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Everything about coffee production

From the bean to pleasure

Black gold

How do you like to start your day? A freshly brewed cup of coffee is the way many people like to greet the morning. Even the aroma of the coffee can have a revitalizing effect. Its well-rounded taste makes it an experience that has been celebrated with centuries of coffee culture. With a pretty coffee cup and a tempting foam you can make the taste experience into a visual delight as well.
Coffee - Eye-opener and enjoyment in one. But before that beloved hot beverage ends up in your cup, it has a long journey behind it, and we’ll describe that for you here. Dive into the world of coffee and learn about coffee production, coffee cultivation, coffee roasting and the various coffee types.


The origin of coffee

According to legend, coffee was discovered purely by accident by a shepherd in the Kingdom of Kaffa, in today’s Ethiopia. From there, it traveled to Arabia in the 15th Century, and then to Europe in the 16th Century. Today, Ethiopia is still one of the most important coffee growing regions of the world, along with Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia and Uganda. What was once a rare luxury item is now, literally, on everyone’s tongue. What is less known is how complex the coffee production process is, requiring a lot of experience and care. Coffee’s aroma depends on many factors, including the type of bean, the climate, the farming conditions and the roasting.

Coffee berries: Foundation of the aroma

Cappuccino, espresso, mocha or filter coffee? The coffee beans used to make the grounds are the basis of all coffee specialties. Even though the word is the same, coffee beans don’t have much in common with beans. They are actually the seeds of the coffee plant ‘coffea’. The perennial bushes and trees grow bright red coffee berries as fruits. Inside these are two pits - the coffee beans - which have an inherently characteristic aroma.

THE ART OF COFFEE CULTIVATION

Where is coffee planted?

In Brazil, Vietnam or Colombia: Coffee cultivation spans the entire equator, the so-called coffee belt. And that is where coffee production begins: on the field between planting and propagating. This happens mostly through planting seeds, although sometime seedlings are also planted. Coffee plants need about six weeks until they first sprout and begin to grow into the plant that will later produce the cherries. They are then carefully transplanted and grown in beds. After about eight months, the coffee farmers plant the plants back in the plantations, and then wait. It takes up to four years before the plants begin reaching their optimal yields. However, once they begin, they are very productive: One plant can be harvested for up to 20 years before the yields begin to drop.

World map showing coffee belt regions

Brazil is the world’s largest producer with about 34 percent of all coffee. No wonder: The climate provides the best conditions for coffee cultivation. Coffee plantations of Arabica and Robusta flourish as monocultures under the Brazilian sun. The Brazilian coffee sorts have a balanced, full taste. Coffee cultivation in Ethiopia - the original home of coffee -is different. There, in the Ethiopian high lands, coffee is still grown primarily by traditional, small farmers in woodland gardens. The Arabic bushes sprout here in the shade of giant trees. The mixed woodlands provide natural protection against pests. Fertilizer and pesticides are not needed in woodland gardens. Coffee harvest is done by hand. There are two methods that are most widely used. Picking, in which the pickers pick the coffee cherries by hand, and stripping, in which all of the cherries are striped off the branch at one time independently of how ripe they are. Coffee cherries that have been harvested by the picking method are considered especially valuable.

Dry and wet processing

Dry processing consists of distributing the coffee cherries on a large surface and allowing them to dry for up to five weeks. When they are dry, the shell can be easily removed from the bean and the raw coffee beans further processed. Wet processing is more intensive: The cherries are first cleaned in water and then fermented, cleaned again and then dried. These steps offer a clear advantage: The coffee is significantly more aromatic. Wet processing is used particularly for high-quality coffee, such as for the Arabica beans.

Preparation: From coffee cherry to coffee bean

The next step in coffee production is processing the coffee cherry - which brings us a little closer to the full coffee aroma. The raw coffee bean results from this process. It must take place quickly because the cherries spoil quickly. There are two types of processing used for coffee bean production: dry processing and wet processing. The method used depends on the type of coffee plant and the country of cultivation. The Robusta type is grown in Asia and usually processed wet, while in Africa, the dry method is preferred. Wet processing is also the standard for Arabica beans, with one exception: In Brazil and a few other cultivation countries, the refined Arabica beans are also processed dry.

Coffee types

You have probably seen the label “100 percent Arabica” on exclusive coffee packages. If you’re a coffee lover, you are probably also familiar with the term Robusta. Robusta and Arabica are the most frequently planted coffee types in the world. The official names of the two are ‘Coffea canephora’ and ‘Coffea arabica’, respectively. At first glance, they look similar, but the two types couldn’t be more different.

Arabica

The Arabica beans make up about 70 percent of the coffee beans on the market. They grow best in high altitudes, about 1,000 meters or more, and need a stable climate. To ripen, the coffee berries need a lot of time, about nine to eleven months. Coffee beans have a particularly multi-faceted aroma. The Arabica bean is flat, oval and rather mild, containing a maximum of 1.7 percent caffeine. However, it surpasses other beans with its unique aroma and low bitterness. It is also very sensitive to pests, making a failed crop not infrequent.

Robusta

Unlike with the Robusta beans: These beans are considerably sturdier compared to their sensitive relatives - both in terms of pests and climate conditions. That is why Robusta can be cultivated in low lands as well as regions with big temperature fluctuations. Robusta beans develop an earthy, low-acid aroma and contain about double the amount of acid as Arabica. 

Other coffee sorts, such as ‘Liberica’ with its particularly high caffeine content, ‘Excelsa’ with a distinct earthy note and ‘Kopi Luwak’, the most expensive coffee around known for its characteristic aroma from the intestines of the wild civet, are just a quick few of all the different types of coffee that are available.

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