Decaf uncovered! On Swiss Water®, Kenyan coffee and Costa Rica...

In December we did a tour of the Swiss Water® facility in Burnaby ahead of launching the first of our decaf coffees. We have had many comments about how sweet and balanced our Swiss Water® Decaf is, but it’s no surprise that the question we get asked by every decaf drinker is ‘how do they do it?’

Put simply, it’s really very complex! The process is 100% chemical free, and unlike many extraction processes, water based. Despite donning sexy lab coats on our fabulous tour by Mike Strumpf, we thought we’d pull in a second expert to help us write this post.

Attie and Will Suiting up at Swiss Water

Attie and Will Suiting up at Swiss Water

We chatted with Christine Kesler from Swiss Water®. Will met Christine two years ago when working in the Swiss Water® marketing team. With a shared love of coffee our friendship was cemented when our dachshunds became best friends. Wieners and coffee, always a solid start to the weekend!

Welcome to the blog Christine! How long have you worked at Swiss Water® for and what is your role there?

I am coming up on my 4 year anniversary with the company in March (where does the time go?)! When I started here, my first role was the Cupping Room Technician. I worked alongside the specialty coffee world famous Green Buyer, Mike Strumpf. He taught me so much about the coffee quality process which was a huge departure from my familiar barista role that I had held for the eight years prior.

I was in charge of sample roasting, cupping, and green coffee analysis. After about a year and a half in that position I was promoted to Customer Relationship Specialist – essentially decaf sales, with the focus on building relationships with our customers, which as we all know in this industry is so very important. Working in the cupping room before moving into sales was so beneficial for me. I feel like I can talk to customers with a better understanding about flavour profiles, roasting practises, and the nuances of green coffee analysis.

Christine Kesler, Swiss Water®

Christine Kesler, Swiss Water®

Here's a challenge for you! Can you summarise the Swiss Water® process in one sentence for all the lazy readers out there?

Challenge accepted! Swiss Water® is a ten hour-ish, small batch process that uses just water, carbon, and osmosis (no harsh chemicals) to remove the caffeine from green coffee beans.

Phew, she did it. Christine, is it really true that coffee can taste amazing without caffeine? 

Absolutely! Because we don’t use any chemicals to remove the caffeine, we leave all of the flavour solids intact. Once some of those solids (proteins, amino acids, and carbohydrates) are removed, you lose some of the volatile aromatic compounds, of which there are over eight hundred. Despite having aroma in their name, volatile aromatic compounds are what make up the flavours in your coffee, so as soon as you start removing those you’re losing valuable aroma and flavour. This is why it is so important to us that caffeine is the only solid we take out.  

Swiss Water Process

Of course there's time for caffeine too. What's a memorable coffee you've enjoyed lately?

My most memorable coffee recently is the Kenya Nyeri Karuthi AA I ordered from Coffee Shrub and roasted on our sample roaster. Besides the fact that I’m partial to Kenyan coffees, this one was stellar: orange and black tea fragrance, brown sugar and blackberry aroma, a juicy, medium body with sweet, lemony brightness, and dark chocolate, jammy berry, and slightly floral flavours. So balanced and delicious in the cupping and from a Chemex. I can’t even imagine how much more complex and beautiful this would be from a full time professional roaster!  

Every time we chat you seem to be hopping on a plane to spread some Swiss Water love! What was the highlight of 2016?

Without question, my highlight was Costa Rica. This was a mostly personal trip and my first outside of Canada/USA, with a bit of business sprinkled in.  My fiancé and I started in Tamarindo to celebrate New Year’s Eve 2016 in the most amazing way, and then moved our way down the pacific coast. My favourite stop was a little surfing town called Santa Teresa with a great mix of locals and visitors, and not a souvenir shop in sight! I highly recommend it to anyone who is travelling to Costa Rica. From there, we headed inland to experience a real life coffee harvest at the La Minita farm. Picking coffee is so hard and time consuming, and it really makes me appreciate every cup a little bit more.

Christine at La Manita Coffee Farm

Christine at La Manita Coffee Farm

And lastly, where in the world are you dying to visit and why? 

I can’t help but give two answers here, even though my list is a full page long. The first place I’m dying to visit is already booked: my honeymoon in Tulum, Mexico. I can’t believe my own words when I say I still haven’t been to Mexico. I’m completely mesmerised by Mexican culture, food, music, and the bright, eye-catching art and décor. I’m really looking forward to eating authentic tacos on a hot beach.

Secondly, I’m dying to visit Kenya. There are no travel plans in the works yet but seeing the animals, beautiful landscapes, and of course where my favourite coffee comes from, are all on my must-see list!

We’ve since seen the list and it really is a page long. Thanks for chatting Christine, here’s wishing you a wonderful wedding and honeymoon! 

Swiss Water Tour: Mike Strumpf - Swiss Water with Will, Attie and Mike - Groundswell Roasters, Ben Rugg - Pallet Coffee Roasters and Jim, Sean, Scott and the Beyond Bread team.  

Swiss Water Tour: Mike Strumpf - Swiss Water with Will, Attie and Mike - Groundswell Roasters, Ben Rugg - Pallet Coffee Roasters and Jim, Sean, Scott and the Beyond Bread team.