Truly Fundamental Drinks

Fair + Direct Trade Coffee & Tea

Like most of you, coffee and tea are part of our daily routines and we want to love what we drink everyday! So we pay as much attention to these drinks as we do to the food on our plate. Like our ingredients, we’re not just looking at flavor, but learning the details about the farming, drying, and roasting processes to ensure toxin-free beans. It’s also important that we bring you coffee and tea from fair and direct trade, and sustainable farms

Direct Trade is similar to Fair Trade, but is an uncertified program that directly links roaster and grower, similar to the farm to table concept. Meaning, Andrew Barnett, the founder of Linea, has a direct relationship with the farm growing the beans. DT emphasizes environmentally-friendly growing practices and fair prices for coffee, rewarding high quality coffee production with higher prices per pound.                        

We brew Linea Cafe’s. Linea is a San Francisco based. Founder and head roaster, Barnett, is a legend in the coffee world, with a fine palate and deep knowledge of coffee, he has judged the World Barista Championship and Cup of Excellence Coffee Competition over the last several years. He operates a small cafe out of The Mission District in San Francisco, brewing the finest beans he often sources himself.

Linea collaborates with their coffee farmers through a Direct Trade relationship. Barnett sources an overwhelming 80% of his beans himself! Red Coffee Company assists him in finding the best beans in South America and Africa the rest of the time.  


We work with Samovar, based in San Francisco, for tea. We love the extracting and passionate ways that Samovar procures and brews their teas in their cafe, and we are honored to be able to serve them at Mission Heirloom. Samovar sources unique, organic teas from all over the world, which gives us an opportunity to taste the skilled art of this ancient drink.

Rare Tea Company was founded by Henrietta Lovell in 2004 from her love of tea and desire to reintroduce people to the true joy of quality teas. Based out of London, UK, she critiques common standard tea as terrible quality as the leaves often come from numerous farms, ground up to be mass-produced. Rare Tea is regarded among the highest quality teas, supplying tea to famous restaurants, hotels, and shops world wide, such as: Noma (Denmark), Momofuku Ma Peche (NY, USA) St. Pancras Renaissance Inn (London), Chateau Marmont (LA, USA)


A Closer Look Into the Bean                        

Whether it’s a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning or a refreshing glass of ice tea at lunch, most of us drink caffeinated beverages at least once a day. In fact, caffeine is the most widely consumed behavior-modifying chemical in the world. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, relieves drowsiness & fatigue, quickens reaction times, increases our muscles’ energy production, and can improve mood and mental performance. Of course, too much caffeine has its own share of problems, namely increased heart rate, nervousness, and insomnia so it’s best consumed in moderation.                         

Coffee beans are around 1 to 2 percent caffeine and tea is 2 to 3 percent caffeine; however, brewed coffee typically contains a greater amount of extracted coffee beans and therefore caffeine. Both coffee and tea are excellent sources for antioxidants and other beneficial phenolic compounds like catechins (in tea) and quinones (in coffee). Of course, they’re both pleasurable to drink — we can’t imagine mornings without our regular cup of coffee or tea.


Coffee History

Coffee is native to eastern Africa, but it has made its way around the world through oceanic trading routes: Coffee was initially brought to India, continuing its way to Java, and finally to the French Caribbean and South America soon afterwards. Today Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia are the largest exporters of coffee.      

The originally brewed coffee beverage has just three ingredients: finely powdered coffee bean, sugar, and boiling water. It is highly concentrated with a strong, bitter flavor that is reduced by sugar. It is still commonly drank in Eastern Africa, where it was first served in the 15th century. Historians have traced the first documented use of coffee to Sufi religious ceremonies and mark the first trade between Ethiopia to Yemen. For a long time, coffee remained relatively confined in small area south west of the Red Sea before spreading to the Middle East in the 16th century, and eventually to Europe in the 17th century.

In Europe, coffee was modified by the French after they started isolating coffee grounds in a cloth bag, producing a cleaner and less generally having less sentiment. Sometime before 1750, a French inventor created the drip pot, called a biggin. This method results in a shorter extraction with less bitterness and astringency than boiled coffee. By the 19th century, the percolator, the French press, and the espresso machine were all invented in rapid succession.

Espresso, which debuted in 1855, was a particularly important invention. This Italian brewing method forces hot water through finely ground coffee very quickly at high pressure. As a result of the high-pressure extraction, the oil in the coffee beans is emulsified into the brewed coffee, giving the drink a velvety texture and lingering flavor.


