Every coffee drinker is familiar with the coffee bean and the incredibly satisfying aroma and beverage that it produces, but not many are familiar with where the bean comes from- Is it a fruit? Does it grow on a shrub or a tree? Where does it grow? Let us take you on the journey of this humble bean - from the farm to your cup.
Coffea is a flowering shrub or a small tree that is cultivated mainly in the Equatorial regions of the world, known as the ‘Bean Belt’, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. It thrives in rich soil and at high elevations. In fact, coffee trees can grow up to a height of 40 feet. Keeping them shorter makes for easier harvesting. Most coffee plants take 5 years to start producing a harvestable crop, which is the equivalent of about 1 lb of roasted beans per year. Yes, that’s right - every bag of coffee you buy is one tree’s yearly produce worth!
The fruit of the coffee plant, known as cherry, grows in clusters and is perhaps the prettiest part of the tree. When ready for harvest the cherries are a deep ruby red, somewhat similar to that of a holly berry. It takes about 9 months for the coffee cherry to go from raw green to a ripe red. These beans are then harvested - often hand picked, to ensure the best quality and flavor. Most regions have one harvest per year.
The coffee cherry is a juxtaposition of flavors and textures. The skin is thick and bitter whereas the fruit below is sweet to taste, very similar to a grape. The parchment comes next which forms a protective covering around the seeds (what we call “beans”). This is very similar in construction to the covering that encases the seeds of an apple. The parchment generally houses two seeds with their flat sides together, resembling the shape of a bean, hence they are called "coffee beans".
The coffee cherries undergo many layers of processing to extract the beans from the fruit. This involves drying, washing, fermenting, milling, sorting and grading. Processing of the fruit can be done in many different ways and has a prominent effect on the flavor of the resulting green beans. The most common methods of extraction are known as ‘natural’ and ‘washed’:
- The natural method involves allowing the picked cherries to dry naturally in the sun for several weeks. Once dried, the beans are removed by a process called hulling.
- The washing method involves removing the pulp from the coffee cherries immediately, then being submerged in a vat of water for fermentation and dried after (naturally under the sun or with the help of a machine).
Other methods include honey-processed, wet-hulled, anaerobic fermentation, etc. The list goes on. The harvest process can take between 4 to 6 months after which the green beans are ready to export or sent to the local coffee roasters.
From Farm to Roaster
Once the green beans are ready for export they are shipped in big burlap sacks from their country of origin to wholesalers all over the world, often by boat. The journey could take between 2 to 4 months depending on their destination. Once at their destination, coffee roasters (big and small) buy the coffee beans from the importers. They then roast a few samples of the green coffee to ascertain the quality and flavors, and determine how they want to present these coffees to their customers.
At the Roastery
Coffee roasting is an art and a science. It requires adequate knowledge and experience to ensure that the beans are exposed to the right amount of heat over time to bring out their inherent and distinctive flavors.
The transformation begins when green beans are ‘roasted’ in a large rotating drum. The moisture in the beans evaporates and the beans begin to turn yellow and smell a bit like popcorn. Chemical reactions take place and the composition of the bean changes developing their flavor and aroma. Then comes the ‘first pop’ around 8-10 minutes into the roasting process. The beans crackle and expand in size and begin to turn brown. At this stage sugars begin to caramelize affecting acidity and sweetness. The ‘second pop’ signals the end of caramelization and the beans start to take on roasted flavors like charred and smoky. The degree of roast informs the resulting flavor of the coffee and is usually the roaster’s discretion (the art part of coffee roasting!). The whole process is usually between 10 to 15 mins before the coffee beans are ready and the heavenly aroma of freshly roasted coffee fills the air.
At Kaveri Coffee, we roast in small batches of 10 to 30 lbs to ensure consistency in quality. This delicious and freshly roasted coffee is sustainably packaged and delivered directly to you to enjoy as you please.
The final destination in the journey of the humble coffee bean is YOU! There are many ways to brew a delicious cup of coffee, but it all starts with buying fresh and high quality beans. Check out our selection of Single Estate coffees that can be custom ground to suit your brewing needs.