To most people, coffee is the tiny brown beans you catch a glimpse of as your barista sets out to grind a new batch. Many of us fail to acknowledge or understand that coffee does not just sprout out of the ground, ready to be brewed into our morning ‘pick me up’. There is an entire process, some may even say an art, to harvesting coffee. Coffee beans are harvested during the dry season when the weather is hot and rain is nowhere in sight. What many do not know is that these brown beans do not just appear. In fact, they are first bright red cherries. These cherries are hand picked off of trees despite their level of ripeness. But not to worry, your favorite coffee shop is not giving you unripe or overripe beans as they are later sorted out, by hand.
The coffee bean which we know and love so much is actually the seed of the cherry. Once these cherries are picked, they are dried out and then husked, leaving only the bean behind. There are different methods to removing the beans, from sun drying them to peeling only some of the shell and leaving some fruit behind. Each technique provides a different flavor profile. For instance, the process which involves leaving the bean covered in a bit of its fruit provides a more creamy and earthy flavor, while the sun dried process leaves a more fruity flavor.
Despite the variances in drying and picking techniques, one thing is certain. The road from cherry to roasted bean to our cup is a long one. But clearly, it is worth it. Keep an eye out for my next post where I’ll be discussing the process of roasting coffee beans!