THE TREE OF THE TROPICS
Coffee is a difficult product to grow and to harvest. There are basically two types of tree, the Arabica and the Robusta. The main distinction is the taste of each bean, Robusta being a stronger more earthy tasting bean while the Arabica is the milder more refined version of the two.
The Arabica tree being the more delicate, whilst Robusta, as the name suggests is slightly easier to grow. Both like deep fertile soil that is well drained with plenty of warm, sunshine and lots of seasonal rain.
Arabica grows best between 800 – 2000m above sea level while Robusta thrives in lower lying regions, So Arabica is mostly produced in the foothills of tropical mountain ranges or on plateaus where the conditions usualy prevail and Robusta in tropical forrest regions.
Culture of the young plant is a painstaking business, pests and disease have to be guarded against with regular spraying. There is only one harvest a year and yields can vary. A small holders tree gives enough beans for about 20 cups of coffee whereas the trees of the larger estates can give ten times that amount.
In Brazil where it’s coffee growing areas cross the tropic of Capricorn to the south, where the colder climate conditions are found, frost can be a menace.
The trees themself have rich waxy everygreen leaves, the flowers look like and have the heavy scent of Jasmine. The berries ripen from green to red. The ripe fruit with the bean inside is called the cherry. Because the coffee tree can have unripe berries and cherries on it all at once the crop is difficult to harvest any other way than by hand. Hand picking and sorting the beans keep millions of people employed.
There are two ways of removing the cherry – the wet method, where a machine removes the pulp of the cherry leaving the bean with its protected parchment covering the bean are soaked in tanks, to remove the remaining pulp by fermentation then they are washed and dried in the sun or by mechanical dryer before the beans close parchment and silver skin are finally taken off by a machine called a huller.
With the dry method, the whole cherry is left in the sun for about 2 to 3 weeks and then put through a Huller machine which removes the dried pulp protective parchment and silverskin all at once. Beans are then carefully packed and shipped to the customers countries.
The roasting process is what produces the characteristic flavor of coffee by causing the green coffee beans to change in taste.
During the roasting process there are two temperature thresholds called “cracks” that roasters listen for. As soon as the roaster hears the first crack, the roast development stage officially begins. The coffee changes in appearance and flavour very quickly at this point. Literally 30 seconds can produce a different tasting cup of coffee.
It can take 4-6 years to produce a coffee tree and approximately 6-9 months from Origin to: Process – Transport – Store – Ship – Blend – Roast – Pack & Deliver.
And all of the work involved can be ruined in 20/30 seconds for your espresso and 4/6 minutes for your brew.
So a little respect has to be shown when your ready to produce perfect cup of coffee. In Short, it needs and deserves a little bit of TLC.