Coffee and Its Many Guises

13 June 2021

Coffee is one of the most traded commodities globally, second only to oil. Coffee is also one of the most consumed drinks with various cultures and religions who adapt their coffee depending on their local production and taste preferences.

The Journey of CoffeePhoto By Canva

Grown in more than 60 countries, with most situated within 1000 miles of the equator within the ‘bean belt.’ A coffee tree produces deep red fruits, coffee cherries which are just over a centimeter long, and each contains two small green beans.

It takes up to 42 of those beans to make a single espresso, and with over one billion cups of coffee drink each and every day; coffee is an essential part of many people’s lifestyles, livelihoods, and economies.

What Is Coffee?

Coffee has a vibrant and varying flavor profile ranging from notes of blackcurrant, coriander seeds, cloves, vanilla, chocolate, and nuts, which all create harmonious pairings they are used additionally in syrups you find within coffee shops and restaurants.

The biggest producers of coffee are Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and the biggest drinkers of coffee are the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden.

The first coffee trees to be cultivated originated in Ethiopia. While many other varieties now exist along with many natural mutations, all types create cherries. These sweet fruits are often overlooked in favor of the coffee beans they house inside them.

The flesh of the coffee fruit cherries are delicious when ripe, likened to a honeydew melon with refreshing acidity. Some farmers squeeze the fruits to create a drink, with coffee farmers separating the flesh from the seeds removing any juices to make the juice drink. Harvesting the coffee cherries is a fundamental part of creating a quality cup of coffee.

When discussing coffee, people most often refer to tree species, Coffee Arabica; however, over a hundred and twenty different species have been discovered. The two most prominent and wide-reaching coffee plants are arabica and robusta. These plants are two types of coffee beans: arabica, which accounts for 60% of world production, and robusta. Both arabica and robusta coffee beans, like all other types of coffee beans, need to be roasted.

Picking

Cherries are picked using a combination of strip picking and handpicking. The coffee cherry fruit is then sorted.

This process uses a flotation tank where the cherries are poured into a massive tank of water resulting in the ripe fruit sinking to the bottom, where they are pulled into the processing section. Any unripe bean floats to the top and is removed for a lower grade coffee roast.

Processing

How coffee beans are processed after the harvest will dramatically affect the resulting cup. The focus of most processing plants is to reduce defective beans, which would cause a drop in quality and, therefore, a price drop.

The goal of processing for most coffee farmers is to make the coffee as profitable as possible. While most coffee defects are visible, cupping is an essential part of determining the coffee cup’s flavor profile and taste quality.

At this point in the process, the cherry fruit defaults to strip off the skin, and most of the fruit flesh arrives at a strict fruit that will later become a coffee bean.

Drying

In a similar way to processing tea leaves, coffee’s natural process for drying involves being spread out as a thin layer into the sun. This allows the beans to dry off.

Research suggests that drying coffee slowly and evenly will benefit the quality and how it retains its flavor when stored in a raw state. The quicker the coffee is dried, the more quickly it will lose its attractive attributes such as aroma and taste.

Some farms alternate between a dry process, a natural process, and a washed cycle for their fruit drying process.

Bagging and Grading

The coffee beans are then bagged and ready to be distributed for roasting. Colombia, Central America, and Africa all have variations of size grading.

It’s unlikely you all give much thought to the grading of your coffee unless you’re a coffee connoisseur. However, consider specialty coffee, fair trade, and circular enterprise coffee for your kitchen and your cup if the process is essential to you.

Roasting

Roasting is a fascinating aspect of the coffee industry, taking the green coffee seed and developing its flavor to become aromatic. The roaster themselves determines the roasting process of coffee at this stage. Cupping continues throughout this stage regardless of whether you’re roasting fast or slow or creating light or dark roast.

The roasting process brings out the deeper flavors and aromas that we all know in our coffee. Similar to chocolate, coffee goes through many stages before it lands in the cup between our hands. In a simple roasting bean, over 800 aroma compounds have been identified within coffee.

Over the past 20 years, as coffee has become a part of our day-to-day lives, many roasting innovations have led to the diverse selection of coffee available on our supermarket shelves in our local coffee shops and coffee conferences the world over.

Arabica

A hundred percent Arabica is commonly billed as a sign of quality coffee. It is the world’s most widely grown coffee species, with arabica accounting for 60% of world coffee production. Arabica itself can be traced back to Ethiopian Highlands, giving complex acidity and tropical fruit notes.

Robusta

Robusta is seen as the inferior of arabica growing at much lower altitudes, typically between sea level and 300 m. Robusta is highly disease resistant and creates a twice-yearly reliable yield of coffee beans.

Robusta accounts for 40% of the world’s coffee production. Robusta beans can also incorporate arabica beans within their blends. This is due to the higher numbers of surplus beans available and its blending mix being a part of global coffee culture and recognition of coffee type.

Unfortunately, the taste profile of robusta is not widely considered palatable. Therefore it is the bean of choice to be blended with other coffee plants or with arabica to create a more palatable flavor profile.

Robusta has been made for mass-produced instant coffee, hotel coffee, and coffee you’d find at a gas station. For the soluble coffee industry, price is far more important than flavor and coffee as a fast-food essential robusta is a crucial commodity.

What Are The Benefits Of Coffee?

There are many great benefits of drinking coffee. Coffee can improve your energy levels, make you feel switched on, and help you burn fat.

The caffeine from coffee has been proven to drastically improve your physical performance in sport or at the gym and engages your brain to allow concentration and alertness. Medical studies on coffee have provided insight into the potential risk reduction of coffee in type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Caffeine and Coffee

The caffeine content of coffee produces an awake-like state delivered in a short burst of alertness; however, some people find caffeine inductions into their body uncomfortable, producing anxiety-causing symptoms. It’s worth noting that robusta has roughly twice the caffeine content of arabica. If you have any heart problems or an irregular heartbeat, you shouldn’t drink coffee.

What Are The Side Effects Of Coffee?

The side effects of coffee are well documented as the high levels of caffeine can cause insomnia, anxiety, stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.

Caffeine can cause an increased heart rate and breathing rate and is not advisable if you are pregnant or have the highest caffeine sensitivity.

Too much coffee can cause brain and body issues, and you should respond to what your body is feeling as your gauge of consumption.

Always be mindful that too much caffeine from the consumption of coffee can cause stomach issues and the increased release of acid within your stomach.

How Do You Make Coffee?

There indeed are a million ways to make coffee. From drip brew, call press coffee machine or percolator, or a simple steep or addition of boiling water, coffee connoisseurs create coffee trends and coffee equipment each and every day directing the zeitgeist and driving food fads.

Coffee can also be incorporated within savory, and sweet dishes coffee and cardamom, coffee and orange, and coffee and walnut are all well-established coffee pairings within western sweets and confectionery and can vary in flavor forms, as is the case in Coffee liqueur such as Tia Maria and Kahlúa which are very different liquors with markedly different aroma and coffee characteristics.

Depending on how you take your coffee will determine the health benefits and dietary requirements best for you. A milk latte will always contain more calories than a black coffee made with just milk. Be mindful of coffee’s contribution to your daily diet to live a balanced and well lifestyle.

Despite being more popular than ever before, coffee remains a complex drink from sourcing, growing, and harvesting right through to roasting, grinding, and brewing. The world of coffee is getting bigger and bigger, and so are our coffee cravings!

Here are delicious coffee recipes

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