The Coffee Bean Journey
Author: Bliss Coffee Roasters Date Posted:22 September 2020
It all starts with the coffee bean, which is actually the seed of a cherry-like fruit. The coffee cherries go through a long and intricate process before they’re ready for brewing.
Coffee beans start life as small, tender plants which take several years to turn into trees that can reach a height of up to 10 metres. Specialty Arabica coffee grows at high-altitude often on volcanic mountainsides in mineral rich soil.
Coffee trees produce an average of 2 to 4 kilos of berries that, depending on the species, turn a deep red when they’re ripe and ready for picking. Pickers check the trees every few days and select only perfectly ripe cherries. The picking is generally done by hand, except in some large scale plantations like those in Brazil where machinery is sometimes used.
After being picked, the cherries are carefully sorted to ensure only perfect cherries are chosen.
The cherries are then ‘washed’ or ‘wet-processed’. The cherries go through a machine known as a wet mill. The wet mill shakes the fruit helping remove the pulp and skin before being washed to fully remove any remaining pulp. Nothing goes to waste as the pulp and skin is used as compost and used on the plantation.
The green beans are manually sorted and selected for the next stage of processing – drying. Drying methods vary depending, with plantations or mills often using concrete patios or ‘African beds’ – raised drying tables to dry the beans in the sun.
Green coffee needs to be dried to moisture content of around 11% to be stable enough to be packed into bags and transported, usually by ship.
Dried, packed into 60 to 80kg bags and shipped around the world, the beans arrive in Australia via the importer and are then transported to the roaster.
Roasting unlocks the distinctive flavour and aroma precursors deep within the green bean and is considered something of an art. Timing is key: a few seconds either way will dramatically alter the profile of the roasted bean. A roasters job is to unlock the best potential from the bean.
Coffee is complex, offering no fewer than 900 tastes and aromas. Texture is also a key component to a great espresso and experts refer to the “body” and “finish” on the palate.
Next time you’re enjoying your favourite brew, think of the journey the bean has been through. From farmers on the other side of the globe, to an Australian roaster, to your home.
We as consumers and roasters have a responsibility to honour the work of specialty farmers and ensure a fair price is paid for their work and dedication.
Whether you like it best as an espresso, a latte or a cappuccino, there’s no doubt that one of life’s simplest luxuries is a perfect cup of fresh coffee.