Brazil is the number one producer of Arabica coffee, with over one third of world production. In the second place comes Colombia with its sweet coffee.
Guatemala is a country with a limited but excellent quality production where coffee is very sweet, of regular acidity and with a strong aroma ranging from chocolaty to flowery. This type of coffee is the preferred component for many blends.
Kenya enjoys a mild balanced climate, and thus produces acid, aromatic coffee. It is the best kind to be filtered.
Ethiopia produces coffee with a flowery taste and a touch of caramel. It is the top washed Arabica.
India enjoys a deliciously bitter coffee with a spicy aroma. As for some Latin American countries, coffee is rather sweet with more acidic notes whereas Central America holds the emblematic features of the sweet and light kinds of coffee.
Vietnam and Indonesia are well-known for the Robusta coffee.
Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora are the two most common coffee species, i.e. Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is the most expensive one, and it makes the three-fourths of coffee production around the world. This kind of coffee grows in the tropical and equatorial strips of America, Africa and Asia. Its flavor is scented, sweet and a bit acidic and often chocolaty, with a light hazel to reddish cream and an enjoyable bitter note.
Robusta is resistant to tropical heat and parasites, grows at lower altitudes and has a relatively low cost. It grows in severe environments such as the equatorial rain forest. Robusta coffees have little fragrance and greater bitterness and their froth tends to have a brown-grey color.
It takes one flower only…
Naturally tropical, the coffee plant needs a hot and humid climate to flourish. Three to four years after planting coffee, rains generate the blossoming of beautiful white flowers enjoying the fragrance of sweet jasmine or orange.
The coffee flowers die after few days, bringing the fruit to life and their color changes to red as they ripen. Arabica cherries need about seven months to reach the finest stage of ripeness while Robusta cherries need about 10 months. The cherry normally contains two seeds which are the future green coffee beans.
The blossoming cycle and maturation of coffee plants does not depend on the seasons but on rainfalls and thus, one plant can hold flower blossoms, young fruit and ripe fruit at once.
The "extensive system" is the oldest and most conventional coffee cultivation method and it is still used in Central America and India. Coffee plants grow with other taller plants naturally shading them from the direct sunlight. However, in the "intensive model", followed in Brazil, the coffee plants are tightly packed and need irrigation and mechanization systems.
After harvesting the coffee beans, they are placed in machines to separate the flesh from the seed or "bean". Then, the fermentation process is executed in order to remove the greasy coating off the coffee bean.
Hulling: Wet and dry methods
After harvesting, the cherries are separated from any external strange bodies such as stones, leaves, etc. in case the coffee cherries were gathered by stripping or mechanical methods. The coffee seeds are then taken out from the cherries by either the "wet" process where the fruit is pulped, the hull is removed and the seeds are dried or the "dry" process, where the whole fruit is dried.
The Wet Process
The wet process is the most complicated one. It is originally used for cherries that have been handily-picked. Directly after gathering, the fruit undergoes special pulping, releasing the beans from the cherries. Two or three days of soaking follow the pulping stage: the beans are out in huge water tanks to be “washed“ to completely eliminate the pulp through fermentation.
The fermentation step generates a series of chemical reactions that improve the flavor quality of the roasted coffee. The beans are then sun-dried and the outer parchment is removed.
The Dry Process
This process is commonly used if coffee cherries have been harvested mechanically or by manual stripping. The cherries are spread out on threshing floors and dried in the sun for about twenty days. Afterwards, hulling machines are used to free the beans from the hull and parchment once the skin, flesh, and seeds have completely dried. The dry method produces what we call “unwashed” coffees.
The outcome of both processes is fruit transformed into green coffee.