The story of coffee began, so it is said, with a goat herder who noticed that his goats were acting a bit more animated after eating the fruit of a coffee tree. This happened in an Ethiopian province called Kaffa, hence the evolvement of the name coffee. Who knew that this accidental discovery would launch a worldwide love for one beverage? Let us explore the road well traveled from that very first seed to your cup.
Great coffee starts with optimal growing conditions like rich soil, mild temperatures, frequent rain and shaded sun. It takes many newly planted coffee trees three to four years in these optimal conditions before they even begin to bear fruit. Yes, I said fruit because believe it or not, your cup of coffee is actually produced from the fruit that grows in a coffee tree. The coffee bean is really a seed from that fruit which looks much like and is aptly called a cherry. When the cherries are ripe, they are picked from the tree in different ways that include hand or mechanical methods. The average coffee tree only produces one pound of coffee per year. With this very small yield, it is a wonder that coffee is so readily available and relatively inexpensive.
Because coffee needs very specific conditions to grow well, you cannot grow great coffee in your backyard. At least not unless you live in the islands of Indonesia, like Sumatra or Papua New Guinea, or maybe Tanzania located in East Africa. A place that is best known for growing coffee, mainly because Juan Valdez spent years making sure that we got it, is Columbia, South America.
The fact that there are so many places in the world where your coffee could come from is a wonderful thing, because the flavor of the bean is influenced by the history of the earth where it is grown and can even vary from farm to farm in the same location. Just as wine tasters catch hints and whiffs of fruits and flowers and earthy flavors, so it goes for coffee. Once the beans are harvested, hulled, and sorted, the green coffee beans are ready to be exported to their final location.
Throughout the process the coffee is “tasted” to evaluate its quality. While many of us think we would love to have this job, it’s not what you think. You can put away the cream and sugar and there are no worries here about a caffeine overdose. The tasters, called cuppers, have a very scientific process in which they visually inspect, smell, slurp and spit hundreds of cups per day looking for specific characteristics that will determine the future of each lot of beans.
Once the beans have passed their final, they are roasted and ready for your own personal home grinder or pre-ground and ready for your personal brewing preference. Fresh and hot, beans or ground, now you know the road from the ground to your cup.
For more information check in with the National Coffee Association at the website below: