Coffee is that sassy, caffeine-laden, sent from heaven above brewed beverage that so many of us know, love, and can’t live without. Did you know that coffee is almost 14 centuries old and is a big part of both Ethiopian and Yemenite history? (Now you do!)
Before you can talk about the beverage, you have to talk about the beans. Fun fact, they aren’t beans at all. They are actually the seeds of berries of the Coffea plant. We call them “beans” because they look so gosh darn much like the beans we put in soups and succotash.
The plants that grow these “beans” are tropical evergreen shrubs and the two most common plants are Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta. Arabica beans are prized for their rich, deep flavor while robusta is known for a more bitter and earthy flavor.
Arabica coffee beans are grown in places like North and Central America, Eastern Africa, and Asia, and Robusta beans are grown in central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil.
Getting to Your Cup
Before you have a steaming hot cup of life in your mug, there are lots of steps coffee producers go through. First, the beans are harvested. Most coffee is grown in mountainous regions where beans are picked by hand. That is not the case in Brazil which has a much flatter landscape for growing these plants and these can be harvested mechanically.
The beans are then dried out. They are then milled and hulled which removes the outer berry and reveals the beans aka seeds. These beans are then sorted and graded based on color and size.
Last but certainly not least, the beans are roasted. Roasting the bean is where you get an abundance of flavor and the type of roasting and the length of the roast will determine the flavor. During the roasting process, the heat caramelizes the tannins, the proteins, and the sugars inside giving you a distinct flavor profile.
After roasting, the beans are packaged and then they sent on their way to stores.
Knowing Your Roasts
We’ve all been there. You are standing in the coffee aisle and your eyes cross. How are there this many choices?! Knowing your roasts will help make this decision-making process less stress-inducing and it will make your morning routine more enjoyable. Here is a quick guide:
Light Roast – These beans will have a blond or cinnamon color and will not be shiny as the oils in the bean have not risen to the surface during the roasting process. This type is big on complexity in terms of flavor and light on body in terms of mouthfeel which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, err coffee.
Medium Roast – These are a medium brown colored bean and are slightly sweeter than their light roast counterpart. They have balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity, and all that means is that they are a solid middle ground cup of joe.
Medium-Dark Roast – This type is has a rich, dark color with some oil on the surface of the beans themselves. It will have a more pronounced flavor and aroma paired with a bittersweet aftertaste.
Dark Roast – These beans will be shiny and almost black in color. The aftertaste will be bitter, and the original flavor of the bean almost gone. This type of coffee is all about the roasting method and that flavor is at the forefront of each sip.
Coffee is one of those “consume in moderation” type drinks. The main issue is the caffeine in it which can cause insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and more if consumed in large quantities. In most cases, you will be just fine.
Is coffee a vegetable or fruit?
Trick question! Neither. Coffee beans are part of a fruit (a berry) but they are actually the seed of the plant.
How much coffee a day is good for you?
The general consensus is that 400mg of caffeine a day is acceptable. This translates to about four cups of brewed coffee. And let’s be clear, we are talking about normal-sized mugs of coffee not those giant cups from your favorite local coffee shop.