The journey starts in the Columbian mountains, Ethiopian rain forests and other plantations throughout the world. Under the watchful eyes of Mother Nature and dedicated farmers, the coffee trees are nurtured to maturity. Their delicate, aromatic coffee bean fruit is then harvested to begin its journey to the coffee shop and ultimately some lucky person’s coffee cup.
The time it takes from planting the coffee tree to the time the coffee bean reaches the shop varies depending on varietal and the processes used in preparing the beans for use. It can take three to four years for the coffee tree to reach maturity, when their deep red clusters of fruit are ready for harvest.
Harvesting of the best coffee beans is done by hand to prevent damage from occurring to the exquisite fruit that ultimately will yield the most supreme coffees. Once harvested, the fruit of the coffee tree is taken back to the processing facility to be prepared for roasting.
The actual coffee bean is located inside the red fruit that is picked from the trees. The extraction of the bean from inside the fruit is completed using an extraction machine; however, some coffee plantations continue to remove the beans manually. Once the extraction process is complete the beans are cleaned of debris before entering the soaking process. The pulp that remains after the extraction of the machine is recycled by using it as fertilizer.
After being cleaned of debris, the beans are ready to go into a water soak. This bathing process allows the beans to ferment which increases their flavor. Not all coffee farmers use this wet process, some farmers move straight to the drying process. Both options produce excellent coffee.
Next, the fermented beans are spread out in the sun to dry. Larger, commercial coffee plantations have mechanical machines to dry the beans; however, coffee aficionados would argue that the machines alter the taste of the coffee; they believe that drying naturally in the sun is the only way to create a truly exquisite bean that will make the perfect cup of coffee.
During the drying process the beans are turned manually and inferior beans removed. These are beans that are cracked, broken, and rotten or disfigured in one or another. At the end of the drying process the coffee beans are husked. This either is a manual process or can be done by machinery. During the hulling, the thick, outer skin of the coffee bean is removed to reveal the true inner beauty, the green coffee bean. These are now ready for roasting and shipping.
The coffee bean is a unique and important commodity that is used around the world on a daily basis. The entire process from tree to coffee pot has been around of hundreds of years. Some coffee plantations have added technology to their processing that allows them to move faster while others believe that mechanization destroys the coffee bean. Ultimately, the consumer will make the final taste test. Regardless of the methods used in getting the coffee bean to the consumer the result is a good morning for coffee drinkers worldwide.