The Journey of a Coffee Bean

Coffee shops are popping up everywhere and the nation’s love of coffee doesn’t look set to wane any time soon. With our java obsession reaching new heights we thought we’d take a look at the journey a coffee bean takes before it reaches your cup.

Coffee plants are grown in quite specific locations; different altitudes and climates yield different types of coffee with varying taste and body. The evergreen trees on which coffee beans grow are typically found in plantations within South and Central America, Africa, and Asia.

The young trees need the right amount of shaded sunlight, regular watering, fertilisation, and pest and weed control. They demand a lot of care and attention from farmers; it can take up to four years for a tree to reach mature production stage, after which time they can be maintained for up to 40 years.

  • The tree produces fruit: Once the tree reaches the mature production stage it begins to produce fruit, which takes about 9 months to ripen into red coffee cherries ready for picking.
  • The fruit is picked: The farmer can pick the cherries by hand, ensuring that only the ripest cherries are picked, which produces higher quality coffee. A much cheaper method involves the famer judging the best time to harvest, then stripping the cherries from the tree all in one go.
  • Preparing the beans: After harvesting, the beans must be dried before roasting, using one of two methods. The dry method: freshly picked cherries are spread across special mats and left in the sun for two to three weeks before the shell is removed to reveal the green bean. The wet method: a pulping machine removes the outer pulp, resulting in ‘parchment coffee’, this is fermented and soaked to remove any remaining pulp, before being hulled to free the beans.
  • Sorting the beans: Once the cherry pulp is removed the beans are a greenish colour, and they still lack the familiar coffee taste and smell. The green beans are sorted and graded, with only the finest ones being used to make coffee.
  • Blending the beans: Each coffee manufacturer blends the coffee beans in a certain way so that their brand always has a consistent flavour and body, year on year.
  • Roasting the beans: Coffee beans are roasted between 180°C and 240°C for 3 to 12 minutes, depending on the desired flavour and the equipment being used. The roasting process releases the coffee aroma that we all know and love!
  • Grinding the beans: In order for roasted beans to be brewed into drinkable coffee, they must be ground. This is either done by a coffee shop barista or by the manufacturer so that you can enjoy authentic coffee at home.

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