With all of the coffee that is consumed throughout the world, one may think that people drinking it would have some idea of where coffee comes from and how it gets to their home brewing systems to use each day. However, this is not the case and many people do not realize the journey that those coffee beans go through in order to reach the stores and ultimately their home.
Let’s take a closer look at the coffee plant and the process coffee beans go through in order to reach all of the coffee drinkers throughout the world.
How are Coffee Beans Produced?
There are two coffee plant types. Coffea canephora, is often called robusta coffee and accounts for 20 percent of the coffee that is produced throughout the world. Coffea arabica accounts for the other 80 percent of coffee that is produced throughout the world and is the source for arabica coffee. The leaves of the coffea plant contain caffeine. Chemically speaking caffeine is a white crystalline solid with a bitter taste called an alkaloid. Caffeine is produced by coffee plants through the use of nitrogen taken from the soil.
Caffeine is actually a defense mechanism of the coffee plant. The bitter taste of caffeine is meant as a deterrent for pests, disease, and hungry herbivores. In addition, the caffeine is meant as a way to keep invasive plants from taking over the space.
There are some animals that are not deterred by the bitter taste and those that get over the taste tend to love the caffeine and coffee. Humans are a prime example of this. Bees are another animal that enjoy coffee. Just like humans, bees also experience a stimulant effect. The bees work well for coffee plants as they help to pollinate them.
Some recent research has shown that coffee plants use different genes to produce caffeine than cacao, tea, and other similar plants. Science has suggested that tea and coffee share a common ancestor. Since that time each plant has evolved and produces caffeine in different ways, with coffee producing almost double the amount of caffeine as tea.
Coffee plants are shrubs that can grow up to 20 feet tall. The glossy leaves are wide and simple looking. There are white flowers on the shrubs that are similar to flowers seen on many citrus plants. The flowers turn into the beans, which are sometimes called coffee cherries. The beans start out as green and then change to yellow, then orange, and then become red when drying out.
The coffee that we drink contains the caffeine that is found in the seeds of the coffee plant. The seeds are known as coffee beans. The caffeine found in the beans is powerful and flavorful and what provides coffee with its unique flavor and taste. There is around 80 to 175 mg of caffeine based on the type of coffee bean and the process of how it is prepared.
Processing Coffee Beans
Before you can get a cup a coffee, the beans go through numerous processing steps. The green beans are picked from the plants by hand. The reason for this is because coffee plants grow in small clusters and the plants are large and bushy, this makes it nearly impossible to use mechanical harvesting. In addition, mechanical harvesting can harm the coffee bean.
Once the beans are picked they are then dried out before a milling process. The coffee beans will then go through either a wet or a dry process. During the wet process a lot of water is used in order to separate the good beans from the bad ones. The water also removes the mucilage from the bean. The wet method is considered ecologically unsound because the wastewater is considered to be a pollutant.
During the dry method, the coffee beans will be dried on large cement slabs. The dried beans will then be milled and hulled. Using the dry process brings out richer flavors, but can be difficult because the beans can become brittle if they are too dry and may mold if they are not dried enough.
Once cleaned, the beans are milled to remove the fruit. The beans are sorted and graded based on the size and color and then shipped throughout the world where they are roasted to bring out the flavors.
After they are roasted they will be distributed to cafes, coffee shops, restaurants and retail suppliers through UK coffee distributors and worldwide coffee wholesalers.
The next time that you go to have that morning cup of joe or a late afternoon pick me up, take a moment and truly enjoy that cup and consider all the work that goes into providing the beans that are used for making your favorite beverage.