We’re a family run startup owned by a mix of family, employees and our lovely customers. No big corporate backers, nope. And that means we’re able to do the kind of things Nestlé or P&G would say ‘You’re Fired’ for even suggesting.
At Exhale we have three different coffees, our House Roast, Dark(ish) Roast and our Decaf but these coffees come from two different farms.
- Organic House Roast is from Belen, Colombia
- Organic Dark(ish) Roast is from Belen, Colombia
- Organic Decaf is from Jaltenango, Mexico
That was fine while we were just a small startup, but as we’ve grown it’s become increasingly difficult to find farms big enough to produce quality coffee that meet our standards. Our range also does lack a certain diversity since the House and Dark(ish) are just different roast profiles of the same bean. So, in Autumn 2023 we decided to start the hunt for a third farm to switch either our House Roast or Dark(ish) Roast to.
To recap, the two main reasons to change are:
- To offer diversity. Our two regular coffees are from the same farm and so taste similar. When a new customer doesn’t like one (yes there are such people!), we send the other and they’re unlikely to like that one either.
- To de-risk our supply chain. We’ve grown pretty speedily and to minimise risk we ideally would have 3 coffees from 3 different farms.
We decided to put it to the vote!
For two weeks we switched both of our House Roast and Dark(ish) Roast coffees to a new one from Finca Nueva Linda in Mexico that was organic and had passed our initial lab tests (it was rich in polyphenols in both its green bean state and when roasted, and free from moulds).
After the two weeks were up, we sent out a survey to ask whether our customers preferred the Mexican or the Colombian coffee saying we will decide which, if any, to switch based on their feedback.
It’s your Exhale so we decide together!
Pictured: The farmers behind our Colombian coffee.
How do they taste?
Both coffees had some pretty awesome tasting notes. Here's how they compared:
Colombian House Roast: Well balanced with a creamy body. Notes of orange marmalade, vanilla and lemon sherbet.
Mexican House Roast: Tangerine, almond and crisp cantaloupe melon with a milk chocolate body.
Colombian Dark(ish) Roast: Fudge brownie, caramel and hazelnut with a smooth, syrupy body.
Mexican Dark(ish) Roast: Dark chocolate, roasted hazelnut and honeydew melon with a lingering maple syrup aftertaste.
Pictured: Coffee beans drying at the Finca Nueva Linda farm in Mexico.
What did the survey say?
Organic House Roast
First up, our Organic House Roast.
All in all, 50% of you preferred the Colombian House Roast, of which 32% much preferred it. Only 17% much preferred the Mexican House Roast, or 35% either slightly or much preferred it.
So the Colombian House Roast was a clear winner!
Pictured: Ripe coffee cherries being sorted at the Finca Nueva Linda.
Organic Dark(ish) Roast
However, the story was far less clear for the Organic Dark(ish) Roast.
25% of you much preferred the Colombian Dark(ish) and 25% the Mexican! A dead tie, however, when you bring in those who slightly preferred one, then the total who preferred the Colombian was 37% and the Mexican wins with 48%.
What's the plan?
Surveys like these are so interesting because they show how utterly subjective taste is! Also, it's interesting to note that there are more people on either end of the spectrum, much preferring one than the other, showing to me that we have a pretty clear understanding of our taste preferences. There were just 14% of people in both surveys who were on the fence and liked them equally. You're a decisive bunch!
Pictured: De-pulping our coffee cherries at Finca Nueva Linda, Mexico.
Organic House Roast
For the House Roast there was a clear winner, the Colombian. So, most of you will be happy to know we're sticking with the Colombian House Roast.
I have to say, I much preferred the Colombian House Roast so I'm happy!
Organic Dark(ish) Roast
This was as clear as a muddy cup of cowboy coffee.
I have to admit, I did quite like the Mexican Dark(ish) Roast. I thought it smelt like Mars Bars which came through in a really caramel-chocolatey brew.
Given it's slight victory, there were 77 sacks of the Mexican Finca Nueva Linda available so we've bought them all! That's 5.3 tonnes.
We're going to finesse the roast profile and do some final lab testing. Then when we're happy with it, we'll switch the Dark(ish) Roast to the Mexican sometime around mid-January until the 77 sacks run out. This is likely to take around a month, then we'll switch back to the Colombian.
We'll let you know exact dates in our email newsletter so keep an eye on our emails. But roughly:
- Our Organic Dark(ish) Roast will be the Colombian until sometime mid-Janaury.
- From mid-January to mid-February we'll switch to the Mexican.
- Then from mid-February, when the Mexican has ran out, we'll switch back to the Colombian.
So... if you preferred the Colombian be sure to stock up on it before we switch and then wait a month to re-order. Or if you much preferred the Mexican, the good news is, you'll have the chance to order it again! Win-win!
A final word
The goal is still to switch one of our two regular coffees to another farm long-term for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
There is another shipment of the Mexican, Finca Nueva Linda, arriving in Spring, plus there are a few other organic coffees from other Mexican farms arriving at the same time we're going to test.
A huge thank you to everyone who took part in this experiment to see if we can make such a pivotal business decision together. Let me know if you enjoyed being involved in the comments below and whether or not we should repeat it in the future!
Best, Al x