Coffee Processing

Coffee beans are the seeds of a tropical relative of the gardenia plant. There are two species: coffea arabica and coffea canephora. Canephora produces robusta coffee beans. Robusta is native to humid West Africa; it contains more caffeine & phenolics and less oil & sugar than arabica. This species of bean was not commonly grown until the end of the 19th century, when it became known for having higher disease resistance than arabica. Today, it is typically found in cheaper grocery store blends and instant coffees. Whereas Arabica beans develop a more complex and balanced flavor than robusta and are preferred by artisanal coffee companies. They are native to Ethiopia and Sudan and makes up 2/3rds of the international coffee trade.                         

Coffee beans can be harvested by hand or by machine; hand-harvested coffees are most often higher in quality than machine-harvested beans as this allows the picker to choose only fully ripe berries. It takes both plants 10 to 11 months for the berries to ripen and produce a large oval shaped seed--the coffee bean.  Once the berries are picked, the seeds need to be separated from the fruit and cleaned. This step is referred to as coffee processing, and it is one of the most important steps for ensuring clean, safe, and mold- free coffee beans.

Coffee can be processed via dry processing, wet processing or a hybrid method called semi-dry. The choice in processing often depends on the environment and resources of the growing regions; dry processing needs hot, dry temperatures and wet processing requires access to bountiful gallons of clean water. Generally, wet processed coffees are often considered to be of higher quality than dry-processed coffees, and they are much more consistent in quality.

Dry processing, or “natural” processing, is the original method. The picked coffee berries are first cleaned and sorted to separate out unripe, overripe, and damaged coffee cherries. The cleaned berries can be spread out over a large concrete patio or raised mats, where they can dry to an appropriate moisture content. At this point, the beans are still covered with the fruit of the coffee berry, which causes the beans to ferment and transform in flavor. Once they have dried sufficiently, the cherries are transferred to a hulling machine that removes the dried fruit, leaving just the bean. From there the coffee beans are sorted, graded and bagged. Almost all robusta beans are processed using this method. Arabica beans grown in hot, dry areas with limited access to water will also undergo dry processing.                

Wet processing uses water to sort and clean the beans. First, the cherries are sorted by immersion in a large water tank. Bad or unripe fruit will float while ripe fruit will sink. The ripe fruit is then transferred to a second tank, where it is pushed through a screen to remove excess fruit pulp, the remaining fruit is removed either through a wet fermentation process or through mechanical scrubbing. Fermented beans are watched carefully to make sure that they don’t acquire sour or worrisome flavors. Mechanical scrubbing is beneficial to reducing water consumption and increases uniformity of the coffee, but it doesn’t allow for additional flavor to develop. Finally, the beans are washed to remove any excess fruit pulp and dried via machine or in the sun on raised mats or concrete patios.                        

Semi-dry processing combines the dry and wet methods. Like the wet processing method, the outer fruit layer is removed, but then the beans are left out in the sun for about one day to ferment. After this waiting period, the remaining fruit is washed off and the coffee is dried.                  

Both of these processing methods yield what is recognized as green coffee beans. These are the beans that are sold to roasters around the world.



Coffee companies then roast the beans in large drums, transforming the green beans to the coffee beans we get to brew!

Coffee beans can be roasted to temperatures anywhere between 350 and 425 degrees. As coffee increases in temperature, its flavor profile, color, and caffeine content change. In the early stages of roasting, the coffee’s sugars are broken down into various acidic compounds that give the beans a tart flavor. As roasting continues, these acids and their accompanying astringent compounds are destroyed while bitterness increases and the coffee bean gets darker. Very dark coffees can be overwhelmed by the “roasted” flavor; poor quality beans are often over-roasted to cover up the off flavors of the beans. Lightly roasted coffee is bright, tart, and high in caffeine. Medium roasts typically have more body and sweeter, richer flavor.

After the beans are roasted, the next step is brewing--often the step that many of us know quite intimately. Coffee can be brewed using many different methods; drip pots, pour-over filters, French press, and espresso are all popular today.


A Bit on Decaf

Decaffeinated coffee is a unique product developed in Germany in 1908. It works by washing the green coffee beans using either a solvent, a saturated water solution, or supercritical carbon dioxide to leach out the caffeine from the beans while keeping the other flavors intact. Remember: decaf coffee does not mean caffeine-free!                        


Reducing Toxins by Wet-Processing                        

At Mission Heirloom, we serve only wet-processed coffee because the processing method requires care and attention, reducing the risk of growing harmful molds and aflatoxins.

Like spices, coffee beans are particularly susceptible to mold growth in many different stages of production. While some molds aren’t particularly harmful to non-sensitive individuals, there are others that produce potent mycotoxins. Depending on the level of cleanliness and care taken during production, coffee can potentially be contaminated with a mold called Aspergillus ochraceus, which produces a mycotoxin called ochratoxin A (OTA). While roasting the green coffee beans destroys any mold present, it is only effective against OTA at extremely high temperatures. These temperatures often render the coffee acrid, bitter, and unpleasant to drink. (OTA has been shown to remain in coffees roasted up to 350-480 degrees.) Studies on rodents have associated excessive levels of OTA with cancer, brain damage, and kidney disease in addition to immunosuppressive effects. Since these studies were performed only on animals in extreme conditions, we cannot be sure that OTA would cause these same problems in humans. More study is clearly needed. Until then, it is probably wise to choose higher- quality coffees that do not run the same risk.                        

