As with wine, coffee trees have specific latitudes in which they can thrive and produce high quality beans. This area is found along the equator and it is known as ‘The Bean Belt”. It is located between 250 North and 300 South.
Arabica grows at high altitudes with mineral-rich soil and it is a more delicate plant compared to the Robusta as it needs more care and milder temperatures. Robusta on the other hand, as its name implies it, is a heartier and tougher plant which prefers hotter climates and does not need as much altitude as Arabica.
As you may know, the coffee we drink comes from a fruit called “Coffee cherry”. Inside it, there is a seed which goes through various processes to be transformed into our beloved coffee.
The seed is also known as Coffee Bean”, an in its natural state its color is a light-green and some times yellowish depending on the type (Arabica or Robusta).
In the image next to this, you find Arabica and Robusta beans. There are differences. Arabica is a little bit longer and oval shaped, Robusta is smaller and rounder.
As stated earlier, the coffee bean is actually a seed. When it is processed (pulped, roasted and ground), it is used to brew coffee, otherwise, it is like every other seed and it can be used to grow coffee trees.
Coffee plants usually start as seedlings in shaded nurseries, with specifically conditions to help them grow healthy and strong. They will be watered and kept safe from the elements until they are strong enough to be planted. Coffee seedlings remain up to 15 months in a nursery before they are ready to be taken to their permanent setting.
Planting normally takes place during the raining season, so the earth it is planted in remains wet and soft while the plant’s roots get firmly set. It usually takes up to 4 years before a new planted coffee tre starts baring fruits (Coffee Cherry).
The Coffee cherry is a complex fruit made up of different parts, eventually arriving all the way to the green coffee bean that is utilized for brewing coffee.
Followers will come and fall off the coffee tree before the cherries start developing. It takes a total of 9 months for coffee cherries to be fully mature and ready for harvesting.
Coffee cherries start out green and turn bright red, orange or yellow when fully mature depending on the variety.
Ever wondered how a coffee cherry tastes like? Just a hint, it does not taste like the beverage because of all of the processes that the coffee bean goes through.
Is flavor depends on the variety, but a common trait is that all of them are sweet as honey. Some of them taste like mangoes, others like berries and others more herbal-like, and it the process is well done, some of the traits will be transferred to the beverage.
Selective picking is the most used method in high quality coffees, this kind of picking is done exclusively by hand. Experienced farmers choose only the perfectly mature cherries and leave the other ones to lt them mature further.
Stripping can be done either manually, with mechanical strippers or with large-scale harvesting machines. Contrary to the selective picking, this method does not give importance to the maturation state of the cherries, it focuses on speed/low-cost rather than quality. The results will be cherries in all stages of maturation that will have to be divided in order to avoid mixing them up.
It is thanks to the roasting process that we get that distinctive dark color of our beloved drink.
This process in our opinion, is 50% art and 50% science as roast masters have to experiment but also have a great sense of how each coffee will behave with the different temperatures.
Light roasts are achieved through a roasting temperature that ranges from 1800C to 2100C. Coffee beans will pop much like popcorn, this “pop” is called the first crack, and light roasts usually don’t go beyond this first crack.
Medium roasts are achieved through a roasting temperature that ranges from 2100C to 2300C. In the darker spectrum of the medium roasts there will be a second crack, but they tend not to go beyond that.