Coffee 101 | Ep. 2 The Plant
Somewhere deep in the jungle of Pangoa, Peru there is a farmer named Gregorio (pictured above) who is walking through his 12 acre farm of coffee plants, waiting and anticipating the perfect time for harvesting his crop. This may shock you, but do you know what Gregorio is observing? It's a fruit: a cherry to be exact. He is planning and preparing to pick his coffee cherries at the perfect time. If he picks them too soon or too late, he will miss the goal of selling an optimal product. This waiting is a 9 month long game of patience. Waiting. Tending. Protecting. Once the harvest hits, it's time for him to start picking cherries. He may call in friends or family from out of town or neighbors to come in to help pick the cherries by hand (usually) before time is out!
As we stated in the previous article, coffee is a seed hidden within a very complex cherry. Coffee cherries universally grow on similar shrub-like trees. This particular plant is grown in different regions of the world that have the perfect combination of conditions: high elevation, rich soil, good shade, and a tropical-like environment. These types of ecosystems develop the perfect home for coffee farms. Most regions in the world that grow coffee are along the equator. We call this popular stretch of real estate across the planet “The Bean Belt” (pictured below). Brazil produces the most coffee in the world at around 2 million tons annually. Unfortunately, outside of this belt, the conditions prove to be too challenging over time for the crop to thrive.
Varietals of Coffee plants
I understand that not everyone is super intrigued by botany or coffee farming so I am going to try to keep this upcoming content as surface level as possible for you. For now I will just try to tell you the WHY or HOW to all the vast varieties of coffee.
The vast majority of specialty coffee stems from a family/species called “Coffea Arabica.” From this main family stems a variety of “types” that all result in completely different results in look, quality, taste, and resistance to diseases. I have included a diagram that helps us dissect all of the different “types and varieties” within the coffee family. Some of these, like Caturra, are more ancient and widespread in the market. While others are very rare or recently developed like the “Pacamara” varietal. Stemming from the same species, these are all efforts of either innovation or, more importantly, protection from different pests or diseases, like leaf rust or root rot. Most of the time these mutations form from hybrids developed by the experts. These innovations and hybrids of coffee have made for an ever moving and complex market, but for now we will reserve the rest of details regarding the different cultivars/varieties of coffee. We are ourselves learning more as we dive into this content and it would maybe take hours to really cover it all! If you would enjoy going deeper into this check out this awesome article! Now for the coffee cherries the tree produces…
Anatomy of Coffee Cherries
The coffee cherry (pictures provided) looks similar to a sweet cherry you may buy seasonally at your local grocery store, but it is totally different on the inside. When the cherry is pre-harvest, it is a green shade, and when it is ripe and ready for harvest it is red, orange, or yellow depending on the type of coffee it is. The skin is similar to a tough cherry or grape and protects the precious inner contents. Under the skin is a pulp, also typical to similar fruits. Beneath the pulp, there is a gelatin layer called parchment that encapsulates the core of the cherry. This layer is fused to the seed and is typically cleaned off for a more classic tasting cup. This type of coffee may be found in our house blend. In contrast, this material is sometimes left to ferment on the seed resulting in much more intense flavor notes. This type of coffee experience may be found in our exclusive pour over offerings. At the center is the treasured core of the cherry. This is what the coffee farmer is seeking to extract and what we know to be “coffee beans”. This core is depulped, processed, and sent to a local mill to be packaged and shipped to a roaster.
In the next article, I plan to dive into what the process looks like once the farmer has harvested the coffee. Through writing this blog post, I’ve learned a lot as well. All the details hidden within such a simple product like coffee. It seems very one dimensional as you first begin to enjoy coffee, but I have learned that the more you enjoy something, the more you want to learn about it… and the more you learn the more enthralled you are with its complexity. Does it not amaze you that our Creator has given us such hidden beauty in the details of what he has created? Oh how generous is this God... For example, He could have given us one type of apple (Honeycrisp would be my vote) but instead He chose to give us 7500 different types of apples. That blows my mind. In the same way with coffee, I am learning more and more of how generous our Creator has been to His creation. Like coffee, as deep and complex as it has proved to be, creation itself is a means to an end. To Glorify its creator. All of the endless beauty hidden in creation points to him. How creative, how generous and most of all, how glorious is the Creator of a creation like this?
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name”
ANATOMY OF CHERRY
Coffee: The journey from the seed to your cup. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://essense.coffee/en/coffee-the-journey-from-the-seed-to-your-cup/
VARIETALS OF PLANTS
A botanists' guide to specialty coffee. Specialty Coffee Association. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://sca.coffee/research/botany