At Hula Daddy we are often asked if we sell flavored coffees. When we say “No,” we often get the response “You should sell them.” We then have to say that there are three reasons we do not sell flavored coffee 1) it downgrades the quality of our beans, 2) flavoring syrups contain Propylene Glycol (antifreeze) and 3) when flavoring syrups are heated they give off Diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease.
When we first started out in coffee farming we took 300 pounds of our parchment coffee to a new mill. We didn’t hear from the mill for several days so we went to the mill. We found our coffee that they had milled. Instead of being green and fresh, it was yellow and withered. It was obvious that they had left it out in the heat and it had dried out. When we complained their response was, “Just put some flavoring on it, the customers will never know the difference.” After we got over the shock, we threw the coffee away.
We have since learned that roasters and distributors cover up their bad coffee beans by flavoring them. Since we work very hard to have outstanding coffee, it doesn’t make sense for us to take our coffee and cover up the natural flavors. We tell customers who insist on flavored coffee to buy less expensive flavored coffee since they there is no extra value in buying an expensive flavored coffee.
Flavored coffee is made by pouring flavoring syrup over roasted beans into a device like a backyard cement mixer. The mixer is rotated as the syrup is poured in, which coats all of the beans with the flavoring. The syrup is a mixture of Propylene Glycol mixed with natural and chemical compounds. Propylene Glycol is a carrier which allows the flavoring to seep into the beans. It is also the main ingredient in the antifreeze you put in your car radiator.
Propylene Glycol is a FDA permitted food additive. However, there are limits on the concentrations allowed in food. In large amounts Propylene Glycol is fatal. Horror film buffs will remember “The Sixth Sense” where the mother kills the daughter with antifreeze. You may remember the claim that it was mixed into dog kibble and killed hundreds of dogs. It has also been the poison of choice for a number of wives who bumped off their husbands. (Hmmm!)
Finally, another chemical, Diacetyl, is given off by flavored coffee when it is brewed. Workers who have been exposed to Diacetyl emissions from heated flavorings have developed severe shortness of breath conditions. There is no definitive amount of Diacetyl that results in this condition The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state, “Overall, current evidence points to diacetyl as one agent that can cause flavorings-related lung disease.” We doubt that the amount of flavoring in a pound of coffee is going to hurt anyone, but why brew chemically flavored coffee if it isn’t necessary.
For customers who insist on flavoring coffee we suggest that they do it themselves. Natural flavors like citrus zest, amaretto, chocolate, cinnamon and etc are available in most kitchens. In addition, Amazon sells small bottles of flavors that can be added to brewed coffee.
E ai kua (Bon Appetit)