They call it a bean. It looks like a bean. But unlike the famous saying about a duck, coffee beans are not beans – but are in fact seeds.
They are seeds of a berry or cherry that grows along the branches of a coffee tree. Coffee trees may grow to more than 30 feet high. Fragrant, flowering white blossoms, give rise to coffee cherries which need a year to mature. Coffee trees can grow in a wide range of climates and altitudes but prefer rich soil, mild temperatures, frequent rain and shaded sun. According to legend, the consumption of coffee originated in the Ethiopian highlands. A goat herder named Kaldi observed that his goats, upon consuming the berries from a certain type of tree became extremely spirited. The berries were then brought to the local monastery and made into drinks that kept each consumer of the brew awake and alert for many hours. The word spread and with it the berries moved east to the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.
Today coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide and is grown in over 45 countries around the world. 400 billion cups are consumed each year. All coffee traces its origin to the Ethiopian highlands where one may still find coffee trees displaying white blossoms, immature green and maturing red cherries. These days roasting green coffee berries to produce the bean that will be ground and brewed or covered with chocolate and eaten whole is done at approximately 400 degrees. Roasting is an art and science that caramelizes bean sugars and carbohydrates creating oils that allow the unique flavor and aroma of the bean’s cultivation and place of origin to be unleashed.
Ground coffee deteriorates much faster than whole beans, so it’s recommended to buy whole beans and grind only as much coffee as you plan on using each day. Whole beans may be kept in a sealed package in the freezer until ready for use. Moisture is coffee’s most potent enemy. In the good old U S of A the most common method of brewing coffee is by the drip method. To get the best coffee out of this method which usually involves heated water dripping into ground coffee over a paper filter, freshly ground roasted coffee beans of ample quantity are used. A hearty table spoon ground coffee to a cup of pure water is best to produce a cup of flavorful coffee. Once the coffee oils have been extracted this way, the coffee is spent and only bitter elements remain. In terms of grades of coffee there are two types. The first is considered to be of lower grade. The trees are disease resistant, easier to grow and flourish at lower elevations. The coffee is not as flavorful but with more caffeine in it, it is referred to as Robusta.
A superior grade of coffee, which includes gourmet coffees, is known as Arabica. Arabica has less caffeine, but comes in a wonderful variety of flavors. Many consider use of the French Press a superior method of brewing coffee. This will brew a few cups as opposed to a whole pot. A recommended amount of coarsely ground (consistency of raw sugar) coffee is placed in the press. Water heated to almost but not quite boiling is poured in and the lid and filter are placed on top without pressing down so that the heat is maintained and coffee is allowed to steep for 3-4 minutes. This process also makes an outstanding brew of tea. The press is then applied using the filter and rod to push the coarse grounds to the bottom of the press. Once reaching the bottom, the coffee is ready to serve.
The world’s best coffees and teas are available to taste and take home with specialties served by our Barista, Igor Krivenko, at the Pawling Trading Co.
The Coffee Book, Luttenger and Dicum, The New Press, 2006, ISBN: 978-1-59558-060-3