From Seed to Brew – How Coffee Makes Its Way to You
Did you know that you could technically grow your own coffee? Of course, you would need the right conditions plus you would have to grow a heck of a lot of plants to get enough beans to keep in your coffee year round. Why bother when you can head to your nearest coffeehouse or supermarket? The process of how coffee plants are grown by seed to how your make a tasty brew is quite interesting.
The Planting Process
In order to start coffee plants from seed, the red cherries from the coffee plant must be picked, and then manipulated into pulp with something called the mucilage taken out for fermentation. The seeds aka coffee beans can be planted while they are still fresh or may be dried to be planted at a later time.
While it is possible to propagate a coffee plant from cutting a shoot from an existing plant, most growers prefer starting from seed. Seeds are often planted in temporary beds which are kept weed free and moist. After about two months, once leaves develop, they are transplanted into raised beds or containers in a nursery type of environment to allow for optimal drainage. Once these seedlings reach approximately two feet in height, they are transplanted to the coffee plantation land.
Growing Conditions and Harvesting Process
Coffee plants need moderate climates with plenty of moisture, good drainage and moderate sunlight. Most areas in the world which grow coffee plants fall within what is known as the coffee bean belt, an area between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. The temperatures hold steady at approximately 70˚F or 20˚C which is perfect for optimal growth.
Harvest season for coffee beans typically occurs during the driest season and may be done by hand or by machine. When done by hand, coffee bean pickers can choose only the bright red beans called cherries. These are ripe and ready for processing. When done by machine, the entire plant is stripped of beans whether they are still green (unripe) or red.
The hand-picked method allows the unripe beans more time on the plant to mature. As the harvesting season could last for several months, this gives them time for ripening as necessary. Once beans are picked, they are sorted through using both hand and machinery to remove the husks and parchment layers. The flawed beans are then removed and remaining beans are graded according to size. From there, the coffee beans are bagged, graded and marked with the country and plantation name then shipped worldwide.
Selling and Shipping
After the bagging process, these coffee beans are stored in covered, well-ventilated warehouses where they await shipment. The coffee is then transported via ship or even an airplane to its intended destination. Stevedores, experienced products handlers, are in charge of loading the ship or plane to ensure that the coffee bags are properly layers and stored to allow for circulation.
Large companies that sell ground coffee and coffee beans for personal grinding usually buy the "raw" product from the coffee growers. These companies roast these beans in large computerized machines that can create a variety of roasts from light to medium to dark.
Next, these companies then either package the roasted beans whole for sale to the public or they grind the beans before packaging them up to sell. There are several different types of coffee grinds which are formulated for a variety of different types of machines and brewing methods. For example, a drip grind coffee is granulated and great for automatic drip coffee makers will a finely ground, almost powdery coffee is perfect for espresso machines.
What You Put in your Coffee Cup
Coffee lovers who are fanatic about their cuppa joe will often choose their coffee based on where it is grown as well as the aroma of the coffee beans and the type of roast. There are light smelling ones which produce a smooth tasting coffee while the more pungent ones will produce a more full-bodied stronger taste.
Coffee is definitely a beverage which is highly personalized. And due to the explosion of coffee houses all over the world, you have plenty of choices beyond the regular brewed cup of coffee. Espresso, lattes, cafe au lait and mochas are just a few options. Add the possibility of flavoured syrups and other spices and the combinations are endless!