We are very used to seeing coffee beans, coffee grounds and granulated coffee almost on a daily basis, but we don’t all necessarily know how our beloved beans came to be the rich, aromatic specimen before us.
So pour yourself a cup of the good stuff and settle in as we explain how your coffee gets from crop to cup.
How does coffee grow?
The coffee bean is actually a seed that is dried, roasted and ground to produce the drink we know and love.
Coffee seeds are planted, and the seedlings are watered. The ideal location to plant the seeds will vary depending on the variety of plant, for example Arabica favours high altitudes while Robusta does not. It usually takes three to four years for the coffee plant to flower after it is planted, and these flowers produce the fruit, called the cherry. The first sufficient harvest takes place around five years after planting. You just can’t rush a good thing.
Harvesting and processing coffee cherries can be labour intensive
As coffee is such a popular product, you probably imagine that the process is carried out by machine, which is true for some countries like Brazil, but it is still common in other locations for the crop to be picked by hand. All cherries can be stripped from the tree despite their ripeness, or just the ripe cherries are selectively picked. The latter method is usually used to harvest the high quality arabica beans.
Once the coffee has been picked, the seeds (which will later become the coffee beans) need to be removed from the fruit.
The coffee cherries may be immersed in water to separate the ripe from the unripe fruit. It’s a simple yet effective process; the unripe fruit will float to the top, while the ripe cherries will sink. The flesh of the fruit is then removed, and the seed dried out.
Alternatively, the cherries may be sorted by hand to discard any that are unripe or bad, then the whole cherry is washed and placed in the sun to dry.
Only the best green coffee beans make the final cut
When the coffee is completely dry, it’s time to remove the last layers of dry skin and any traces of fruit. The beans are called ‘green coffee’ at this stage.
The green coffee is cleaned and sorted. This is potentially the most important part of the whole process and is best completed by hand. It is then graded by size, how the bean was grown, prepared, taste, and quality.
There’s a lot of love that goes into that latte!
What gives the beans their flavour?
The roasting process is what transforms the beans into the coffee we know and love.
They are roasted on a drum or by hot air for varying durations depending on the desired roast. Variations in roasting time change the flavour of the bean, and the duration of the roasting process is usually judged by eye. The longer the bean is heated for, the darker it will become. Lighter roasts tend to be more acidic, while the darker roasts tend to be more bittersweet.
Tagged with: arabica • coffee • coffee beans • coffee production • robusta • Tchibo