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Equal Exchange Organic Decaffeinated

Roaster: Equal Exhange
Roast: Medium
Origin: Blend
Decaffeination Method: CR3 Natural Liquid Carbon Dioxide
Taste: Caramel, Raisin, Brown Sugar

The Roaster

Equal Exchange is the largest, and oldest, Fairtrade company operating today. Their trademark red bags are hard to miss. The company was founded in 1986 by Jonathan Rosenthal, Michael Rozyne and Rink Dickinson. The three men were determined to, in the company’s words, “transform the relationship between the public and food producers.” The first coffee they imported, in fact, came from Nicorogua. This was a direct rebuke to the Reagan administration’s trade embargo on Nicorogua’s left-wing Sandinista government. That’s certainly a bold way to start your company!

Today, Equal Exchange is cooperatively owned by its workers. They have profit sharing rules in place, and the highest earning worker at the company cannot make more than five times what the lowest earning worker does. 

That said, I’m not here to laud anybody’s business practices. Nor am I here to discuss the merits or demerits of the Fairtrade model. I’m here for one thing, and that’s decaf coffee. So, setting aside Equal Exchange’s wide variety of caffeinated coffee, tea, and chocolate, I’ve come to review their flagship decaf offering, aptly called the Organic Decaffeinated.

The Roast

Equal Exchange Organic Decaffeinated is a medium roast. There is a lot of text on a package of Equal Exchange coffee, yet almost none of this provides information on the actual coffee beans. Outside of the roast level, I couldn’t find a thing about where the beans were sourced or when they were roasted. Their website was similarly close-lipped on this subject. I hope in the future Equal Exchange offers more information on their product.

 The beans certainly smelled (and later tasted) fresh. The aroma presented more like a dark roast, with deep layers of burnt toast, nuts, and chocolate. It was all quite nice, but it did leave me worried that I’d be drinking something closer to a French roast.

Equal Exchange’s website offers plenty of information on the decaffeination process at least. The beans are decaffeinated through a somewhat rare process called CR3 Natural Liquid Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination (also known as the Sparkling Water Process.) This all-natural process uses carbon dioxide to trap and filter caffeine from the beans. Like the Swiss Water Process, this results in 99.9% caffeine-free beans. 

Tasting Notes

The beans may have had the aroma of a dark roast, and the coffee was on the darker end of medium, but this was certainly a rich medium-roast. The coffee had a deep sweetness, with strong notes of brown sugar and caramel.

It had a velvety mouthfeel, with plenty of body and viscosity. I never felt this overwhelmed my palette, however. Similarly, the deep caramel flavors paired well with the dried fruit flavors that developed as I kept drinking. Raisin presented as the strongest of these fruitier notes, which sat very well with the richer undertones. 

As is often the case with water processed decafs, this was not a particularly acidic or bright cup. My only real problem with these beans was that the coffee eventually became a little one-note. Some extra acidity might’ve enlivened the fruitier flavors. That said, I still greatly enjoyed this cup.

Final Thoughts

This is a great medium roast option for anybody who wants some of the character of a dark roast, without that level of intensity. It’s packed with brown sugar sweetness that’s balanced out by complex notes of dried fruit. It makes for an easygoing cup that is especially well suited to sipping on a winter’s day.

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