I thought it would be useful to start at the beginning in this article instead of jumping backward and forwards like I have been in the other articles so in this one I am talking about the espresso coffee bean itself.
This journey into understanding coffee has been a fascinating one so far, well eventually I am here and doing the research for this article has shown me just how much I didn’t (and still don’t) know with regards to espresso coffee beans. And so far here are the things I’ve learned about.
The coffee bean is actually a berry from a tree that grows in around 35 – 40 countries around the world. There are 2 main types – the Arabica (Coffea arabica) and the Robusta (Coffea canephora). The Arabica has about half the amount of caffeine as the Robusta plant but it produces much higher quality coffee with a stronger flavor and aroma, as well not least as which is that it has much less acidity too.
The coffee plants are grown at high altitudes – the Arabica tend to grow much higher than the Robusta plant, some of them up to 3000 feet or more. Many of the reasons they are more expensive are due to the fact that they are more difficult to grow.
Most of the world’s coffee comes from South America, but other countries with similar growing conditions across Africa, India, and Asia also produce a huge amount of coffee.
Just like wine, each farm has its own distinct flavor and aroma, but you’ll only see that if you purchase the specific type rather than a blend (which is obviously a mixture of beans).
The instant coffee market is nearly all Robusta, mainly due to the fact that the plant is more robust therefore easier and cheaper to make (but without that much concern for the taste).
The coffee bean on the tree turns red when it should be harvested. Now, for ease of growing and harvesting the coffee farmers tend to keep their trees low so that they can easily harvest the beans. Another thing that affects the quality of the bean (and again the cost) is how the beans are harvested – the red berries like many biological things don’t always ripen at the same time – there is a method of harvesting called strip picking where the farmer will harvest the whole crop at once – obviously some berries will be ready and others won’t, meaning that the overall consistency and quality of the harvest of that crop will be seriously affected.
Once you get the beans at home, you have 2 choices of which to buy – roasted or unroasted, in this article we will not go into the roasting aspect, but again suffice it say there is a huge amount to learn about this process.
So , there are lots of things to think about when deciding which beans to buy, but on the whole the best option is to go for the Arabica for the quality and aroma will be far superior – for the beginner, buy roasted beans (roasting yourself is something I will look at and hopefully learn very soon).