All coffee comes from an evergreen plant (called Coffea in Latin) which grows between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn. The coffee beans are the seeds inside the red cherries. Inside each coffee berry there are one, two or on rare occasions three coffee beans.
A coffee plant can grow to a height of 10 or 12 meters and it takes 3 to 5 years for the plants to begin producing. The yield decreases after approx 20 to 25 years.
There are two major species that coffee drinkers will be familiar with – Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta.
Arabica coffee plants are delicate and prefer higher climates, the elevation causes the coffee bean to mature slowly which in turn leads to a more aromatic and flavorful coffee.
Robusta as the name suggests is much more resistant and is grown at sea level. Their characteristics are also very different.
Arabica coffee has a very pronounced aroma, is mild, well rounded, and often features a sweet hints of chocolate or caramel, with a pleasing touch of bitterness.
Robusta coffees on the other hand, are hard, astringent, not very aromatic and much bitterer to taste, they also contain three times as much caffeine as Arabica coffees.
Read more on the Difference between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans
How do you know if you have just been served a good espresso?
Well in addition to great taste, the presence of a crema is normally a good indication of a good espresso.
- A coffee should be covered with a crema – a caramel covered layer which is produced by the oils, hot water and air during extraction. It will adhere to the sides of the cup as you drink it. The fresher the coffee the richer and darker the crema. It will have a marbled appearance and sometimes you will see tiny bubbles. The crema should be about 2-4mm thick and cover the whole surface of the cup.
- If you add a little sugar, it should be supported on the crema for a few seconds before sinking through.
- If there is a black hole in the middle of the crema this indicates that it has been over extracted and will taste bitter and harsh. It is the called “The Eye” and you don’t want the eye looking at you!
- A very light coloured crema is indicative of an under extracted coffee that will taste weak. Or it could be due to the use of stale beans or the temperature is incorrect.
- If there is no crema, don’t drink it – return it! It could be as a result of errors with temperature coffee or skill.
The coffee we drink is produced from either Arabica or Robusta Coffee beans, each of which have their own distinctive characteristics.
Arabica Coffee Beans
- Coffea arabica is known as Arabica coffee
- 70% of the world’s coffee production is from Arabica beans.
- Arabica coffee is grown in Central and North America, The Carribean, South America, Eastern Africa, Yemen, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and India.
- The Arabica bean produces a mild, smooth, well rounded aromatic coffee and often features a sweet hints of chocolate or caramel.
- It grows best at high altitudes such as mountainous and volcanic areas requiring mild temperatures between 59-75 degrees with an annual rainfall of approximately 60 inches.
- The plant is quite delicate being prone to disease and the yield is much lower than Robusta.
- It grows on terrain that is steep and difficult to access hence they are costly to cultivate.
- Arabica is regarded as much more superior quality and is used to produce speciality coffees.
Robusta Coffee Beans
- Coffea canephora is known as Robusta coffee
- 30% of the world’s coffee production is from Robusta beans.
- Robusta coffee is grown in Central and Western Africa, South East Asia, Indonesia and Brazil.
- The Robusta bean produces a coffee that is hard, astringent and not very aromatic.
- It is grown at lower altitudes and is able to tolerate warmer climates (preferring 75-85 degrees).
- The plant is much hardier and disease resistant and yields much more than the Arabica plant making it cheaper to cultivate.
- It is used mainly in blends and for instant coffees.
- Robusta contains approximately three times as much caffeine content than Arabica.
We came across this article in Marie Claire which details a few interesting findings from a survey on coffee consumption in Britain.
Did you know:
- The British spend an average of £450 a year on coffee.
- They consume 511 million cups of coffee each week.
- Their high street coffee bill is as much as the yearly electricity bill or annual gym membership.
- Coffee drinking is more popular in men drinking 8 cups daily whereas women drink 6 cups.
So how does your consumption measure up to with these stats?
So you may have thought coffee was only for drinking, well the latest news is that you can wear it too. A company in Taiwan has created a multi dollar business from using old coffee grounds to make clothing.
The fabric is made using coffee grounds and with a unique characteristic of being a quick drying material, sportswear companies such as Adidas, Nike and Northface have placed orders for this new type of clothing. There is also plans to extend the range to shoes, blankets and soaps in the future.
You can hear more about it here….
It’s 1st of March today and it has come around so fast. So much has happened in since the beginning of the year in the coffee world and with a new spring month a new chapter begins -always exciting. Out of curiousity we just had a look at March 1 in history to see how things compare today. Makes for interesting reading.
March 1st in History
1780: Pennsylvania becomes the first American state to abolish slavery
1932: The baby son of Charles Lindbergh is kidnapped
1954: First American hydrogen bomb test on the island of Bikini
1966: First ever (crash) landing on Venus took place by the soviet probe Venus 3
1978: Coffin of Charles Chaplin stolen, only months after being buried
March 1st birthdays
1810: Frederic Chopin, Polish composer
1902: Langston Hughes, American poet
1904: Glenn Miller, American bandleader
1910: David Niven, Scottish actor
1927: Harry Belafonte, American singer
1954: Ron Howard, American director
Waste Coffee has many uses but this one is particuarily interesting… Clothing made of Coffee Grounds.
Austrian outdoor supplier Northland has made clothing that contain coffee grounds as a means of neutralising body odours as well as keeping the body cooler. During the manufacturing process the fibres are spun with recycled coffee particles.
You can read more here….
It was fascinating to learn that Issey Miyake’s latest menswear collection for Fall-Winter 2010-2011 was inspired by coffee.
The collection took inspiration from Japan’s coffee shops with their gingham tablecloths and chic baristas. You can read more here: