I’ll admit right now now, I don’t like coffee, don’t need it to get my head out of my bum every morning or to keep me going through a long boring day at work. Amazing, right? Well my secret to do all this is well-guarded so don’t bother asking. 😉

That being said, I am a curious man, and visiting Columbia, it was hard for me to stay away from the gorgeous Zona Cafetera, its peaceful colonial villages and amazing valleys. Hard also not to visit one of the local producers (called fincas) and learn more about this thing that makes so many of us act like the most dangerous junkies if they don’t get their regular dose of it (we’ve all had that colleague/friend that would bite your fingers off if staying too long without coffee, right?).

Read this and you’ll be able to show off to your entourage next time you have a cup of coffee. It’s barrista time!

The plant

  1. There are 17 different species of coffee plants found in nature. Through experimentation, a lot more varieties have been create by man by cross -breeding species. Arabica is the most famous species.
  2. The average plant lives up to 70 years. To boost production, plants are cut down almost entirely every 7-10 years to grow again and provide the best yields. After 3 cycles, the plant is usually replaced.
  3. It takes on average 4 months for a plant to grow its fruits with adequate weather conditions. That means you can harvest grains twice a year usually, 3 when lucky.
  4. First, flowers bloom on the branches and fades. After this first growth comes the grains, green at first and then red once ripe for harvest.

flowers blooming on a coffee treegrains growing on a coffee tree branchripe coffee grains ready to be harvested

 

 

Working the grains

Once harvested, the process of cleaning, drying and roasting the beans starts. I witnessed the artisanal way of doing things so what will come next might take more time than industrial methods for this.

  1. The red shell of the grains is removed and beans are washed several times to remove the juice they are surrounded by.coffee grains been washed
  2. Whiteish beans are then put in a greenhouse to dry for about a month under the sun.
  3. Once properly dried, another smaller shell is removed to finally uncover the bean as we know it.
  4. The beans then enter the very delicate process of roasting, which will give them their familiar black color and make the smell and flavour come out.
  5. Roasting takes about 40 min and is very tricky because of burned bean will contaminate the flavour of the surrounding beans.
  6. There are 3 levels of roasting – low/medium/high – which affects the flavour. The more you roast a bean, the more bitter it will get and the least caffeine it will have (but decaf is not an over-roasted bean, they use chemicals for that).

coffee grains drying under the sunCoffee grains without a shelf, ready to be roastedCoffee beans roasted and ready to be grinded

Conservation

There might be some shocking news here, for the careless conservationist, this will be like a wake-up call, you’ve been warned!

  1. Coffee does not like oxygen, it loses its flavour and properties if left out in the open.
  2. Beans can be kept up to 4 month if properly sealed after each use.
  3. Powder coffee will lose all its properties and flavour if left 1 day out in the open. Sealed properly after use, it can last up to 2 month.

Degustation

  1. Ideal water temperature is 95 degrees Celsius for coffee so after boiling water, wait one minute before filtering it.
  2. Filters are the best traditional system to drink coffee and to ensure all the flavour and properties of the coffee are transferred into the drink. Pre-infuse the coffee powder with a little bit of water (wait 30s) before pouring down the rest.
  3. Expresso machines are apparently pretty bad at getting the most out of the powder cause the pressure system they use doesn’t allow a proper transfer. It gives an unbalanced coffee as the experts say. You mostly get the external properties of coffee (flavour, etc.) and not the internal ones (caffeine, etc).

I hope this article helped you understand better the art of coffee-making and will allow you to enjoy your daily cup even more.

Have a nice cup!