You’re probably used to hearing about craft brewing in the context of your local brewery, but there’s another craft beverage making waves outside the world of pale ales and sours. A hands-on, small-batch technique makes all the difference when it comes to roasting coffee.
This kind of method is what you might expect from a smaller roaster — certainly not from one of the most well-known chains in the country. 7-Eleven has opted to use small-batch roasted beans, prioritizing quality over mass production for production’s sake.
As consumer tastes evolve towards a more boutique brew, the international brand decided to put the effort into artisan roasting on a large scale.
The term “small batch roasted” gets thrown around a lot, but how exactly does it make a difference to what’s in your cup?
Let’s break it down.
Beans need to be roasted so they can be transformed from their humble fruit seed beginnings to the aromatic and flavourful beverage in your cup. Small batches make for a more controlled and even roast. Ever had a cup of coffee that tasted burnt? That’s likely because it was burnt. Roasting fewer beans at a time means that the roaster is able to see most of the beans as they’re being roasted. They can watch the beans carefully to make sure they’re not overdone. This also lets them move the beans around more easily during the process to achieve a similar roast across all the beans.
Overall, this increases the quality of each batch and makes the coffee more consistent from one batch to another.
The other huge advantage to small-batch roasting is freshness. The turnaround time from when the beans are roasted, to when you fill up your cup is radically reduced.
This is where the distribution power of a convenience store chain comes in handy. 7-Eleven’s premium 100 percent Arabica beans are hand-picked across the world and shipped to Canada. The beans are roasted at a local warehouse in Vancouver and delivered to 7-Eleven stores as needed. The coffee is then brewed in-house for the freshest possible product.
The brand has even been recognized for its coffee-making prowess. Late October will see the return of their Colombian Single Origin coffee. This particular brew won a Golden Bean Award after impressing the contest’s expert judges — all industry professionals — generally considered to have the most discerning palates in the coffee game. Some Golden Bean judges have the distinction of being certified Q Graders, who spend years training their taste buds to analyze the nuances of coffee.
You don’t need to train your palate to taste the difference. Coffee-drinkers were surprised at the results of a blind taste test led by the Canadian Barista and Coffee Academy’s Les Kuan, who spoke to CTV Vancouver.
Careful roasting in small batches helped 7-Eleven edge out some fierce competitors. Their award-winning Colombian brew was favoured above some well-known names in coffee, right up there with a local independent roaster. It was also voted the best affordable option by tasters.
If the magic really is in the beans — and how they’re processed — we can expect another hit from 7-Eleven’s new Mexican Hacienda Miravalles organic coffee. Introduced just this month, the new brew is grown at great heights in the Sierra Madre mountain range on a family-run farm. Like the brand’s other beans, they’re ethically harvested, chosen by hand and roasted with precision in small batches.
The success of 7-Eleven’s craft brew goes to show what coffee roasters can learn from the craft beer industry. Small batches can make a big difference. Pricier doesn’t always mean better. And a large brand can indeed keep up with changing tastes as long as quality and freshness come first.