Millions of people worldwide drink coffee every day even though most people do not know its origin or that the drink comes from a plant. The process of converting coffee from the green beans it originally is to the tasty and flavorful drink you drink is a long one.
If coffee were human, we would say it has come a long way from where it began considering you can find coffee anywhere you look in the world. Although coffee is easily gotten, the story of where it came from is not well known.
Many people are usually shocked to find out that coffee originated from Africa, Ethiopia, to be specific. Over the years, it has been grown in other countries on different continents.
A brief origin of coffee
The question where did coffee originate from is one people have asked over the years – it is considered one of legends and folklore.
Coffee was discovered in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia by a goatherd named Kaldi in the 6th Century. He noticed his goats were hyper after grazing on a bright red cherry on a tree; this incident happened two days in a row with the goats having the same effect.
He decided to try the cherry himself and noticed he felt a rush of adrenaline and had more energy than usual after a few minutes. He was excited about what he discovered; he decided to collect a few cherries and take them to the monk at a monastery nearby.
After hearing Kaldi’s story, the monk decided to brew a tea with the cherry and have a drink. He discovered that the tea kept him alert all through the midnight prayer. The monk shared Kaldi’s discovery with people, which was the beginning of coffee gaining the popularity we know today.
Over the years, coffee beans can be found in South East Asia, South and Central America. In today’s world, the highest coffee-growing countries are Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Ethiopia.
Also Interesting: 8 facts about the history of coffee
How bright cherries become coffee beans
The coffee beans come from the coffee plant, which is a type of bush or shrub. The shrubs are woody evergreen that grows tall to about 10 meters. The coffee beans grow inside a cherry that grows from the shrubs.
The cherry, when opened, contains two seeds that are picked at the perfect level of ripeness needed to extract the most delicious flavor possible. Different coffees have different maturity and harvesting procedure – some hit peak faster than the others.
After the cherries are harvested, the coffee seeds are extracted from the fruit and taken to the facility where the processing begins. The coffee is first sorted by size and weight and then washed to remove sticky, honey-like mucilage coating the seeds.
The seeds are soaked for about 24 to 72 hours to dissolve any bacteria that might be lingering on the seeds (bear in mind that not all coffee under the washing process). After washing, the coffee is spread out to dry for about ten days, or up to a month.
After drying, the coffee seeds are stored, the seeds are stored for about two months before the roasting process. The roaster will determine how much heat to apply when roasting to achieve the desired coffee roast.
Length of time for a coffee plant to grow
In terms of growth, the coffee plant is like every other plant. It takes about a year for a new coffee plant to start flowering and another two to three years for it to bear fruits. As soon as the coffee plant grows to maturity, it can live for about thirty to forty years (some longer) as long as it’s adequately shaded.
Although the coffee beans can start bearing fruits after the third year, it is not very valuable to farmers until after the first couple of decades; this is because it’s during this period that the coffee plant can grow beans for commercial purposes.
Over the years, the coffee’s plant production length has been reduced due to farmers shifting towards sun-grown coffee. This new adaptation moved coffee trees from their shady natural environment to the hot sun’s direct glare in the equatorial regions; this has made farmers prefer hybrid coffee plants that can adapt to the sun’s intense bouts.
However, in recent times, farmers have understood the harmful effect of direct sunlight on the coffee plant and have started moving back to the traditional method of growing the beans.
Types of coffee processing
Coffee processing refers to the procedure of converting harvested coffee cherries into coffee beans. There are three primary processing methods (natural, washed, and honey). The technique adopted leaves its unique impact on the flavor of the coffee. Remember that the three mentioned here are not the only process, as there are other processes adopted for different purposes.
Coffee farmers who want their beans to have a fruity and sweet taste use this method; the natural processing allows the fruit to be left on the coffee seed intact, which allows the fruit to deposit some of its sugar content into the seed within.
The result is a slightly fermented coffee with various flavors like grapes, berries, mango, and jackfruits. The fermented coffee is often reminiscent of wine. During this type of processing, the mucilage is not removed, but rather, the coffee is left to dry with the fruits and all.
While drying under the sun, fermentation occurs within the coffee seeds, which produces a distinct and recognizable winey flavor to the coffee. When next you have a coffee drink that tastes like wine, know it was the natural process used to convert the coffee seeds to beans.
If you want a processing method that gives you the cleanest flavor profile, use the washed processing. The washed processing means that the coffee is washed clean of any other taste or thing that might contaminate the seed’s flavor.
Some of the flavors in this profile range from notes like jasmine to juicy blueberry, and sometimes, chocolate.
In this process, the coffee is packed with seeds and skin removed. The seeds are deposited in a water tank and will remain in there for about 72 hours. The purpose of the soaking is to remove any sticky sweet mucilage that might stay on the coffee seeds.
The wet coffee is sun-dried before been packed, hulled, and shipped to the coffee roaster. Some people prefer this processing method because they believe whatever flavor you get is from the coffee with nothing artificial influencing the taste.
