Understanding Coffee Beans
What should you know?
Everybody knows that coffee a great way to start the day, but how much do know about coffee beans? In a way, these beans are magical in their way. And they also contain secret energy that’s enjoyed by everyone. Worshipped for several reasons, how has coffee become the gold standard beverage of all time?
You can join us and learn about this miracle fruit and find why the flavor is so important? It’s a trip down memory lane with the little bean that conquered the new world’. So the next time someone offers a cup of tea, hold that thought. Consider the reasons why?
Where do they come from?
Did you ever ponder the idea that your coffee has made an incredible journey? It’s true, and you will understand why these little guys are like rock stars in their own right. They’ve crossed borders from exotic lands and never once had to sign an autograph. But wherever they go, they are welcomed with open arms.
From the highlands of the Arabian Peninsula to the lowlands of the Philippines, coffee beans aren’t your typical stereotype. But unlike their brothers and sisters around the globe, coffee all shares similar subtle flavors and tastes. In the end, you can quickly become an expert taster.
What is the process?
From the very beginning of being picked as a little cherry fruit, the coffee bean is far from finished. It goes through stages that help it find that familiar flavor you’ve come to love and enjoy every day. Walk with us through steps that make the coffee bean a final product that is ground-up into pure magic.
But it’s not just that simple since beans can also be blended with others to create complex palate tastes. As if each coffee bean was waiting to be married to a second flavor, there’s no limit to the blends. This article will help inform how this is even possible.
How do you like your coffee?
Whether you like a single shot of straight espresso or various delicious flavored coffee beverages, it’s all about taste. Among the hundreds of coffee recipes that you already know about, there’s always more you never tried yet. Coffee beans from various countries have been known to contain a whole color wheel of flavors.
You might be in the mood for an earthy or woody flavor whereas others might like fruity and tart flavor undertones. Coffee beans don’t need additional sweeteners and added flavors since they each carry a palate marker. Don’t fall for the corporate coffee house hype, you can enjoy the full coffee flavor with insane natural flavors too! Let’s find out how?
Introduction to Types of Coffee Beans
Are you all ready to step into the world of coffee beans? Just like music, all styles are equally important in their own right. You will have more than just one type of music that you listen to. In that case, listen to the secret music that coffee beans have to sing for you. After that, you will be able to blend genres to create perfect harmony.
Did you know that the Oromo tribe in Ethiopia enjoyed crushed coffee beans and fat as a perky snack? This was back in the 7th century amazingly enough. This was long before crude coffee beans were imported to lower Arabia at that time. It wasn’t until they hit the Arabian streets, that coffee was born.
The Coffea Arabica bean was finely ground and took lots of simmering to bring-out a proper Arab coffee brew. This aided the old scholars to work longer and stay-up-late, further helping other scholars to spread the news. And it wasn’t just about the caffeine!
Arabica coffee offers a very special flavor profile. These fine beans have a sweet chocolate-like or caramel flavor that can be characterized as being nutty. There is also just a hint of fruity flavors reminding you of berries at times. It’s filled with a subtle acidity that has no bite and very little bitterness to it.
This mountainside tree likes high altitudes above 600 meters above sea level that likes high humidity and shade. It’s picked when the cherry fruit is nearly a deep purple, as this is the perfect harvest time. In all, there are 22 different varieties of Arabica coffee beans.
• Arabica Vs Robusta
Even though Arabica coffee represents 60% of the world’s export, it still produces fewer beans per year than Robusta. And aside from being more expensive than Robusta, Arabica is more finicky to grow and can get disease infections easier. Arabica is lower in caffeine and higher in sugar than Robusta.
Bean shape and taste are different too. Arabica beans are larger and oval-shaped whereas Robusta is small and round. Robusta beans smell like peanuts before roasting, unlike Arabica’s unmistakable blueberry smell. Arabica is a richer bean in fats, lipids, waxes, vitamins, and even hormones! Arabica is simply more popular by 60-75% of choice coffees.
