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      From Seed To Cup
      The Journey Of Coffee

      Coffee is one of the world's most popular drinks, but how many of us think about its origins when we brew our favourite pick-me-up each morning, or order our usual at the coffee shop? The truth is that coffee goes on an epic journey to reach our cups, so let's take a look at the entire process from seed to sip.

      Growing The Coffee

      Coffee is grown on shrubs or small trees that need plenty of sunshine to thrive, which is why the world's best coffee-growing regions are located along the equator where there is a constant supply of sun. Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Uganda and Vietnam are some of the world's most notable coffee-producing countries.

      Most coffee trees begin life in nurseries, where coffee seeds are planted and nurtured until they are large enough to be transplanted in coffee plantations. It takes three to four years until the trees are mature enough to bear fruit that can be harvested.

      Coffee Harvesting

      It is the beans of the coffee tree that are roasted, ground and brewed into our much-loved morning beverage, but coffee beans are technically seeds. The seeds are found inside what is known as a 'coffee cherry' which is the fruit of the coffee tree. Coffee cherries are green initially and as they ripen they turn bright yellow, orange or red.

      Ripe coffee cherries are sometimes harvested via machines in a process known as 'stripping', but some regions where coffee trees thrive are too mountainous for machinery to be used. In these instances, the cherries are picked by hand instead.

      A benefit of hand-harvesting is that the fruit can be picked at pique ripeness to ensure only the highest quality beans are selected. Unripe fruit can be left on the trees to mature further. Since this process is more laborious the resulting beans tend to be more expensive, but the higher price is usually reflected in a superior taste.

      Processing And Milling The Beans

      The coffee cherries are now processed to remove the cherry flesh from the beans. Traditionally, this process is achieved by leaving the fruits in the sun to dry out for several days, at which point the husks begin to break away from the bean and the beans can be milled to remove the last traces of cherry. This 'dry' method can allow the beans to absorb some of the flavours of the fruit, which leads to a more delicious end product.

      A more modern and much faster alternative method is to wash the cherries in water to separate the flesh from the beans, but this means the beans don't absorb that fruity flavour. A third method combines the 'dry' and 'washed' techniques. Water is used to remove most of the fruit from the beans, leaving behind only a thin layer of flesh known as 'honey'. The beans are then left to dry out in the sun before being milled. This method strikes a good balance between speed of processing and flavour.

      Packaging & Export

      Once milled the coffee beans are sorted and graded, which involves assessing the imperfections of the coffee beans to determine quality. At this stage, the beans are still green and are packaged up in large sacks ready to be exported all over the world.

      Tasting For Quality

      When roasters come to buy the beans, they use highly qualified experts to roast coffee beans in small batches in order to test the flavour and aromatics of the resultant coffee. These experts are known as 'cuppers'.

      Different coffee roasters have different requirements when it comes to buying beans. Usually, they create house blends from different types of beans, and it's important for cuppers to taste the beans to ensure the final blend has the right flavour balance. Each roaster has its own set of standards when it comes to quality and flavour and since each coffee harvest is unique, the tasting process is vital for them to achieve a consistent product.

      Roasting To Perfection

      It is during the roasting process that the coffee beans transform from green into that rich dark brown colour that is synonymous with the drink. Roasting is an art form in itself since the length of time roasting and the temperature used can hugely affect the final coffee flavour. Furthermore, since coffee beans are so delicate they must be kept moving at all times during the roast to avoid burning.

      lTraditionally, Light roast coffees are roasted at temperatures between 180c to 210C. The coffee beans tend to have a light-brown colour and they reach the 'first crack', where they 'pop' a little like popcorn. Light roasts tend to have high acidity and high caffeine content. Medium roasts use temperatures from 210C to 230C. Sometimes the beans will go through a 'second crack' and they usually have a darker colour and fuller flavour than light roasts. Dark roasts are achieved at temperatures between 230C to 250C. The beans develop a deep brown, almost black colour and a full-bodied flavour which can be smoky. These roasts have the least caffeine content.

      A superior method to traditional drum roasting is known as convection roasting. In this process, beans are roasted on a bed of warm air which ensures an even roast and incredibly smooth taste, as no parts of the bean are burnt as can be the case with drum roasting. The process also means that waste particles are blown cleanly out of the roasting chamber, leaving behind only the perfectly roasted beans.

      Grinding The Beans

      Roast coffee beans must be ground before being brewed, but the type of grind used - fine, medium or coarse - depends on the brewing method being used. Course grinds are best for French press and cold brew, medium grinds should be used with machine drip coffee machines or pour-over coffee makers, and fine grounds are best suited to espresso machines and Turkish coffee pots. If you are using a bean to cup coffee machine then you can simply top up with beans and let the machine take care of the grinding for you, fresh for each cup.

      Once ground, coffee begins to lose its flavour. It is therefore recommended to buy whole coffee beans and grind only as much coffee as you plan on using right away to enjoy the best favour.

      However, if you prefer the convenience of ground filter coffee its important to ensure you buy coffee that has been freshly ground and expertly packaged, to lock in as much of the flavour as possible. You can then store it in the fridge to help preserve its flavour once its packaging has been opened.

      Drinking & Enjoying The Perfect Cup

      There are many different coffee brewing methods used all over the world, with each one offering a unique texture and flavour. Delicious coffee can be made with an espresso machine, French press, Moka pot or percolator to name just a few methods, and that's even before we mention adding milk, sugar and flavourings. No matter how you take your coffee, it's safe to say that its journey to your cup is a fascinating one.


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