Wet processed coffee beans have less opportunity to grow toxic molds as they are completely submerged in water and are then dried quickly. Thorough, raised-mat drying also reduces the growth of molds. Choosing single-estate beans also runs less risk of mold cross-contamination.


The History and Production of Tea                        

Tea is incredibly OLD! It is estimated that tea was known in China to have beneficial health effects as early as 4000-5000 years ago. While a tea drink came years later, it has not only been a desired flavor, but an important a resource of trade and and influential in developing economies.

The first tea drinks are said to be carefully crafted around 2000 years ago in Southwest China, but the leaves were likely chewed as a stimulant and health aid long before. The tea crop remained relatively small in South China until the Sui Dynasty (581-618 A.D.), during which plant acreage expanded rapidly, becoming a major crop. The Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 A.D.) saw a swift development in the tea industry. It was a period of accelerated growth, where the spread of tea reached new destinations. The history of tea planting and unique flavors can be traced back to the original routes of trade. The first, was to Japan and Korea; the second, to Mongolia Middle East, and Iran; the third route went from Macau, then Holland, across the sea to France, Portugal, the UK, rest of Europe, then making the trek to India, Sri Lanka, and other African countries.

Today, tea is globally loved! Worldwide statistics on beverage and food consumption ranks tea just below water as the most drunk liquid. People across all cultures recognize tea for it’s array of health benefits and unique flavors.


Tea Processing                        

Tea comes from a single plant species, Camellia sinesis. It is the small changes within the processing of tea leaves that alter the profile and characteristics, creating a variety of flavors and caffeine levels. Green teas retain similar characteristics to the fresh leaves; they are vibrant and bitter while black and oolong teas become mellow and pleasant.

Fresh leaves have defensive compounds that give a bitter and astringent taste. Methods used in tea processing activate tea leaves’ enzymes, which will transform the defensive properties into a more palatable taste. Here is an overview of the tea process; keep in mind that it is small changes and differences in the process of producing tea that yield the unique and abundant flavors of green, white, pu-erh, oolong, black, and so many delicious teas!

Fine artisanal tea flavor is determined by a few things, two of which are when the leaves are picked and how they are processed. Most mass manufactured teas collect leaves by machine, but it is best to pick tea leaves by hand. This ensures the quality and freshness of the leaf, really separating  . Unopened buds are will be rich in flavor. After the leaves are gathered, the first step is withering, where the leaves are left to rest and wilt in an area controlled for humidity, temperature, and airflow. This can take anywhere between a few minutes to several hours in order to reach the desired moisture deficit. This resting period initiates a change in the metabolism of the tea that makes the leaves more fragile.  The longer the withering period, the deeper flavor and darker color of the resulting tea. A few particularly delicate forms of teas completely skip this step.                     

Depending on the tea variety, there may be an intermediate step. For example, black teas will undergo full oxidation while oolong teas will go through partial and green teas skip this process altogether. Following withering, the next process all teas undergo is to rolling or pressing of the leaves. This breaks down the structural cells and release the cell fluids, which contain important enzymes that are responsible for transforming the outcome of the tea variety  

This enzymatic process is often confused with microbial fermentation, but it actually a very different process. Enzymatic “fermentation” is relatively short--anywhere from a few minutes to 4 hours--process and is dictated by enzymatic activity. Aromatic compounds are released when the enzymes break down sugar-aroma molecules. The tea enzymes also bind small, astringent phenolic molecules together to create milder, larger compounds. These larger compounds give body to the brewed tea. The longer the tea leaves are pressed, the longer the enzymatic process, and the less bitter and astringent the tea will be.                      

The leaves are then heated, ending the enzymatic process and marking the start of the drying process.. If steamed over low heat, the tea will remain fairly subtle. If high heat is used, the tea will develop darker, cooked, and/or smoky flavor. The drying process is an important preservation step. However, in certain teas, like Chinese green tea, the heating step is performed before rolling, producing a very subtle tea.                        

After the tea is dried, the leaves are sorted and graded by the size of the leaf. In general, the smaller the tea leaf, the faster the extraction time and the lower quality the tea. The very best teas are made from young tea shoots and unopened leaf buds because these leaves are the most vulnerable and contain the highest concentrations of phenolics and related enzymes, but most commercial teas contain older and less flavorful leaves.


