Coffee is second only to oil, in the list of the world’s most traded commodities today. The United States is the world leader in consumption with Americans having about 400 million cups of coffee everyday. The cultural importance of coffee cannot be overstated, as shops can be found in every corner of the world, coffee makers found in every home and adept baristas grace the majority of establishments that serve the dark brew.
The history of coffee can be dated as early as the 9th century, and the story tells of farmers who witnessed their goats’ hyperactive behavior after consuming the berries of the plant found in the wild. Curiosity leads a local man to brew the first cup of coffee, and the rest is history.
Coffee grows in a very specific area of the world that can be found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, with Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia being the world’s largest producers in that order. Arabica and Robusta are two main varieties of coffee that people know about, and while Robusta beans are loaded with almost twice as much caffeine as their counterpart, the Arabica variety makes up around 70% of the world’s total coffee production. Regardless of this, there are over 100 different species of coffee.
Have you ever wondered about the process that this magical bean goes through before being poured into your cup every morning? Today, here at David Kiger’s Blog we want to talk about the basic logistics of coffee and give you a glimpse of the process this important commodity goes through before being enjoyed by billions of people around the world.
Coffee plants grow better when planted in high altitudes and on slopes and hills. While we think about coffee as a bean, it is in reality considered a fruit that takes about nine months to ripen. The sweet tasting berry is most handpicked around the world and that is one of the main reasons why the coffee produced in countries like Colombia is so coveted worldwide. The berry is highly susceptible to the soil, water and growth process and the variations can be easily identified even in the same species of coffee when it is grown in a different country.
After the berries as picked, they undergo a process to remove the fleshy part of the fruit in order to initiate the process of drying. The process to separate the flesh from the bean creates a big divide between coffee connoisseurs that favor either the sun drying approach over the use of “depulping” machines and fermentation tanks before the storage takes place.
After the coffee beans are dried, they are stored for up to two months so they can cure and develop more flavor. At this point, coffee is usually ready for wholesale and an entire different process begins in which the beans are roasted. Heat is extremely important in the process of coffee, as it is the element that allows for a chemical reaction to take place within the bean that will release its full flavor. Roasting is the other aspect that determines the bitterness or acidity of the coffee, as darker roasts have a tendency to be more bitter than light roasts that will stay on the acidity side of the flavor spectrum.
After the coffee is roasted, producers let the beans sit for several days to allow the remaining gases to escape and thus permit a better experience when brewing.
Roasted beans are sometimes commercialized directly to customers by the majority of specialty coffee shops that recommend to grind the coffee yourself if you want to appreciate the freshness of its flavor truly, but some of them can grind them in house in order to brew their own product or sell it ready for customers to take home. The way coffee is ground has mostly to do with the brewing method to be used, as certain machines need a coarser ground in order to properly brew the coffee and others like regular home coffee brewers use the finest possible ground.
Currently, there are over 125 million people living in countries that produce coffee that make their living from this amazing plant. It is interesting to learn the huge impact coffee production makes in the life of this small farmers since coffee unlike other perennials like palm oil or rubber, it is still produced in small scales by local farmers that own their crops and sell to local traders than then take the coffee and sell it to larger producers and importers that occupy the next step in the long supply chain that makes it possible for coffee to travel the world.
A fun fact to know is that the world most expensive coffee is the product of cherries being ingested by a rare species of cat, whose stomach is unable to digest the bean. These beans are fermented in the animal’s stomach and the excreted to be removed from the dung and processes to create the world’s most expensive cup of joe.
* Featured Image courtesy of Skitterphoto at Pexels.com