Coffee Beans are derived from coffee plants found in tropical and sub-tropical countries primarily in Central and South America, Africa, and Southern Asia. Though some might claim that coffee is the second largest traded commodity after oil, a more accurate statement as defined by the UNCTD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) is that coffee remains the second most valuable commodity exported by developing countries.

Depending on how statistics are interpreted, coffee could have annual industry value from as low as $22 billion to as high as $90 billion. What is indisputable is that coffee sustains a global workforce of well over 20 million and remains one of the most popular beverages in the world.

History of Coffee

The origin of coffee is ostensibly traced back to the 9th century. It was at this time in Ethiopia where a goat herder noticed heightened activity in one of his goats after it ate a few coffee beans from a coffee tree. Though an amusing story, a more accurate account dates back to the 15th century where monks in Yemen documented the stimulating effects of coffee.

Coffee Bean Types

The flavours, aromas and strength of coffee are determined by two primary types of coffee bean; Arabica and Robusta. Originally sourced from Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, Arabica coffee is grown globally and accounts for an estimated two-thirds of coffee production. The flavour of Arabica is often characterized by a variety of sweet, fragrant, chocolaty and hazel notes. Robusta originally sourced from central and western Africa accounts for an estimated one-third of coffee production. Robusta derives its name from the fact that the tree is more robust than its Arabica counterpart. Robusta grows in a greater number of conditions, at a faster rate and requires less care than Arabica. Finally, Robusta contains twice the caffeine as found in Arabica and is sharper as well as more bitter in flavour.

Popular coffee will typically consist of either a 100% Arabica base or a combination of Arabica and Robusta with the higher percentage skewed toward Arabica and a lower one to Robusta. In the simplest terms, by varying the ratio of Arabica to Robusta, the end product with regards to flavour, aroma, strength and colour are impacted.

Roasting

The process of coffee roasting alters the entire cellular structure of the coffee bean transforming green coffee beans into the commonly recognized brown single origin coffees bean. Depending on the degree of temperature and length of time, a coffee bean’s colour, taste, smell and size are altered which will in turn impact the flavour.

In applying heat to beans, moisture is lost creating a reaction called pyrolysis. Roasters listen for an audible crack to measure the stages in the bean development during roasting. It is here where starch is converted into sugar and protein is broken down. More importantly, this process causes the coffee bean to release caffeol – coffee oil – which produces the essence of the prized coffee drink.

Getting the roast right is a fine balance. By applying too much heat caffeol will burn. In not applying enough heat the caffeol will not be produced.