The origins of coffee are more fairy tale than history. It's generally accepted that coffee originated from Ethiopia, but the story of Kaldi, a ninth century goat herder who noticed his flock was acting up after eating the bright red fruit of the Coffee arabica plant, is probably apocryphal.
It seems that coffee was first eaten as a food and only later was used as a beverage. The first brew was like wine. Fermented coffee berries were mixed with water to make an invigorating beverage. The first reference to coffee in Arabia suggests it was used as a medicine.
Today coffee is grown in over 500 countries and is one of the world's largest cash crop and is the world's second largest traded commodity.
Growing and Harvesting Coffee
Coffee bean originates from the cherry of the coffee tree. Most trees produce the equivalent of 450 gms of roasted beans per year. 1 kilo of coffee is the equivalent of 5,500 cherries. Harvesting of coffee is made more difficult by the fact that the cherries mature on the tree at different times. Therefore harvesting has to be done by hand only selecting the ripe cherries at any one time. This process is employed for Specialty Coffee to ensure the highest quality. Commercial varieties are machine picked resulting in a mix of ripe and unripe cherries in the harvest.
Ripe cherries are made up of several layers and enclose 2 green beans. To separate the green bean from the rest of the cherry for roasting, growers either allow the cherry to dry on the tree or the ground before the beans are removed by hulling or the beans are immediately separated from the cherries, submerged in a vat of water, and then dried on large patios or mechanically.
The green coffee bean gives no hint of the aroma or colour that results following roasting. Roasting coffee is an art. Roasting unlocks the potential qualities of the bean by the chemical transformation brought about by the absorption of heat in a certain amount of time. Roasting machines vary in size considerably from large commodity coffee manufacturers who roast continuously through to specialty coffee roasters who roast in small batches and test the quality of the roasted beans, and then released into a tray for cooling. At this point the smell of freshly roasted coffee fills the air.
Once roasted the beans are blended. This is where beans of different origins are blended together to create the taste profile.