Coffee is said to have been discovered as early as 1000 AD when the plant was found by farmers in Yemen and Ethiopia. Today, coffee trees are grown in over 70 countries, providing an essential agricultural income for people all over the world.
Coffee trees take between three and five years to reach maturity, developing fragrant white blossoms that are said to smell like jasmine. These blossoms soon give way to clusters of green fruit known as ‘coffee cherries’. Inside each coffee cherry are two coffee beans. As the cherries ripen in the bright sunlight they turn to a bold red colour.
Coffee cherries are carefully harvested by hand and sorted according to ripeness and colour before processing.
There are two common methods of processing – wet and dry. Dry processing is a centuries old method where the cherries are laid out to dry naturally in the sun. Workers will rake and turn the cherries regularly for about 10 days to ensure that they dry evenly. Once the cherries are fully dried, the green coffee beans from within are removed.
Wet processing involves removing the pulp of the coffee cherry immediately after harvesting and then placing the beans in a fermentation tank to remove any remaining flesh. The beans are then washed and dried.
Once dried, the coffee beans are ready for the next step, roasting.
The roasting process – from bean to cup
The roasting process influences the final taste of the coffee and can be impacted by the physical and chemical process applied during roasting.
Initially, intense heat starts to break down the bean starches, which then allows the beans to caramelize and slowly start to brown. Whilst some oils and acids start to weaken, an aromatic oil called caffeol begins to develop, giving the coffee its distinct flavour and aroma.
After roasting, beans are divided by colour. Most beans will be labelled as light, medium or dark but there are variants in between these grades as well.
Beans may also be sorted by sight or by measuring the reflected light that comes from roasted beans when illuminated with a light source. This elaborate technique uses a process known as spectroscopy – the level of reflection is given a number that indicates the coffee's degree of roast or flavour development.
The Final Step
Creating great coffee takes time and patience. Experienced ‘Roast Masters’ train for years, perfecting the art and skill required to create premium full-flavoured coffee roasts.
Dark and light roasts have very different characteristics – darker roasts are often smooth and sweet, whilst lighter roasts retain more caffeine, giving them a stronger more robust flavour.
Once the desired roast has been achieved, our coffee is then packaged as beans or ground coffee before starting its next journey to the consumer.