At the core of this post is the question: Is caffeine necessary for coffee?
I don’t think so, and I know that that is somewhat of a controversial opinion.
I think caffeine is important to coffee, and to coffee culture — after all, the morning rush is where in the industry make rent, and the timing of that rush is no coincidence: Caffeine is as important to coffee and its culture as alcohol is to beer and its culture.
While I agree that caffeine is important to coffee, I don’t think that caffeine is necessary to coffee — or, to be more specific, to “specialty” coffee.
Part of specialty coffee is a focus on flavor experiences — on valuing things for the sensory event that they convey. While a caffeine buzz can be part of the sensory event of drinking coffee, I find the most enjoyment in the moment of sipping the coffee, and letting its flavors ignite my brain in that moment.
Perhaps others would disagree, and find greater enjoyment in the caffeine buzz that follows, and I’m not knocking that.
What I am saying is that a good decaf — a decaf that has lost little of its flavor to the decaffeination process — can provide as enjoyable of a flavor experience as a “regular” caffeinated coffee.
These decafs, once rare as unicorns, are starting to appear. We have one in rotation now at Bow Truss — the new Organic Decaf Mexico Altura.
I just cold-brewed it at home, and it was some of the best home cold brew I’ve had all summer.