Monday, March 05, 2007

You Get What You Pay For

Hanamasa coffee...when they say "pro", they don't mean it in a good way.

There are some things in life where price matters little because the quality isn't sufficiently important to most people to be worth the added expense and there are other things where the quality can be unacceptably poor unless you're willing to pay more. Two things where the latter is almost always the case are bread and coffee.

If you're trying to be frugal in a city with a high cost of living, it's a good idea to cut costs where you can. To that end, my husband picked up the bag of coffee pictured above at Hanamasa. It was 500 yen ($4.29) for 500 grams (about 1 lb.). For those who don't know Hanamasa, it's a store that sells food in bulk and caters to restaurants but anyone can buy from them. You find the word "pro" on a lot of their items because they want you to think that professional cooks or chefs use these brands. For all I know, they might.

This bag of coffee says the beans are 100% arabica beans. Coffee aficionados know that arabica are supposed to be good beans. The other type, robusta, is cheaper to produce since the plants grow more quickly and in climates that arabica beans cannot grow in. Robusta is frequently used to make instant coffee.

I had never actually heard of a "full city" roast (as is specified on the bag) before but apparently this is a moderate roasting level which allows both the flavor of the coffee bean and the roasting effect to come through in the coffee. Perhaps the roast is the reason we don't care much for this coffee or perhaps the cheapest arabica beans are used. I'm not sure but the coffee tastes too acidic and somewhat sour for our tastes.

What this coffee reminded me most of was the sort of mundane stuff you tend to get in Japanese restaurants. I guess that's no surprise since this is intended for restaurant use. In Japanese, it says "Classic Mountain". I think it's meant to fool people into thinking it's "Blue Mountain Blend" (which is the most popular coffee in Japan).

My husband and I tend to go for Starbucks Espresso from Costco which costs more than Hanamasa's coffee (though less than Starbucks bags at the shops). It is far more to our tastes. I wonder if there really is nothing wrong with this cheap coffee but just that he and I are used to relatively dark roasts. Somehow, I doubt that. It's unrealistic to think that cheap coffee is going to be great.

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