You might never have thought that Robusta was discovered growing in the wilds of the Congo in the early 1800s. An indigenous coffee tree that grew in the Ugandan tropical forests around Lake Victoria was soon labeled Coffea Canephora. It didn’t play a big part in saving the day until the Coffee Leaf Rust of 1869 wiped-out Arabica coffee.
Because Robusta is immune to viruses it can be grown at lower levels below 600 meters and needs less water. It’s a lower shrub with larger canopy coverage and produces berries faster than Arabica per year. Because it still needs a sub-tropical climate, countries, where rainfall and humidity are constant, are important.
Today, the reputation of Robusta is somewhat smeared but not forgotten for their role in the past. Even though Robusta makes up 40% of the market share behind Arabica, this bean does offer remarkable characteristics.
Coffee lovers love the caffeine kick and nearly 100% of the instant coffee brands contain Robusta beans. It’s no secret that Robusta is a powerful little bean that has 2x the caffeine than Arabica. But because these beans lack natural sugars, they fair much better for insects and diseases too. Among flavors, the Robusta is a natural strong coffee flavor.
Just like the name itself, Robusta is a robust flavor that features more bite with a proper kick. It’s stronger, bitter and offers earthy flavors like woody or nutty undertones. Robusta is preferred by espresso drinkers because it produces an excellent crema. This is why Italians combined Robusta for their Italian roast blends.
A cost-effective solution that offers coffee roasters a cheaper coffee bean that delivers more caffeine and sharp taste. Robusta may pretend to the underdog, yet remain a global contender. Let’s learn some things you didn’t know between Robusta and Arabica.
• Robusta Vs Arabica
If you think about healthy choices, which coffee gives you’re the most amount of anti-oxidants? Robusta coffee has about 7-10% Chlorogenic acid, while Arabica has only 5.5-8% to offer. Robusta is healthier to drink. It’s more resistant to infections and can be grown along the lower hemisphere very easily.
Most people tend to think Robusta has a burnt rubber taste as opposed to the sweeter Arabica. Not every Robusta bean will taste so sharp, as some will like the flavors to nuts or wood too. This bean is half the price as Arabica and often a popular choice for blending them due to this.
Can you imagine Liberica coffee is another species of coffee plant brought-in to solve the 1869 Coffee Leaf Rust outbreak? This species is indeed a true underdog of coffee culture that makes-up 2% of global production. Classified as Coffea Liberica, this version is gaining popularity in the last 10 years from new roasting methods.
It originated in Liberia and was eventually imported to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It has a strong following among the big three but is not popular in the western countries. It wasn’t until the 1890’s that Liberica was imported to low altitude climates that could withstand the heat easier.
The trees tend to be like Robusta and are low and wide which are best suited for harvesting. The fruit itself is often tear-shaped and larger than Robusta or Arabica. It was regarded by critics for being bitter and rubbery tasting, yet that is now changing.
Over the last 150 years, Liberica has gotten a terrible rap. The method of roasting had not taken into account the sugar concentration of the cherry fruit itself. In the last 5 years, private roasters have selected new beans and developed a better roasting method. The result is now turning heads of Arabica bean lovers. Find out why?
Before, it was considered that this bean has good caffeine content with a strong bitter taste. Now the gourmet coffee roasters have created Liberica roasts that have full fruity flavors. Some beans can have a chocolate and lemon flavor, while others offer jackfruit and chorizo. Some tasting experts have gone so far to say that Liberica is sweeter than Arabica!
While this may have become the forgotten species, newer Borneo crops are getting more attention than the Geisha beans. This could mean a whole new comeback for Liberica in general.
Did you know that one time, experts used to think that Liberica and Excelsa were different from each other? This coffee plant was discovered near Lake Chad in 1903 in sub-tropical West Africa and is classified as Coffea Excelsa. It is a strain variant of the Liberica that is starting to get noticed.
It happens to be a very hearty tree that is resistant to drought making it perfect for growing throughout Southeast Asia. It’s not a high yield coffee tree for the same reason and only counts for 7% of the coffee trade.
Pricewise the costs for importing this coffee can be higher than most.
