Where do coffee beans come from?

This is the first is a multi-part series on coffee to help educate our customers.

First, there are two types of coffee beans

Coffee beans come from two basic versins of coffee plants: either the Robusta ( aka Coffea robusta, or Coffea canephora) or Arabica (aka Coffea arabica) version.

At Toomer’s Coffee Roasters we do not roast or sell Robusta beans. I once asked our coffee broker how much Robusta they sell and she said less that 5% of their total volume is Robusta. While it is higher in caffeine content (the main reason I guess a dubious roaster might add it..to jack up the “vibrancy” of their blends), the overall taste issues and roasting peculiarities she said make it a less than desirable option.

Arabica beans on the other hand, while lower in caffeine content have a number of factors that make them the number #1 preference amongst 99% of roasters today, taste being the main factor.  But we will cover that in a later articel specifically on Arabica beans.

They start life as a fruit

cherries_small

Coffee beans start out "Cherries" (Click to enlarge)

Arabica beans are grown on low (3-6 feet) shrubby plants that bear white blossoms that produce the coffee fruit called “cherries” (about the size and color of cranberries).

These coffee cherries are clustered along the limbs of the plant ( See image).  The cherries are harvested from approximately October through January each year.  Since the coffee cherries do not ripen together, several pickings of the the same plant may be required until all of the cherries have been harvested at the peak of ripenness.

This is the first step in the chain of factors that seperates fair coffee from truly exceptional coffee: only picking the red cherries.  Mixing in under-ripe/ greenish cherries with red cherries will result in bitter coffee no matter how well it is roasted.

In our next article we will talk about the regions beans are grown in and how that affects flavor.

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