Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Did you know coffee is not really a bean?

We've started our series of "Did you know?" questions about coffee. Revealing the simple yet often unknown facts about that magical drink we can't live without. And we start with a basic one:

Did you know coffee is not really a bean but a cherry? And a beautiful one too! Take a look.

Coffee, and in particular, Specialty Coffee, is grown in many regions of the world, where the altitude is at least 1000 meters above sea level or 3300 feet. So while conventional coffee can be grown in the low lands and at sea level in subtropical and tropical regions, Specialty Coffee, that is, the really good quality coffee, can only be grown in altitude areas, where they are exposed to some shade and colder temperatures. This is where the “Arabica Coffee” variety is grown. And this is what coffee roasters sell in their labels on most bags of Specialty Coffee, when they designate their coffee as 100% Arabica beans.

The cherries grow on plants that can be as high as 20 feet, although farmers seldom let them grow beyond a manageable 6 to 10 feet. The tree has a broad dark green leaf, just like in the picture. Specialty Coffee is grown primarily by small farmers because it is labor intensive and it needs careful attention. The picking of the cherries is the most labor intensive part of the coffee process, and this is where farmers develop a skill to pick only the best and most mature cherries. It is an art.

Cherry picking is the initial stage of the process which will allow the coffee bean inside the cherry, to develop into a great cup of coffee. More on the whole coffee production process later. 

And more "Did you know?" questions about coffee, coming soon. Stay tuned.

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