What do you know about Coffee?
Whist you are waiting for your coffee to brew, have you ever considered how coffee plants are actually grown?
And if you don’t already know where on the plant, the coffee bean is found, then read on!
Once you hear how coffee is grown, and the processes it goes through to arrive ready to use in supermarkets and coffee shops, you may be amazed.
Various myths and legends surround the discovery of coffee and its restorative properties. One of the most common refers to a goat-heard who noticed how lively his goats were after eating certain berries. He picked some, boiled them up, drank the liquor, and he too enjoyed the effects. Who knows if this is true, but one thing is certain, people love to drink and talk about coffee.
Coffee trees are grown in tropical and sub-tropical areas either side of the equator, known as the coffee belt. There are two types of coffee grown, Arabica (used as whole roasted beans or ground coffee) and Robusta (mostly used for instant coffee).
So where on the coffee plant in the coffee bean found?
Evergreen coffee trees may not produce any coffee beans for 4 to 5 years (a massive investment for a small farmer). Once mature, they produce delicate white flowers followed by fruit known as cherries, which turn from green to red when ripe. Nestled inside the cherry, protected by pulp and then parchment, are the seeds of the coffee plant, two coffee beans interlocked like halves of a peanut.
From small plantations to big business
Coffee is generally grown on small family-owned plantations. The coffee cherries are harvested by plantation workers. It’s a labour intensive and sometimes tricky task. Ladders are required on older plantations and steep gradients are experienced in mountainous regions. Coffee cherries are placed in baskets and taken to be processed at a local processing plant.
Firstly the skin and pulp is removed, traditionally using water and fermentation. Then the de-pulped cherries are spread onto drying beds where they are raked and turned by hand until their moisture content is reduced and most of the pulp has been removed. This is a critical point in the process. Dry the beans too much and they will become brittle, not enough and they could deteriorate due to fungus or bacteria.
The beans are stored in their parchment skin until required for export, at which point it is removed by hulling. All that remains is to polish, sort and grade the beans before they are placed in sacks for export as green beans to coffee companies large and small across the world.
Sourcing good quality green beans is fundamental. The actual roasting process is very quick, and this is where flavour is developed. The job of a master roaster is a hugely complex responsibility. Virtually every batch of beans is different from the other, and small trial batches are often roasted to determine the optimum roasting conditions. Generally, the lighter the roast, the more layers of flavours will come though when they are brewed. It is important to produce a glossy brown bean which will be robust enough to perform well in a grinder, and with a consistent flavour and appearance that we all expect.
So what did you know?
From the farmer, the coffee picker, the processing plant worker, to the coffee roaster, and beyond, human endeavour has bought us a consistently good and readily available product. Coffee has come on an incredible journey so that you and I can enjoy our morning cuppa just as we like it day after day. And on most days we simply take it for granted!
Why not take our coffee for granted? Westways Vending provides fully managed vending services for coffee, snacks and cold drinks throughout South East England. Give us a call on 0800 195 3170 for more information.