Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where does Coffee Come From?

Coffee comes from the beans of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica. This plant is the most used plant in coffee production.  The coffee plant is a tropical plant that is very bush like and can reach 10-12 feet in height.  The coffee plant is not a winter hardy plant so it cannot be grown in temperate climate zones.  Coffee requires warm weather and a lot of water, fertilizer, and it also prefers alkaline (basic) soils.  The coffee beans are the seeds of the plant, these seeds have caffeine in them which is the plant's natural defense against the insects and animals that eat them.  

Coffea arabica is considered to produce the best flavor when brewed in a coffee pot.  Other types tend to be to bitter and/or bold.  Cheaper coffee brands may have a mixture of Coffea arabica and a substandard species.  Typically, you will be able to tell the difference.  

The process of going from bean on the plant to roasted beans ready to put in your coffee brewer is this:
  1. Coffee is picked.
  2. If picked green it is ripened.
  3. Beans are dried once ripened.
  4. Beans are roasted.
Four steps sounds simple enough right? Well, each of those steps has a series of sub-steps that must be followed. For more information do a search on these process in the making of coffee.

The color of the bean determines the boldness of the bean.  If the bean is a darker brown it will have a more robust flavor.  Once the beans have dried they will be sorted into these different grades.  Darker roasts are bolder because they have less fiber content a more sugar.  Lighter roasts have a complex and stronger flavor. 

To store the beans, an airtight container must be used and placed in a cool, dark, and dry place.  This will help maintain the flavors of the coffee.  Ironically, the bags we often purchase coffee in are not the best method for storing coffee. 

If you think you would like to have a coffee plant in your house, go ahead and get one!  Although, you should not expect to grow any coffee beans on it unless you live in the tropics.  The flowers are beautiful though!  If you live in a climate that is warmer most of the year they make a wonderful ornamental plant.

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