We’re starting a series of blog posts here on Joe on the Go! to share one of our biggest passions with you, coffee! We’re calling this series Coffee 101 and we’ll cover everything we can think of related to coffee. From how to order a coffee or espresso based drink at Winans… to how coffee was first discovered… to how we roast coffee today.
We’re excited to share our enthusiasm for our favorite drink and hope you are too!
Let’s start with the very basics. What is coffee?
Coffee means a lot of different things to different people, but not everyone knows where coffee comes from, or that a coffee bean isn’t actually a bean at all! The “bean” which makes delicious beverages enjoyed by many, is actually the seed of the coffee berry, called a cherry.
Coffee cherries grow on trees in the Coffea species. Most of the coffee trees grown for human consumption are Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora var. robusta. The beans used at Winans Chocolates + Coffees are arabica beans, as are 70% of the beans consumed worldwide. The majority of robusta beans grown are used to make instant coffee.
Coffee trees are tropical, evergreen plants that grow in between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer (coffee connoisseurs refer to this area as the bean belt!). The trees do well in areas that receive 40 to 60 inches of rain per year and grow best between 1,300 and 1,500 meters in altitude.
Coffee trees flower continuously throughout the year, so it’s common to see flowers, immature green fruit and bright red, ripe cherries on one tree at a time. The white flowers are sweet and fragrant, reminiscent of jasmine.
It takes almost a year for a flower to develop into a cherry ready for harvest and it takes five years of growth before a coffee tree is in full production. Coffee trees can live up to 100 years but are most productive between 7 and 20 years.
Inside a coffee cherry are two “beans” which are actually the seeds of the fruit. There are many layers between the outside of the coffee cherry and the two coffee beans inside! Each seed is covered by a thin membrane (silver skin), which is enclosed inside an endocarp (parchment). The paper-like parchment is surrounded by a slimy layer called the parenchyma which is covered by the mesocarp. The mesocarp is covered by the outer layer of the cherry’s skin, called the exocarp. All of these layers: the exocarp, mesocarp, parenchyma, parchment and silverskin must be removed before the green coffee beans can be roasted for human consumption!
When we say there are a lot of layers between the cherry and the bean – we mean a lot of layers! As you can imagine, it takes a lot of hard work to harvest these cherries and turn them into the delicious brew we all love!
We’ll cover more about coffee, including how it was discovered and how it is harvested, in future Coffee 101 blog posts. Stay tuned!