Everyone takes their coffee in their own unique way - but there is one thing all coffee lovers agree on: The undeniable fact that this ancient bean has an enchanting hold on all who try it.
The earliest known coffee consumption dates way back to the 15th Century, and it's little wonder humanity has been seeking it out ever since!
While it's almost impossible to trace the true origins of this incredible brew, we do know one thing for sure: That coffee you're sipping on today has been on an epic journey so it could arrive in your cup.
Coffee is a staple in our daily lives, but how many of us have stopped to ponder the process that goes into creating our favorite pick-me-up? (We've got a whole new appreciation for each delicious sip after learning this...)
Check out the incredible journey every coffee bean makes, from its humble beginnings in the soil - right into your mug:
The coffee-making journey starts with planting the seed, of course. Coffee plants grow primarily in warm climates lying close to the equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (if we're being precise - between 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South)
This region is colloquially called the ‘Bean Belt’, and includes Central and South America, Africa, plus The Middle East and Southeast Asia. Talk about an exotic ingredient from faraway lands to have gracing your kitchen!
Coffee beans grow inside coffee cherries - made up of a thin layer of sweet, acidic fruit surrounding the two hard beans nestled inside. While the cherry flesh itself is edible and quite pleasant to taste, there isn't much meat on the fruit as the beans take up most of space inside.
Once harvested, the coffee beans must be extracted from the surrounding cherry before the next steps can commence.
There are 3 main methods used to remove the cherry and dry out the beans, with each different processing style impacting the final flavor profile of the beans:
The oldest method of processing coffee, natural processing involves leaving the coffee cherries out in the sun to ferment for around 2 weeks before removing the fruity pulp from the beans.
The cherries must be carefully tended to during this process in order to avoid rotting. Meanwhile, the beans absorb sugars from the fruit during fermentation, resulting in a sweeter flavor.
Wet processing involves harvesting the coffee beans from the cherries before the fermentation stage has begun.
Removing the fruit from the bean earlier in the process results in a cleaner and more consistent flavor - however, the washing process can pose environmental issues concerning wastewater management.
This modern technique involves a combination of the above two traditional methods, and only partially removes the fruit from the beans before the fermentation and drying is complete.
Honey processing aims to achieve the best of both worlds, turning out coffee beans with a flavor that is both sweet and clean.
Finally, before coffee beans hit the shelves of cafés and stores all over, is the very important roasting process. This transforms the beans from their original green shade to brown, releasing the coffee flavors and aromas we love.
The beans are roasted in a special machine that constantly churns the batch, maintaining a standard of 550 degrees fahrenheit. They're kept moving to avoid burning and achieve a consistent roast, until each fragrant bean reaches an internal temperature of 400 degrees.
The longer the beans are cooked, the darker the roast, and vice versa. Light roast coffee tends to have bright, fruity and floral flavors reminiscent of its origin region, while darker roasts develop more intense caramelized and toasted flavors.
In addition, lighter roasts maintain higher caffeine levels while darker roasts expel some of the beans’ natural caffeine.
At this point, the coffee bean has traveled many miles, from under the ground somewhere in the ‘Bean Belt’ to the flavor-packed blend in your local shop. Next, they're ready to be dressed up in their final form: inside your cup!
The beans must be ground before brewing to extract their maximum potential, with varying degrees of coarseness proving ideal for different brewing methods.
In general, espresso requires a fine grind, while slower methods like French press and cold brew handle coarser grinds well.
Now that you know where your beloved coffee beans come from and the long journey they’ve endured, there’s no better time to brew yourself one in your Greens Steel Coffee Cup!
Maggie Johnson | Greens Steel Lifestyle Contributor