There many stories about the discovery of coffee shrub. For example, professor Naironi from the University of Padua wrote down that a shepherd in the Kaffa province of Abyssinia noticed that the goats under his supervision are restlessly jumping around instead of relaxing during the night. The shepherd was afraid that the goats might take bad, so he reported the case to the monks. The saintly shepherds went out to the pasture to observe how the animals feed themselves.
Mid-sized, glossy-leaved shrubs have been growing around with star-shaped white flowers and red berries. They have harvested a fistful of the crops and they boiled a soup in the monastery during the evening. They liked the potion so they consumed much of it. But, lo and behold, they could not sleep at all, so they spent the evening vigilantly. Thus, the stimulating effect of the plant became obvious.
There were times when the cunsumation of coffee was forbidden, or only authorized for the privileged, but later the drink became fashionable: coffee houses were established, where the sparkling social life equally attracted the guests.
The cultivation of coffee & coffee varieties
Coffee growing needs perfect natural conditions and a lot of care. Obviously, the quality of the plantation exercises a fundemental influence on the growth of the coffee shrubs. The most optimal locations are the tropical plantations above 900 m. Huge and balanced rainfall is essential for the development of the coffee bushes, just like a constant temperature of 15-24 C, protection from frost and a deep, fertile soil.
There are approx. 80 varieties in the Coffea genus, but only Coffea Canephora and Coffea Arabica are able to produce appropriate crops for te production of coffee. The former shrub is robusta coffee: it grows on low altitude, tolerates high heat and high humidity, is resistant to pests, but it’s crop contains less aromas and more caffeine. The robusta beans are round in shape with straight notches. Their color is yellowish gray.
Arabicas are sensitive plants, their cultivation requires a lot of care, however, it contains much more aromas and about half the caffeine. The optimal conditions for ensuring the development of Arabicas are to be found on the tropical plantations above 900 meters. The raw bean type of Arabica coffee has an oval form and wavy notches. It’s color may differ from blue-green through green and yellow to grayish-yellow.
Arabica coffee counts a better raw material for coffee, due to it’s quality and aromas. The 75 % of coffee trade consists of Arabica.
Harvest and processing
The ripe coffee fruit is only picked by hand. During the maturation pickers go through the plantations weekly and only harvest the red coffee beans. On production areas where the fruit ripens at the same time, everything is harvested at once. The fruits are collected on canvases spread out under the bushes and then over-ripe and unripe berries are sorted out.
The picked coffee cherry can not be stored, it must be processed immediately after harvest. There are two types of this procedure. During the dry processing, the coffee beans are laid out on a solid surface in a thickness of 3-5 cm and are dried in the sun for four weeks while they are protected from moisture.
After nearly a month the humidity of the cherry falls below 13%. Then the coffee beans are liberated from their dry fruit shell with the help of a special peeling-machine. In countries where the rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, the hours of sunshine is not enough for drying. Therefore, a wet processing is employed.
Washed coffee is much more valuable than the ones prepared with dry process, the wet process is also more modern. This means that the pulp and the beans of the coffee cherries are separated from one another mechanically, then the raw coffee is prepared with the help of a soaking and washing procedure with the use of a special fermenting liquid.
Drying is the next step, which thus takes approximately 10 to 14 days. The bare coffee resulted from the two different procedures gets through further cleaning and selections before the final step: transportation.
Roasting & grinding
Depending on the type of the desired coffee flavour, the degree of roasting and the speed can vary. The roasting is carried out by coffee roasting machines, which are capable of transferring tremendous heat to the beans in a short time.
Coffee beans release carbon dioxide during the roasting process. This causes enormous tension in the beans while swelling significantly. The colour, the weight, the hardness of the coffee beans change: they become rigid. The characteristic flavour and aroma components of the coffee develop now.
After roasting, the coffee is rapidly cooled down to prevent over-roasting. This is achieved by sprinkling of the coffee with water, and then the blowing of cold air to evaporate moisture. After this process, the weight of the coffee drops by 12-15%, which corresponds to the humidity of green coffee.
Before the preparation of the coffee, the beans must be carefully ground. While previously this process was conducted by the consumers themselves, nowadays, a significant part of the coffee gets to the stores ground.
The coffee grinding is carried out in big industrial mills, that are capable of crushing the coffee in a multi-stage grinding process, without the formation of powder particles. The milling rollers are continually kept cool to prevent them from warming, thus protecting the aroma of the coffee.
The coffee aroma is extremely sensitive to oxygen and air humidity. Therefore, advanced packaging technology application is required. During the packaging of the soft packaged coffee atmospheric oxygen is removed by the substitution of nitrogen or carbon dioxide, then the bag is filled with coffee, and seal. These packages have an aroma valve, which is needed for the eduction of the slowly escaping carbon dioxide.
During the preparation of vacuum packed coffees, oxygen is removed with vacuum before the closure of the package and then they are sealed. These two types of packaging ensure that the coffee will get in the cup with preserved aromas and smells, thus becoming enjoyable all over the world.