Kitchn Love Letters

I’m a Former Barista and These Single-Origin Beans Are the Real Deal

published Jan 9, 2023
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

One of my first jobs was as a barista at a bookstore café. My entire shift was spent making (and drinking) copious amounts of coffee every day, but despite becoming a multiple-cups-a-day drinker as a result, I never paid attention to where my coffee came from until a friend brought me to a quirky, grungy-looking coffee shop in San Francisco. The shop made its own house roasts and blends, and the baristas were happy to help you select beans that they thought would suit your palate. It was the beginning of the pour-over coffee-house era, and I was fascinated that drip coffee could taste richer and more interesting than any dressed-up coffee drink I’d ever experienced. From then on, I stopped buying supermarket coffee grounds in favor of whole specialty beans, and never looked back.

Last year, I stumbled upon Quintal, a subscription-based service that focuses on single-origin roasts specifically from Latin America. Founded by Eduardo Umaña and Otto Becker in 2021, this company not only delivers high-quality beans to your doorstep, but also emphasizes a sustainable supply chain that partners directly with coffee farmers. Instead of beans sitting on cargo ships and waiting to be imported, stored, roasted, and then sold, Quintal roasts recently harvested whole beans in their country of origin to preserve freshness and then ships directly to consumers. The result is coffee that lasts longer and tastes fresher than other single-origin coffees on the market. And on top of that, this business model allows for a larger percentage of sales to go back to the producing country.

Quintal offers a subscription for $20 per month, which gets you a 10-ounce bag of whole beans from a single source, and you can pause or cancel at any time. If you’re thinking about gifting a subscription to your favorite coffee snob, you can do that too — you can choose from three months, five months, or a whole year.

So far, the company has shipped from nine Latin American countries, from Mexico to Brazil. The origin of each month’s selection is determined by the current coffee harvest season; at the beginning of the year, Central America’s harvest is active, and as the year goes on, the harvest travels south. Last month, I received some wonderful chocolate-y beans from Minas Gerais, Brazil, and this month, the beans are a bright and warm roast from Cajamarca, Peru.

Now that I make my coffee using a Hario V60 or a Chemex and got rid of my automatic drip machine, I won’t waste my time with subpar beans. The character and nuance of these roasts really get a chance to shine with such careful brewing methods, and if you’ve got discerning tastes when it comes to coffee, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, I’m already on my third Quintal shipment and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!