The Excelsa tree tends to be 20-30 feet tall, unlike the Liberica tree. This is one of the reasons why it was classified differently when it was first discovered. It also likes similar altitudes and Liberica and has a large cherry fruit that is almond-shaped.
While it was originally used as a blending substitute years earlier, newer roasting methods are giving this coffee bean worthy notice. The flavor profile is said to be tart and fruity with much of the palate flavors centered on your tongue. It also features a unique combination of both light and dark roast characteristics.
While coffee experts have remarked that the flavor is similar to ripening fruit, the newer roasting methods take advantage of slow roasting. This helps to preserve the sugars and develop the flavors for a more refined taste. This isn’t to say that blended versions of Excelsa and Arabica haven’t already been tried.
The lingering finish is one of the better qualities you can expect from Excelsa coffee. By itself, the flavor can be similar to LIberica and may even have a sharp and strong taste. You might need to check what province your beans come from.
The World Tour of Coffee Beans
For a coffee tree, the climate is everything. Each country might offer more rainfall than others, whereas some places might be more humid. All in all, soil it everything and brings-out flavor variants. It’s time to visit global destinations to see what makes their coffee beans so special.
The birthplace of fine coffee can be traced back to Ethiopia with the traditional Arabica bean. It’s also their geographical home responsible for 28% of the countries exports boasting 15 million supporting the workforce. Three main growing regions include: Kaffa, Harrar, and Sidamo are the main Kenyan coffee producers.
They were the first to create the Ethiopian Heirloom beans called SL28 and SL38, Gesha and Typica, and Catuai beans. These beans are noted to be fruity and floral with a wine-like palate that is not overpowering. These can have a mildly pleasant with a slight citrus or jasmine aftertaste.
The original birthplace of coffee itself is what used to be called Arabia. Back in the 15th century, it was discovered completely by accident by a goat herder. Right after noticing his goats became hyperactive from eating the coffee cherry fruit. The herder brought back these fruits to a monastery in Sufi and the rest is history.
Coffee production in Yemen has been up and down and has seen better times. Over the years the civil war has reduced Arabian Peninsula coffee production to next to nothing. Since the 2015 war breakout, export has hurt their economy greatly. Up until 2014, they exported 55,000 bags per year from an area that offered 10 different kinds of Arabica coffee.
You can still buy coffee from Yemen but the prices may not be worth it for being $250 per pound! The conflict and export prices have driven Arabica coffee into a political and economic disaster for the Yemeni people.
It’s impressive to say that both Arabica and Robusta beans are produced across 11 country zones in Tanzania. While their coffee production is in full swing, they offer 11 size grades of coffee beans and excellent pricing for export. Yearly exports show that 70% is from Arabica and 30% is from Robusta.
They export 30-40,000 metric tons per year, so needless to say the cost is affordable for everyone. Especially in Japan, where the famous Kilimanjaro coffee beans represent 20% of the exported coffee. This is a dark roast coffee that has a layer of oil that floats on top. It is highly prized as being the world’s best coffee.
Most critics who have reviewed Kenyan coffee will always remark how these are the best in the world. As far as flavor is concerned, every cup is crisp with a bright finish. Some might say that the big strong flavor is filled with refreshing tropical and fruity undertones. Grown on a volcanic mountainside, the soil there is exceptional for growing Arabica.
They produce SL, K7, and Ruiru Arabica coffee beans among 330 collective farms in the area. Grown on the foothills of Mount Kenya, they have developed their own grading system for beans. For beans that are estate grown, they use AA+ and Kenyan AA is the largest of that group.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that issued in a whole new change in the coffee industry for Mexico. Government policies and corruption caused the collapse of the Mexican Coffee Institute shortly after. When the farmer couldn’t rely on the system to find buyers for their coffee, they looked to illegal methods. This further led to the quality dropping due to the buy low sell high marketing.
In regions such as Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chiapas, they formed farming collectives to sell to legitimate buyers. While they grow Arabica, their special microclimates produce a gentle sweetness and fruitiness that’s crisp and earthy. The US is the #1 importer of their coffee.
