blend, the roaster might list all of the countries. Single-origin coffees such as Foglifter Coffee Roasters Guatemala Finca Carrizal are often named for the particular farm where the coffee was grown.

Direct Trade

This means that the coffee roaster has a direct relationship with the producer or farmer they buy the coffee from and have input on coffee quality and environmental issues.

Fair Trade

The certification of certain standards such as worker's rights, sustainability, and fair prices throughout the supply chain. This certification isn't obtainable by individually owned farms. (Percentage dependent on certification). Not always accessible for smaller producers due to the certification timeline and the costs associated with certifying.


Requires that 70-95% of the product has synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used on the land where the coffee is grown. Organic certification standards are rigorously monitored.


There are three different methods used to turn harvested coffee cherries into dried coffee beans. Each method used has an impact on the flavour you taste when the coffee is brewed.

  • Washed

    Following the harvest, the cherries are washed, sorted and most of the outer pulp removed. The next step is a long soak to ferment the beans, and finally, the green beans are dried in the sun.

  • Honey

    This processing method involves removing all of the pulp of the coffee cherry, leaving some of the mucilage on the seeds, which gets gooey like honey as they dry.

  • Natural

    The oldest method of processing coffee; the whole just-harvested coffee cherries are spread out on either a cement slab or raised beds and allowed to dry naturally in the sun. The hulls are then removed by machine.

Roast Date

The day that the coffee was roasted and bagged. Good coffee will release CO2 and other gasses for at least seven days after roasting, and most roasters recommend waiting anywhere between 7 and 14 days before opening the bag.

Roast Level

Indicates a light, medium, or dark roast.

Tasting Notes

The roaster's description of flavour profiles in the coffee. On our Coffee Finder page, you can explore the wide range of flavour profiles we carry.

Carbon Neutral

A recent certification in the coffee industry for companies that have evolved their supply chain and farming practices by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon offsets and committing to reducing or avoiding carbon gas emissions. Not yet standardized.

Climate Neutral

This covers an even wider range of environmental stewardship; certification refers to reducing and mitigating all greenhouse gasses.

Rainforest Alliance/UTX Certified

The alliance works with sustainable coffee farmers in a continued effort to protect the environment and the rights of workers in over 60 countries. It should be noted this does not have significant consumer end transparency, and the criteria is quite vague.

Pretty soon, we're going to need a bigger bag! Drop us a note if there's a topic you would like to read about on the blog, and feel free to share – Thanks!

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