Coffee as a product can be taken for granted, both by consumers and operators, but the journey of coffee from source to your cup is complicated and often surprising!
When anyone comes to the Caffeine Limited Showroom in Welwyn Garden City, they are greeted by the familiar smell of freshly ground coffee and the sounds of milk being steamed on a commercial coffee machine. This is often the only way that people come across coffee, as it is about to be poured into their cup, but this is right at the end of a much longer coffee journey.
Ripe Red Berry
People are often surprised when they see the coffee fruit, a cluster of rich red berries hanging from a tree seems a long way from the final product that we enjoy as consumers. A coffee plant can grow to up to 12m tall but are generally cultivated to be 2m high and therefore easily picked by hand.
Most coffee is grown in an area of the world affectionately known as ‘the coffee belt’, roughly 1000 miles North and South of the equator. The tropical climate in this region is generally stable enough to grow coffee all year round, without harsh frosts or extreme lows in temperature.
These berries are harvested by hand or by machine when they are ripe and are taken to be processed.
Processing is an important part of a coffee bean’s life-cycle, the processing method can have a significant impact on the final taste profile of the bean and the quality of the coffee. Each berry contains 2 coffee beans and these must be separated from their fruit before the next stage of their journey.
The two most common processing methods are known as ‘natural’ and ‘washed’. The ‘natural’ process involves drying the whole coffee fruit in the sun before then stripping the fruit of its pulp and skin which have dried out. The ‘washed’ process removes the pulp and the skin of the fruit before then drying the exposed beans in the sunshine.
Once the beans have been processed, they are in the form in which they will travel across the world. The green beans are shipped to countries across the globe. At this stage, coffee is still relatively unrecognisable. The green beans smell earthy and are very hard and are a pale green colour. They still do not invoke the joys of coffee at this stage!
It is during the roasting period that coffee takes on its unmistakable characteristics. As the sugars in the beans undergo the Maillard reaction they caramelise and begin to brown, developing into the flavours of coffee that we are so familiar with!
Coffee is roasted to a temperature of between 190 and 250 degrees depending on the desired roast level. There is nothing better than the smell of freshly roasted coffee.
So, there you have it! From red fruit to golden espresso the coffee journey is more complicated than it may seem!
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