Coffee 101: From Seed to Cup - Part 1
The popularity of coffee has grown exponentially in the last several years. But very few know how it is made. Coffee travels a long way to get to your cup. Here’s how we bring our organic fair trade coffee from our growers to you:
Coffee beans are actually the seeds of the cherries grown on the Coffea plant, a shrub or small tree cultivated in 70 countries, but is native to tropical southern Africa and Asia. Each cherry normally has two seeds per fruit and are hand harvested 1-2 times a year. The Coffea plant bears a fruit about 3-4 years after planting.
The cherries are ready for harvest when they are bright red in color, and are hand picked for optimal ripeness; some cherries are stripped picked, meaning that all the berries on one particular branch are picked. Another method of picking is by selective picking: Each berry is handpicked individually making this harvest method more costly and labor intensive.
There are two ways of processing beans. Traditionally, beans are processed by the Dry Method. Cherries are spread out on large surfaces to dry and turned throughout the day to avoid spoiling. The second method is the Wet Method in which the beans are removed from the cherries and are separated by weight. Once separated, beans are put in large water tanks for fermentation until they are rough to the touch.
Coffee cherries that have gone through the Dry Method are then hulled; beans have to reach the optimal moisture level for effective pulling. If beans are too dry they will become brittle and break, but if too wet will be susceptible to bacteria and fungus. The drying process directly affects the flavor of the coffee. Coffee beans processed by the Wet Method must be dried to a moisture level of 10 percent, and may be dried outside in the sun, or in a machine. The two layers of cherry covering remaining will then be removed easily.
The beans then go through the milling process: A two-step process, hulling and polishing in which the last layers of skin are removed. The beans are then sorted by size and weight, and the defective beans removed.Much goes into the process of planting, harvesting, and choosing the right beans. Come back next week to read about the final stages of the process!