A brief overview of coffee from around the world
Around 7 billion kilograms of coffee is sold around the world each year, and of this, it’s estimated that around 10% is specialty grade coffee, which means it meets particular standards for quality and taste.
All coffee is grown in countries located between the two tropics – this area is commonly called the ‘bean belt’ and can broadly be split into three continents, the Americas, Africa and Asia. The producing countries grow the coffee seeds on farms, which are then processed in washing stations and mills ready for export.
In this article, we’ll briefly explain the journey of bean to cup with a focus on specialty coffee beans.
So, where did it all start?
Coffee was discovered around 700AD and is a shrub native to Ethiopia. The Arabica varietal grows best at altitudes above 1,000m and prefers well-nourished soil and shady growing environments. Its more resilient cousin, the Robusta varietal, grows happily at low altitude in full sunshine and is more resistant to disease and pests. Generally, it doesn’t have the complex taste characteristics of the more fickle Arabica but it does have twice the caffeine content.
Coffee beans are the shrub’s seed and two grow within the cherry, which is a fleshy fruit that grows in bunches that when ripe turn to either a bright red or yellow, depending on the varietal. The ripe cherries are selected and picked by hand and brought down off the mountains in baskets where they are weighed.
In the processing stations and coffee mills, the skin, flesh and parchment are removed so just the seed can be dried in the sun for export.
The movement of coffee around the world
Organised coffee distribution was focused on the port of Mocha in Yemen in the early years. Coffee travelled up the Arabian peninsula and coffee ceremonies became part of the Arabic culture – its enlivening properties when imbibed were helpful for late-night prayer and became ritualistic in Muslim countries where alcohol is forbidden.
European travellers enjoyed the ‘arabian wine’ and soon coffee beans were being exported around the world. Despite the Arabian’s protectionist efforts baby plants were soon also being moved to other continents where they flourished and created new incomes for European colonials. Generally, it’s the green beans that are exported – coffee is usually roasted in the consuming country.
The roasting journey
Green beans are dense and rock hard with a woody / vegetal aroma. Roasting the beans takes between 8 and 15 mins, depending on varietal, during which a series of complex reactions take place creating the exciting and flavoursome tastes and aromas.
Moisture content is dramatically reduced and the escaping steam creates a ‘crack’, which sounds a bit like popcorn.
A roaster’s role is to select the right green beans for sale from importers; then to roast the coffee to the correct profile – a careful manipulation of temperature in the roaster over time. Then they pack and distribute to consumers. Once the coffee is roasted it has a relatively short life before it becomes stale as oxygen and moisture damages the flavoursome oils. Whole bean coffee is at its best for around four weeks as it has a smaller surface area. Ground coffee will stale in a few hours if exposed to air.
amamus only roasts speciality coffee beans in small batches by hand – in this way we can roast particular beans to profile that emphasises their regional characteristics. Then we pack by hand into branded bags or containers (preferable to reduce waste).
If you are looking for a better specialist coffee for your business, learn more about the sectors that we serve here.
How origin affects coffee taste
Despite all coffee plants being from the same ancestor, a combination of terrain, climate, differing farming/processing cultures and genetic manipulation changes the taste dramatically in different regions around the world.
- Coffees from the Americas are characterised by nutty flavours with mild acidity and balanced flavour profile.
- African coffees are bright and acidic with a medium body.
- Asian coffees are earthy and full-bodied with chocolate and spiced flavours.
One of the great joys of coffee is exploring the differing taste profiles – particularly those which are great examples of their region. amamus helps clients to select the right taste profile for their business. But many of our clients change their speciality coffee beans at set periods to enjoy the full breadth of flavours from around the world.
“amamus provides us with an excellent service, delivering freshly roasted delicious coffee to us every few weeks. We no-longer have to visit the local coffee shop to get a decent cup. Clients often comment on how good our coffee is.” Managing Director at a Mayfair Investment Bank, client of amamus
How important is a coffee machine?
Coffee growing and production shares many similarities with wine viniculture and viticulture. But, whilst wine can be finished, bottled and distributed to the end consumer, ground coffee beans need to be mixed with water in a carefully controlled process before drinking. This process is called extraction and broadly there are three main methods that all involve dissolving the desired elements from the coffee bean into your beverage and separating it away from the fibrous non-soluble properties.
Full immersion is where the coarsely ground coffee is steeped in water such as a Cafetiere. Filter or pour-over is where coffee moves through a bed of medium grounds at a precise speed using gravity. Pressure extraction is where water is forced through fine grounds under pressure.
The development of machine technology to control extraction has perhaps removed many coffee drinkers from the natural origins of their cup. Each different method of extraction creates a different taste profile (even from the same bean) and brings its own operational / cost / practical considerations. We help our clients to understand their options and which combination of machines might be right for the different areas within your business.
Click here to learn more about how we provided Colten Care with bespoke speciality coffee beans, from sourcing to roasting, packaging and their Bravilor bean-to-cup espresso machines >>
How we help clients choose the optimum speciality coffee solution
Our starting point is to only supply only specialty coffee beans. Without hard labour, investment and knowledge development at a farm level, coffee farming simply isn’t sustainable.
We believe our farmers should be paid a fair wage that builds farming communities and encourages the next generation to want to farm. This means paying a little more for our coffee; but the cost is based on quality and taste – a win for the farmer and a win for our clients.
We take a bespoke approach, which starts with a friendly chat with prospects to understand their coffee ambition, operational resources and taste preferences. Then we create a tailored proposal with tried-and-tested machines and coffees that we’ve personally selected, roasted by hand and then pack and deliver to our clients’ specifications.
We don’t do ‘off the shelf’’ and we don’t sell commodity coffee as we simply don’t believe that is what companies who are ‘on a mission’ want. We do sell exceptionally good value coffee that comes with strong ethical credentials and we guarantee we will delight your customers, members or team. Learn more about the 4 stages of the amamus coffee journey here.
If your business is ready to start the rewarding journey of using speciality coffee beans, get in contact with our team by calling us on 0330 133 0281 or emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We also regularly update our Linkedin with the latest news and coffee news, check it out here.