Central America (Costa Rica, Columbia, Guatemala, Brazil)
Brazil is no doubt the largest producer of coffee with 74% of Arabica and 26% of Robusta. The quality of beans from this region is exceptionally cheap and this is why commercial coffee is grown here. Columbia has attracted success through marketing and does offer better quality beans that range in subtle flavors. These can include chocolate and nutty flavors all through fruity tasting citrus blends.
Sadly, Guatemala coffee took a dip in the civil war conflict that lasted from 1960-1996. In more recent times the production of Guatemalan coffee is getting high marks for quality. Costa Rica is a front runner next to Columbia and coffee experts declare that Costa Rican coffee is the best.
South America (Columbia, Equador)
Most Americans see that Columbian coffee is best known for Juan Valdez and his donkey pal and it’s mostly marketing. This Arabica coffee is not known for being gourmet by a long shot. Yet compare this to Equador that heavily relies on oil rather than coffee, you can do the math. Last year,
Equador imported more coffee than it exported.
Though just to be fair, the Ecuadoran Arabica coffee is quite delicious. It offers a bright low-body coffee with floral and fruity notes. Compare this with Columbian coffee and you’ll have a general house blend that is rich and satisfying.
They are growing Arabica and Robusta in India all over the country. Specifically, the Arabica trees grown include Kents Coffee, S.795 coffee, Cauvery coffee, Sin.9 (Selection 9) coffee. On the opposite side, the Robusta variety also features S.274 and CxR coffee. They stick to modern methods of growing these beans with rich soils.
While these modern plantations are commercial in nature, the quality of the coffee is not lower in quality. India currently produces 16 coffee varieties. They’re more environmentally aware and use natural tree shade to aid in coffee bean growth. While they are new to the coffee business, their quality speaks for itself.
The old trade roots winding through Java, Jakarta, and over to Sumatra make up the Islands of Indonesia. They are the 4th largest producer of coffee in the world. They also grow Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. Java is world-renowned for producing the best-aged coffees across the globe. It takes 3-4 years of storage in their warehouses before they are exported.
The result is a full-bodied taste that Arabica coffee is best known for. Robusta tree was brought in to replace dead Arabica trees in the 1869 (CLR). It’s often used as a blend bean that increases caffeine and punch. Because of the perfect climate for growing coffee, Indonesia has long been known as the coffee hub of the world.
The first coffee to come to Hawaii was Kona coffee in 1813 and grew to be an internationally known brand. Since 1996 coffee growers in Hawaii have grown to 7 individual companies. These include Ka’u coffee, Puna Coffee, Hamakua coffee, Kauai coffee, Maui coffee, Moloka’i coffee, and Oahu coffee.
Kona coffee is actually a blend of both Arabica and Robusta beans which is pretty strong for most people. This is why the newer companies dedicate their efforts to producing just Arabica coffee. These are the more traditional flavor that ranges from chocolate and nut flavors with aromatic floral flavors. Kona is still #1 in sales, though others are getting rave reviews.
Organic beans Vs Non-organic
We live in an age that is all about environment-friendly packaging and saving the world. Which is why you need to consider whether organic or non-organic is worth your money? In a short answer, yes- you should go organic. The reason is not that organic will save you money, but because taste counts too! Here’s some reason why:
Organic beans are more eco-friendly and safe for the next generation. Too many chemical pesticides ruin the soil and get into local tap water. Natural soil will rely on the local animals to supply fertilizers to feed coffee trees. Chemicals can affect taste which is perhaps the reason your coffee gives you heartburn? Organically grown coffee is what our ancestors were drinking, so why compromise that?
Our favorite beans and why?
You might be wondering what our favorite choices for coffee must be? As it stands, we love the original Arabica for its’ full flavor and fruity undertones. Though who can discount the Italian roasts that provide excellent espresso that just the right balance. The strong Robusta punch and the smoothness of Arabica flavors make mornings so much better.
There’s no doubt that organic coffee tastes better, but expensive coffee shouldn’t be your priority if flavor means everything. Try them all and see which fit into your palate. We’ve spent a long time being curious about coffee types and believe you should have the same passion likewise. It’s the first step to being an expert on coffee all on your own.