Coffee is a beverage, served hot or with ice, prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. These seeds are almost always called coffee beans. Coffee is the second most commonly traded commodity in the world (measured by monetary volume), trailing only petroleum, and the most consumed beverage. In total, 6.7 million tonnes of coffee were produced annually in 1998-2000, forecast to rise to 7 million tonnes annually by 2010. Coffee is a chief source of caffeine, a stimulant.
- Etymology and history
- Coffee bean types
- Economics of coffee
- Processing and roasting
- Other uses
- Coffee Buying
Etymology and History
Coffee has its history back as far as the 9th century CE. It was said to originate from Ethiopia and spread to the rest of the world via Egypt and Europe. Over the ages, coffee has met both resistance and acceptance by many. It has played a crucial role in medicine, academia, and economy.
Coffee Bean Types
There are two main species of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica being the older one. Thought to be indigenous to Ethiopia, arabica was first cultivated on the Arabian Peninsula. While more susceptible to disease, it is considered by most to taste better than the second species, Coffea canephora (Robusta). Robusta, which contains about 40-50% more caffeine, can be cultivated in environments where arabica will not thrive. This has led to its use as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Compared to arabica, Robusta tends to be bitter and has little flavor, with a telltale “burnt rubber” or “wet cardboard” aroma and flavor. Good quality Robusta are used as ingredients in some espresso blends to provide a better “crema” (foamy head), and to lower the ingredient cost. In Italy many espresso blends are based on dark-roasted Robusta.
Arabica coffees were traditionally named by the port they were exported from, the two oldest being Mocha, from Yemen, and Java, from Indonesia. The modern coffee trade is much more specific about origin, labeling coffees by country, region, and sometimes even the producing estate. Coffee aficionados may even distinguish auctioned coffees by lot number.
The largest coffee exporting nation remains Brazil, but in recent years the green coffee market has been flooded by large quantities of Robusta beans from Vietnam. Many experts believe this giant influx of cheap green coffee after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975-1989 with Cold War pressures led to the prolonged pricing crisis from 2001 to 2004. In 1997 the “c” price of coffee in New York broke US$3.00/lb, but by late 2001 it had fallen to US$0.43/lb. Robusta coffees (traded in London at much lower prices than New York’s Arabica) are preferred by large industrial clients (multinational roasters, instant coffee producers, etc.) because of their lower cost.
Coffee beans from two different places, or coffee varietals, usually have distinctive characteristics such as flavor (flavor criteria includes terms such as “citrus-like” or “earthy”), caffeine content, body or mouthfeel, and acidity (black coffee has a pH of around 5). These are dependent on the local environment where the coffee plants are grown, their method of process, and the genetic subspecies or varietals.
“Caracoli,” also known as peaberry, is a coffee bean which develops singly inside the coffee cherry, which normally contains two. The Caracoli beans occur in all regions of the world, on all types of coffee bush (~4% of all beans). Since flavour is concentrated when only a single bean is grown inside the cherry, Caracoli beans (especially Arabica) are highly prized.
Economics of Coffee
Coffee is one of the world’s most important primary commodities, due to it being one of the world’s most popular beverages. Coffee also has several types of classifications used to determine environmental and labor standards.
Processing and Roasting
Roasted coffee beans
Much processing and human labor is required before coffee berries and its seed can be processed into roasted coffee with which most Western consumers are familiar. Coffee berries must be picked, defruited, dried, sorted, and–in some processes–also aged.
Coffee is usually sold roasted, and the roasting process has a great degree of influence on the taste of the final product. All coffee is roasted before being consumed. Coffee can be sold roasted by the supplier; alternatively it can be home roasted.
The processing of coffee typically refers to the agricultural and industrial processes needed to deliver whole roasted coffee beans to the consumer. Grinding the roasted coffee beans is done at a roastery, in a grocery store, or at home. It is most commonly ground at the roastery and sold to the consumer ground and packaged, though “whole-bean” coffee that is ground at home is becoming more popular despite the extra effort required. A grind is referred to by its brewing method. “Turkish” grind, the finest, is meant for mixing straight with water, while the coarsest grinds, like coffee percolator or french press, is at the other extreme. Midway between the extremes are the most common: “drip” and “paper filter” grinds, which are used in the most common home coffee brewing machines. The “drip” machines operate with near-boiling water being passed in a slow stream through the ground coffee in a paper filter. The espresso method uses higher technology to force super hot water or even steam through the coffee grounds, resulting in a stronger flavor and chemical changes with more coffee bean matter in the drink. Once brewed, it may be presented in a variety of ways: on its own, with sugar, with milk or cream, hot or cold, and so on. Roasted arabica beans are also eaten plain and covered with chocolate. See the article on coffee preparation for a comprehensive list.
Spent coffee grounds are a good fertilizer in gardens because of their high nitrogen content. While they tend to be only slightly acidic, they also tend to improve the acidity of garden soil through the same chemical processes which cause sawdust to do the same thing. Coffee grounds raise soil acidity more immediately if they are added fresh, instead of after brewing. Likewise, coffee diluted with four times its volume of water can be used to amend soil acidity, especially useful for tomatos, chili peppers, blueberries, and other plants which like high soil acidity.
Some use coffee to create art. Latte art involves designs in the foam of espresso-based drinks. Arfé is the use of coffee as a coloring for painting or other visual effects.
It takes years of experience to perfect the art of selecting, cupping, roasting and blending premium coffees. In addition to roasting the regular varietals and blends offered to the public, LaJava receives many samples of green coffee from other regions around the world. Once received, the coffee is visually inspected, roasted, cupped and graded. If the sample meets LaJava’s standard, more roasting and cupping is done to find the right roast.
Small batch roasting is what makes LaJava a roasting house stand out in the world of specialty coffee. Our roasters use their senses to carefully develop each batch to the peak of each coffee known at the sweet spot – the ultimate balance of flavor, body, aroma and brightness. Small Batch roasting method and roasting to order ensures every coffee is truly fresh and at peak flavor.