The coffee started as wild plants in the Kaffa area in southwestern Ethiopia more than a thousand years ago.
There are many stories of how to discover the coffee, but the most common one is about a shepherd who saw his goats get poked by eating the red fruits on the coffee bush.
The wild coffee plants in Africa still exist, but nowadays coffee is grown in many places in the world. The largest coffee producers are Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia.
From fine to popular
When the coffee started arriving to many countries in about the 17th century, it was first used as a remedy for various ailments. Then coffee became a social drink for fine people; nobility and bourgeoisie. By the 19th century, coffee had become a popular drink for ordinary people, something that was offered when it came to both expected and unexpected visits. Since then, coffee consumption has only increased, except for occasional wartime rationing.
Freshly ground coffee is always the best, but the pre-ground also goes well. If you buy ready, keep in mind that an opened coffee pack stays fresh for about two weeks.
Three different beans
The coffee beans that are grown to become our coffee come from the species Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (or robust, as you say everyday). Coffea liberica also become coffee.
Arabica accounts for three-quarters of the world’s production. The coffee comes from Ethiopia, but when Linnaeus named the plant he thought it came from the Arabian Peninsula. The mild flavor is popular, but the beans are delicate, which has made Arabica the most expensive bean.
Robusta is a more durable bean with higher caffeine content. It is originally from Congo. You may have heard of Congo coffee? The taste is bitter and fresh, and the bean is mostly used for instant coffee and as a flavor enhancer in espresso blends. About a quarter of all coffee is Robusta.
Liberica is the least popular bean. It was discovered and cultivated in West Africa. Liberica, which got its name from Liberia, produces a strong and bitter coffee. The bean accounts for one percent of all grown coffee.
Espresso Beans? There are no special espresso beans. But since the brewing in the espresso machine presses out a lot of acids, you have to adapt the mixture and roasting to it.
How’s that coffee?
The road from red fruits on a coffee bush to pre-ground coffee on the store shelf is long. The fruits ripen at different times and you pick them by hand, by machine or by shaking. Then you prepare the fruits, that is, remove the peel, pulp, and membranes from the two beans (seeds) contained in each fruit.
Storage and roasting
The beans are stored for up to six months, harvested and sorted by size and weight. Then we come to the highlight: roasting. It is now the almost odorless, gray-green coffee bean to become a beautiful brown bean full of flavor and aroma. Without a knowledgeable roaster who stops the roasting at exactly the right moment, there will be no good coffee.
Whole or ground beans
If the beans are not to be sold whole, they proceed to grinding. Then the ground coffee is allowed to rest for a day to give off the carbon dioxide that is formed. Unfortunately, part of the aroma disappears during the rest. In finer specialty coffee you now increasingly see a one-way valve that releases carbon dioxide but protects the aroma. Finally, the coffee is packed in a hard or soft vacuum package. The hardest is most common: A packet of coffee.