There are many good points in George’s post, and I do agree with a lot of what he is writing.
When it comes to the economy, I agree that freezing is cheap for very expensive coffees, but for most of my coffees, like George said, it does not make a lot of sense. Looking at George’s numbers break down, it seems cheap when you calculate per lb. I did the same maths 2 years ago, and unfortunately freezing storage, labour cost and packaging is a bit more expensive in Norway, but not if you do it with coffees you pay about USD 10,- per lb and up. (which is why I did freeze my COE coffee that I payed USD 14,- per lb. for) I do see George’s point on making sure those spectacular coffees last longer as it is hard to sell big volumes fast when the coffees are that pricey. I also see that it can be a logistical nightmare for a small farmer to sell several small lots to several buyers, as the paperwork, etc is the same for one bag as it is for 300. I guess we need to be better at educating consumers that they need to pay more for quality coffee. But that is a different debate.
I do agree that as roasters we need to make our effort in order to maintain quality of the green coffee and I think both George, myself and a whole lot of other roasters spend a great deal of resources in how to maintain the quality of the coffee until it reaches the end consumer.
There are for sure some great farmers around the world doing a spectacular job producing very high quality, but I also know for a fact that a lot of these farmers needs to improve how coffee is dried and stored, etc. I have several times received coffee that is woody coming straight from the container, even from some of the best farmers, and in my opinion the potential to improve quality at farm level is much greater and makes a lot more sense than to stick those problems in the freezer. I think the more value a farmer is able to add to their product the better and more sustainable it will be for their businesses in the long run. (Yet another debate)
Regarding when to decide when a coffee peaks, George said:
“Tim and I simply disagree on peak flavor for green coffee - that is for coffee which is perfectly ripe; this means, in my book, that the coffee has no “green and astringent” notes just a few weeks after harvest nor does it have any woody notes, something I have become very sensitive to in my search for perfect clarity of flavor. After green coffee has been properly rested at origin it is at this peak flavor.”
I have a very interesting experiment going in Colombia at the moment. We processed perfectly ripe coffee, dry fermented, soaked it and dried it slowly in shade next to the same coffee dried in sun in hot conditions like the farmer normally does. What was interesting was that the shade dried still tasted green and astringent after a couple of weeks and the sun dried was already fruity and showed signs of age in the cup. I know that those green flavors in the shade dried coffee will disappear and the coffee will open up. I would rather follow that development when the coffee is already in Norway rather than resting it at origin, then ship it at what George calls the peak, and then have to freeze it to preserve the flavour. I do find the green flavours in freshly harvested fully ripe coffees to be an interesting and delicious flavour, and that is why I think the wine / coffee analogy is interesting as to me all coffees have a development in flavour that can be positive if you know your products well and how they are processed. The danger of this is like George said that most coffees develop towards the negative too quickly, and freezing will prevent that from happening for sure.
Another example I have recently cupped is a Natural processed experiment from Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza in Brazil. One was dried in the shade, one in the sun. The one in the sun tasted pulpy from day 1, the shade dried tasted clean and sweet. After a year, we cupped them again. The sun dried tasted like wood and pulp, the shade dried still tasted fresh, sweet and clean with no sign of woody flavours.
These are examples that really makes me motivated to focus more on preserving quality at farm level and so far has made freezing for me an unnecessary measure to keep green coffee quality for 6 months. (Band aid reference)
All in all I guess the debate on wether or not to freeze the green coffee is all up to what makes sense for each individual roaster and lot of coffee. I am not saying I will never freeze my coffee ever again and I will definetly be happy to run an experiment together with George as there is no doubt in my mind that freezing green coffee in most cases will preserve the quality of the green coffee for a longer time than if you don’t freeze it.