Common Tea Varieties                    

Green Tea The original variety of manufactured tea, green tea preserves many of the qualities of fresh tea leaves while heightening desired flavors and rounding out some bitterness and astringency. It is made by cooking fresh or briefly withered leaves to immediately inactivate the tea’s enzymes. The tea is then pressed to release moisture and dried in hot air (for grassy flavor notes) or a hot pan (for roasted aroma).                        

Oolong Tea Oolong falls midway in the tea strength spectrum between green and black teas. The leaves are withered until significantly wilted and weakened, and then they are lightly agitated to bruise the leaves. Oolong manufacturers allow a modest amount of enzymatic transformation to occur during this process, waiting until the leaf edges turn red before pan-firing the tea at a high temperature. The leaves are then rolled and gently dried. The final tea has a light amber color and a fruity aroma.                  

Black Tea The manufacturing process of this strong Western favorite allows for profound enzymatic transformation by extensive rolling and bruising of wilted tea leaves. The leaves are then left to rest for a few hours and dried in hot air after the leaves have turned coppery brown.                 

There are many nuanced varieties in between the above three types. White teas are dried before rolling the leaves. Pu-erh teas go through an additional microbial fermentation process. Lapsang souchongs are smoked. Jasmine teas are scented with jasmine flowers. Gyokura and kabesucha are wilted in boxes made of bamboo. Hoji-cha is a variety of green tea that is roasted at very high temperatures.


Tea at Home, directions by the famous 'Tea Lady,' Henrietta Lovell                        


Henrietta Lovell is a lady of royalty--tea royalty, at least. Dubbed ‘The Tea Lady’,while she is popular for her charisma and charm, she is famous for her expertise in tea and tea company, Rare Tea Company. She sources many of the teas by direct trade, seeing the tea garden and talking to the farmers in person. She advocates for fair wages, environmental conservation, and a clean and organic approach to sourcing tea.

One tip she suggests is using loose leaf tea instead of previously bagged tea, stating, “most bags contain glue and bleach, so think about what that does to the water you are drinking.” While we’re certainly disappointed to learn this, we’re thrilled to work with someone as intune and interested about chemicals as we are! We love our tea the way she recommends and we’re sure you will too! Here are some tips for perfecting your tea:


How much tea should I use?

Lovell’s rule of thumb suggests “one spoonful of tea per one cup” -- that’s referring to an 150 ml fabulous China teacup. If you’re in the mood for stronger tea, add more leaves! Leaving the leaves to steep longer will create bitterness. Plus, keeping on track for the recommended steeping time will allow the leaves to be infused multiple times!


What temperature should the water be?

Commercial grade tea lacks the subtle flavors that are so tasty in high quality teas. The sweetness of great teas are caused when the amino acids dissolve, but the mass manufacturing process destroys the amino acids and leave tannins intact. So without boiling water, industry tea will be bland and resemble gray-murky water  

However, when drinking high quality tea, the amino acids are intact and creating a bright and flavorful cup of tea simply requires a lower water temperature.

When immersing the  the amino acids in the leaves dissolve at lower temperatures here are slightly different temperatures recommended for the ranging tea varieties!

White / Green tea - It’s best at about 70 degrees, a bit below boiling. ‘to bring out their delicate sweetness’ (the amino acids dissolve at lower temps and can retain the astringency and tannins, that can bitter with too hot of water.

Black tea- 80 degrees, 90 with milk. Peppermint, lemongrass, rooibos teas should use boiling water.   

(Can be achieved by putting about 50 ml (two soup spoons of cold water) into a 150ml teacup before adding boiling water)

Just a warning! Hand-crafted tea, like Samovar and Rare Tea Company, is sourced from carefully tended farms. They are grown, processed, and created to highlight aroma, taste, and an experience. However, commercial grade tea is mass produced at incredibly high volumes, where the process destroys the amino acids that bring out sweetness. This leaves the tea tannic and bitter. So keep using your boiling water Manufactured tea requires boiling water to and bring out the flavor and aromatic.

Green teas are typically steeped longer at lower temperatures and black tea is typically steeped for a shorter period of time at higher temperatures. The best way to learn how long and how hot to steep tea is to buy a few types and experiment. Taste as the tea brews and immediately remove the tea leaves once it tastes good to you. Over-steeped teas will taste harsh and astringent. (This problem can be remedied by adding milk and/or sweetener, but these additions also dampen the good flavors of the tea.) In addition, the quality of the water used for brewing can change the flavor of the final tea. Ideally, you should use chlorine-free water with a moderate mineral content.


Properly Storing Tea

All teas should be stored in dark, airtight containers to limit exposure to oxygen, sunlight, and moisture. After several months, the aroma and briskness will begin to deteriorate. While neither of those problems are particularly harmful, they certainly don’t contribute to a great cup of tea. However, tea can also grow molds if exposed to moisture, and you absolutely don’t want molds in your tea! See below to learn more about molds.