The honey processing is the middle point between natural and washed. This method generally produces a sweetener that you will not get from the normal coffee cup but lacks the winey, fermented flavor.
The honey processing doesn’t require honey to be used; instead, a little bit of the honey-like substance (mucilage) that encases the seed is left on the seed while drying; this adds sweetness to the coffee.
The honey processing has three levels (yellow, red, and black). The different levels tell you the quantity of mucilage left coating the seed. The more mucilage left on the seed, the darker the color and the sweeter and fruiter the coffee.
Getting the coffee beans
The coffee beans undergo a process called mulling before arriving at their final destination – the customers. Part of the mulling process is a technique called hulling. During hulling, the parchment layer from the wet-processed coffee is sometimes sent to a polishing process to remove any skin excess.
After this process, the beans are sorted and graded based on weight and size. Defected beans are removed, leaving only beans that meet up to par to be exported to various purchase countries.
When the beans arrive, a cupper known as a coffee taster will repeatedly taste the beans to determine the quality of the taste. A cupper who is an expert will taste hundreds of samples in a day and be able to identify slight differences in the beans.
The testing process
After the tasting process comes the testing process, the testing process begins with a visual test to determine all beans are in good condition. A little of the coffee beans will immediately undergo roasting and then ground and submerged into a temperature – hot controlled boiling water – to enable the cupper to determine the aroma it’s giving off.
When the coffee cools off, the cupper slurps a spoonful and spits it out; this is done to spread the taste of the coffee evenly on the taste bud of the cupper – allowing the cupper to weigh the coffee on the tongue.
The purpose of testing is to determine the flaws and characteristics of the coffee and analyze the possibility of blending different beans or creating a proper roast.
After testing, the beans are roasted. The roast is usually done in the country of purchase as roasted coffee beans need to reach their consumers as soon as possible. The beans are usually green until it goes through a roasting machine that turns it brown.
Types of coffee beans
There are four various types of coffee beans, but the most popular are Arabica and Robusta. The Arabica beans are the most sort-after for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is because coffee gotten from Arabica is one of the healthier coffees out there.
Arabica coffee is gotten from beans the Ethiopian Pygmies roasted to produce different excellent tasting coffee.
The second type of beans is the Excelsa, which is grown in Brazil. The Excelsa beans grow in high altitude; one of the reasons why it is popular is that it can be brewed at any time of the day. The beans are grown in Mexico and an excellent choice for individuals who like their coffee with lots of aroma and flavor.
Let’s talk about the Robusta beans. The Robusta beans are not in high demand like the Arabica but have a similar roasting process. The Robusta beans are grown in a similar area as the Arabica and have a high altitude, making it a healthy, high-quality coffee.
Robusta beans also come from the same plant as the Arabica, but it has a different aromatic flavor. If you are a coffee lover on a budget, the Robusta coffee should be your next choice of coffee as it is more affordable than the Arabica.
The Liberica beans are the most delicious; they are sourced from coffee-growing areas like Mexico, Africa, and Central America. The Libera beans are processed differently from the other beans and are a bit more pricey than others.
Countries that grow coffee beans
All the best coffee you can think about grows from a narrow belt referred to as ‘coffee belt.’ The coffee belt has everything a coffee tree requires to grow big, nice, and have beautiful ripe cherries. The strip also has a high altitude, rich soil, both wet and dry seasons.
The coffee belt surrounds the planet and covers all the countries producing coffee in large quantities; countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, and Costa Rica.
Africa produces the largest quantity of Arabia beans, followed by Asia. The reason for this is because the continent has the best weather condition for coffee production. The Arabica plant grows naturally in Africa, but it is combined with other varieties like Kona and Mocha.
Arabica plants are also found on the West Coast of South America, though the seeds are available in all parts of the continent. Several coffee plantations can also be found in the Caribbean and South Africa region. The Caturra coffee beans are made in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
North American countries have other Arabica plants, with Guatemala being the famous place for growing Arabica beans. The Robusta beans are grown in Mexico and South America. Central American countries are not left out; they are among the largest producers of the Arabian coffee flavor.
The Robusta beans are grown in the Mexican Andes, providing coffee lovers a broad spectrum of flavors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is regarded as the birthplace of coffee?
The birthplace of coffee is believed to be Ethiopia; it is located in East Africa and bordered by Egypt to the south and Kenya to the north. Some parts of Ethiopia still harvest coffee cherries growing from coffee trees in the wild.
Who were the first coffee drinkers?
Although the Ethiopians are believed to have discovered coffee, Yemen’s Suffi monasteries were the first places coffee was studied and documented. By the late 16th Century, coffee had gained recognition throughout the middle east, moving to North Africa, South India, Turkey, and Persia.
By the 17th Century, it had spread to the Balkans, Italy, and the rest of Europe.
I hope we have answered the question about where coffee came from and enlightened you about your favorite drink’s history. With these, next time you have your favorite coffee, you will appreciate the labor and love put into that tasteful and sweet cup you enjoy.