Specialty Decaf? An Interview with Carol Blanchet of Talking Crow Coffee Roasters

Decaf drinkers often get a bad rap. To be sure, the decaf at your local all-day diner is probably terrible, but why shouldn't decaf have the same characteristics we expect from specialty coffee? After all, decaf drinkers are the true coffee lovers-- drinking coffee purely for the taste and not a chemically-induced pick-me-up. Don't they deserve a better cup? 

We met Carol Blanchet of Talking Crow Coffee Roasters after she backed our Kickstarter campaign for the Etkin 8-cup Coffee Dripper. Talking Crow focuses on roasting specialty single-origin decaf coffees which we can verify are excellent. We're proud that Talking Crow Coffee Roasters is now one of our authorized resellers.

We recently caught up with Carol to learn how her company approaches roasting great decaf. 

What inspired you to start a decaf-only roastery?

We didn’t start out focusing on decaf, but my health took a dive and my doctor strongly advised I eliminate caffeine.  Personally, I didn’t want to give up coffee because it was such a comfort throughout the day, but also as a Roaster, I couldn’t imagine not having coffee. (A coffee roaster who doesn’t drink coffee, yeah right?!)  It was truly a lightbulb moment. I needed decaf and couldn’t find any that tasted like the specialty regular I was used to drinking, and we figured there were lots of other people in my shoes too. 

We decided to focus on crafting exceptionally delicious decaf. We came up with the slogan, “Coffee is for everyone – caffeine isn’t.” It truly is our joy to help coffee lovers who can’t have caffeine enjoy their coffee again.

Why is most decaf so bad? 

There are several reasons why decaf can taste awful. First, good coffee starts with good coffee. Generally, roasters don’t prioritize decaf so they don’t buy quality beans to use for their decaf.

Secondly, because the beans are not quality, they choose to roast quite dark to attempt to mask the inferiority. Lastly, the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee can leave an unpleasant aftertaste.  

What would you say to someone who is skeptical that decaf can be every bit as tasty as un-decaffeinated coffee? 

First, we’d say…just give it a try! Look for a roaster that has more than one decaf option because it shows they care about their decaf customers.  Look for specialty single-origin decaf at a light or medium roast. This will be a quality coffee that is skillfully roasted.  

Is there a decaffeination process you prefer? Or is it more about the origin? 

We prefer the Swiss Water process method because it’s 100% chemical free and it’s also the ONLY process that is 99.9 % caffeine free. Other methods are only 97% caffeine-free, so if you are limiting caffeine for health reasons or if you are extra sensitive to caffeine, this method is the best. Also, every certification that the coffee has prior to arriving at the Swiss Water plant such as certified fair trade organic – will transfer with it. That’s not true for any other decaffeination method.
However, we do love us some fruity Ethiopian coffees!