Is there any better way to kick start the day? One of my favorite aromas is the scent of coffee brewing in the house. Even if you do not drink coffee, the smell is still so appealing. But do we understand what coffee actually is? The beans you brew are actually the processed and roasted seeds from a fruit, which is called a coffee cherry. At the heart of the coffee cherry, side-by-side, lie two beans, each covered by its own skin.
In about 5% of the world's coffee, there is only one bean inside the cherry. This is called a peaberry (or a caracol), and it is a natural mutation. Some people believe that peaberries are actually sweeter and more flavorful than standard beans, so they are sometimes manually sorted out for special sale.
The appearance of coffee plants can range from small bushes to tall trees that are purple, yellow or the familiar dark green depending on the region but for the commercial coffee business there are only 2 species to know - Arabica and Robusto.
Coffea Arabica is descended from the original coffee trees discovered in Ethiopia. These trees produce a fine, mild, aromatic coffee and represent approximately 70% of the world's coffee production. The beans are flatter and more elongated than Robusta and lower in caffeine. On the world market, Arabica coffees bring the highest prices. The better Arabicas are high grown coffees — generally grown between 2,000 to 6,000 feet (610 to 1830 meters) above sea level — though optimal altitude varies with proximity to the equator.
Most of the world's Robusta is grown in Central and Western Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, and in Brazil. Production of Robusta is increasing, though it accounts for only about 30% of the world market. Robusta is primarily used in blends and for instant coffees. The Robusta bean itself tends to be slightly rounder and smaller than an Arabica bean.
Does knowing about the origins of coffee make it taste better? Probably not, for there are few things in life as satisfying as a good cup of coffee but selecting the right bean for your best cup can make all the difference.
Here at the Coffeehouse, we only select the best Arabica beans, and can't wait to share a cup with you. Don't forget to check out our daily specials to go with that cup. We look forward to seeing you on the common!
Image credits: Lilibeth Serrano - USFWS via Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons, Michael C. Wright via Wikimedia Commons