Aah… the rich and inviting aroma of roasted coffee beans is so tantalizing that I have (on multiple occasions) just lingered in a café for more of it – or rather for the love of it.
This popular beverage which wafts into our heart and cup, sometimes more than once a day, has taken a long journey to do so. So it’s only fitting that you know its history, how it’s made and about fair trade coffee, which strives to create trading partnerships that are transparent and respectful to coffee bean farmers.
From planting till being purchased, a coffee bean goes through broadly the same set of steps irrespective of its origin. Let’s dive right in!
Here’s a fun fact to start with. A coffee bean isn’t a bean at all. It’s, in fact, a seed that comes from a specific type of berries or fruit.
Coffee seeds are shade grown away from bright sunlight and watered well in nurseries for up to a year before they can be replanted in the field. After being replanted, the tree takes between 3 to 5 years to produce coffee berries or coffee cherries.
When the berry ripens, it turns a deep red and becomes ready to be harvested. Inside each ripe berry, you’ll find 2 coffee beans.
If the seed isn’t processed, it can be replanted to grow a coffee tree.
There are two ways to harvest coffee – Selective and Strip Picking.
While Strip Picking strips the branch of all the cherries at once, Selective picking ensures only the ripe ones are harvested. Selectively picking coffee is a labor-intensive process as you need nimble hands and a good eye to spot and pick the ripe berries.
You want perfectly ripe berries as they will have higher oil and lower acid content giving you the smooth tasting and heavenly smelling coffee that you know.
After the harvest, the coffee berries are carefully sorted from debris like stones and twigs. Processing begins as quickly as possible so none of it is spoiled. There are two ways to process the cherries depending on the location and climatic conditions – the Wet method and the Dry method.
In the wet method, the cherries are pulped, washed and the beans are thrown in a fermentation tank for 12-48 hours. This gives the farmer more control over the fermentation process and produces more consistent coffee.
On the other hand, the dry method is used in regions where water is scarce. The freshly picked cherries are laid out on an even surface to naturally ferment in the sun. This is natural coffee and it can take several weeks depending on the weather as there’s less control over the fermentation process.
What is honey processed coffee?
In the honey process, fresh coffee cherries are de-pulped, but allowed to dry without washing. Even though some of the fruit remains, there’s not as much as there is in the natural dry process and a sticky residue remains on the coffee beans.
Our Organic Honey Processed Coffee from Honduras is certified organic and fair trade & has notes of dark chocolate and fruity undertones.
No matter the processing method, the beans are usually dried until their moisture content is around 11%. This takes another 2 to 4 weeks for the beans to reach the desired moisture content.
After the coffee drying process you’re left with parchment coffee, where the beans have just the parchment left around them. This is then stored away for months or even years in sacks.
The final step in processing, Milling has two steps – Hulling, which removes the parchment from the beans without damaging it, and Polishing, an optional stage which gives the beans a shine.
A small batch of the green coffee beans (yes, they’re called green even though they are brown!) are then roasted and tasted by professional tasters, called cuppers, who grade the beans on their taste, and quality. This process is called grading or cupping.
Roasting and Grinding
Finally roasting the green coffee transforms it into the brown beans that we purchase in stores and cafes. And you can freshly grind the coffee beans just before your cup is brewed to make sure you get the perfect taste and aroma.
At The Mockingbird Apothecary, all our coffees are freshly roasted, and certified fair trade & organic. We source our coffee from the best regions in the world and guarantee that you won’t find better tasting coffee elsewhere. Try our Colombian coffee, Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Peruvian, and more single origin coffees here.