How Does A Coffee Bean Arrive To Your Cup?

Last two post were the origins of coffee and its family. Now I’m going to tell you how it actually became the full grown bean that you grind and make coffee with.

There are several processes and each coffee farm will do it their way. However, there are three main processes that make it easier for everyone in the coffee industry to understand what we’re talking about.

  • Natural (dry): 

This involves leaving the entire coffee cherry to dry in the sun, allowing it to draw in all the flavours of the fruit. In order for the coffee cherries not to spoil, they are raked and turned throughout the day and covered at night or if there is rain or storms. It takes from 3 to 6 weeks until the moisture level is from 10-12%. After that it is hulled and sent off. 

It is the most traditional method of processing coffee and it’s the most environmentally friendly since it does not use water. It originated in places where water was not easy to access and it works best in low humidity. There are also issues with this method like for instance: if the coffee cherries are not raked enough, they can spoil; and also the resulting beans are often inconsistent in flavour.

The flavours of this type of method turns out to be a full body, almost winey texture and also lasting and intense flavour.

  • Washed (wet):

In this method, the cherries are removed from the seeds before the drying process. Once this is done, the seeds are moved to a tank where the remaining mucilage is broken down by fermentation. Then, the seeds are washed again with water to remove the mucilage from the seeds. After this, the seeds are dried in the sun on patios, raised beds, or in machines. Once dry, they are ready to be sent off.

It is the most reliable in terms of consistency in flavour and the quickest. The issue is the amount of water that they use.

The body is lighter than the natural method and has a cleaner texture, with more acidity and more crisp flavours.

  • Honey (mix):

The name comes from how sticky the beans get during this process. First, the cherries are removed from the seeds and then directly left to dry in sun beds. Because the mucilage is still on, there is some fermentation that occurs and this is where the stickiness is coming from. 

This method is particularly popular in Costa Rica right now, but they are used by other countries like Brazil, for example. In recent years, subcategories of this method have developed and you can find yellow, red, black, white honey depending on several factors like the amount of mucilage left on the seed or the amount of sun received.

The coffees resulting of this method are halfway between a natural and a dry process coffee; it is fruity, has a rounded acidity and a complex body. 

Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Nowadays, it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s Instagram pictures and their life. Social media can be a blessing to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away from us, but also a curse if we compare our lives to strangers who seem to be continuously on vacation.

Sure you can think “I’m going to get off social media and only focus on my life”, but we are human. It’s normal to have these feelings of wanting what other people have, specially if it looks as cool as being one day in Rome and the next in Thailand.

What has helped me it’s to be a tourist in my own city, thinking of ways to switch it up and not fall into monotony.

How?

  • Find a new coffee shop/restaurant
  • Find events near you (facebook groups, meetup.com)
  • Think of your hobbies and look for activities around your area
  • Go to a guided tour (some are even free)
  • Make your own guided tour: research about the History of your city
  • Try geocaching
  • Do some volunteering

Why?

It helps you feel refreshed, you see the city with new eyes and it takes you out of your confort zone.

El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

What’s behind a coffee bean?

I was not into gardening until I came across a coffee bean. To be honest, I was the type that would buy grounded coffee and added a couple of spoons of sugar. I am not proud of it, but I didn’t know any better. Because I’ve worked with coffee for the past 2 years, and I’ve come to love it, I want to talk about it.

Some people who know (or not) about coffee often talk about the notes, and the flavour and the aroma… It all sounds super fancy and posh and almost feels like they are talking about wine. That’s because they are actually similar in that sense. Coffee cherries, depending on their variety, will give you different tastes, the same way a Merlot grape will give you a different wine to a Pinot Noir. 

This is the coffee’s family portrait. Gorgeous. Now, some of these are a natural occurrence, like Heirloom, which happens to grow wildly in Ethiopia; while others are experiments man-made. 

Are they different in flavour?

Yes. They grow at different heights, different countries, different farming methods… So they will have different taste.

Wow, so when you drink a cup of coffee, you know which country is it from?

Personally, no, not always, but after having tasted different coffees and compared them, I can tell there is a difference. For instance, Ethiopia and Honduras, particularly, for me, have a distinct smell. 

Now that we have an idea about the coffee plant, let’s look at the coffee cherry.

  • The skin or exocarp, which is green until it ripe and then turns to a deep red, yellow, orange or even pink, depending on the type or variety of coffee plant. 
  • Under the skin, there is the pulp and underneath it there is the mucilage. These layers are important during the later processes because they are full of sugars. 
  • We then reach the coffee seeds or beans. Usually, there are two beans in a coffee cherry, each of which is covered by the silverskin and parchment. All these fancy names are basically cells that support and protect the seed. Sometimes, there is one seed only inside a coffee cherry that is rounder and larger and it is known as peaberry. This can happen when there isn’t sufficient pollination and one ovule isn’t fertilised. It can also happen due to genetic or environmental conditions. 

After this, a whole other process starts to actually get to brew the coffee. But until then you can start trying different coffees and compare and contrast the flavours.