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.

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