Coffee is the Seed of a Fruit
Coffee is a fruit and grows on a tree. It develops as a small red cherry that must be carefully picked and processed. This is one of the most important stages in the development of true gourmet coffee. Our Kahvé Koffee is processed by small farmers who are very aware of when the cherry is perfectly ripe and ready for picking. Too early, and the cherry will lack essential sweetness; too late, and the cherry will be sour and too overripe to process at the mill.
The ultimate quality of coffee depends on:
1) Climate (the proper mixture of sun and rain)
2) Altitude (keyword is HIGH!)
3) Soil (rich in nutrients and minerals)
4) Care in picking, transporting and processing the coffee cherry
There are two main species of coffee that are of worldwide importance: Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta:
Coffee trees are grown from seedlings that are essentially green (un-roasted) coffee beans. The seeds are cultivated in greenhouses for approximately one year until they are ready to be planted. Once they are planted it takes another 3 years before they bear their first fruit. The trees must be very carefully cultivated and cared for. The trees are pruned constantly to keep them at their ultimate height, about 5-6 feet. This makes them easier to pick and increases their yield.
Harvesting and Picking Coffee
When a coffee tree is ready to bear fruit it will first put forth clusters of white flowers which look and smell like jasmine. Unfortunately, these beautiful flowers only last a few days. After they wither and fall, small green cherries appear which take anywhere from six to nine months to ripen and become red.
During the harvest season, a coffee tree produces a maximum of three to five pickings. The coffee cherries rarely ripen all at the same time, but the most abundant quantity of perfectly ripe cherries are available at the center picking. This center picking is the best, producing the most exquisite and beautifully ripe cherries.
Picking excellent coffee is a highly labor intensive process. All the cherries must be hand-picked and the picker must be very selective as to not include twigs, leaves, blossoms, or unripe cherries.
Only mature, ripe fruit will yield a high quality coffee. This, ultimately, is the key to the quality of the coffee.
The average yield of a mature coffee tree is 2000 cherries. Coincidentally, it takes about 2000 hand-picked cherries to produce 1 lb of roasted coffee.
Processing and Milling
Throughout the processing and milling stage, the coffee is graded and separated several times according to rigorous quality standards.
The freshly picked coffee cherries are transported to the mill within hours of being picked. It is extremely important that the coffee picked during the day is processed that same evening. The optimum flavors are developed within this time frame.
The terminology “washed coffees” means the process when the outer skin, pulp, and fruit is removed to reveal the coffee bean within. The “washed” beans produce a clean cup of coffee when properly cared for.
Once at the mill, the ripe cherries are passed through a pulping machine that squeezes out the two coffee seeds. Each cherry has two coffee beans inside. The process exposes a sticky inner protective coat, which surrounds the parchment. Sometimes we find only one coffee bean inside. This is very special, like finding a four-leaf- clover. The single bean is processed completely separately and is called “Peaberry”.
At this Point, the coffee beans are again screened for quality depending on size, weight, and shape. The perfectly formed beans travel on one path for further processing in the fermentation tanks, while the smaller, less developed beans proceed along a totally different path for their processing.
The beans are then soaked in tanks of water to loosen the covering and are left to ferment. The timing of fermentation is critical to the ultimate quality and flavor of the coffee.
The coffee is then washed and laid out on open cement patios to dry evenly and slowly. The beans, now called parchment coffee are manually turned and heaped with large rakes to ensure that the coffee dries uniformly.
The next step in the process is to hull and polish the coffee bean. This involves rubbing off the parchment layer and polishing the bean for an attractive appearance.
At this point the coffee beans are a light green to bluish color and smell like a field of hay. At this stage, the coffee is called “green coffee”.
The coffee is then graded. This means that the coffee is sorted by size, shape, and imperfections. It is important to grade the coffee well so that small and large beans are not roasted together. When this occurs the small beans burn and the large beans do not receive their proper roast.
The coffee is now ready to roast.
A green (un-roasted) coffee bean must be roasted to release all the elements of coffee as we know it. All the flavor and character is trapped inside until it is roasted. It is the chemical transformation brought about by the absorption of a certain amount of heat that results in a coffee bean releasing its potential.
Time, temperature, and airflow are all balanced to bring out the perfect roast for any particular coffee. This will differ from coffee to coffee.
Light Roast. Finished surface is light brown and dry.
Dark Roast. Dark brown color with only slight patches of oil on the surface.
French Roast / Espresso.Very dark brown color with large amounts of oil on the surface of the beans.
Italian Roast.Almost black, very shiny with large amounts of oil on the surface of the beans.