The Global Coffee Industry – For much of the world, coffee forms a daily ritual that starts the day, provides a boost during work and completes a delicious meal.
For this reason, coffee is now a $100 billion global industry – second only to oil as the most traded commodity. Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the U.S. the leading consumer of coffee worldwide. Over 53 countries grow coffee. All of them lie in the tropical zone on either side of the the equator. In the U.S., coffee is grown on the major islands of Hawaii and on the rich volcanic soil of Puerto Rico.
Robusta versus Arabica – There are two major types of coffee:
- Robusta is grown in warmer and lower elevations and often includes many large supermarket brands
- Arabica is grown in higher elevations (usually 3,000-6,000 ft) and characterizes most premium coffees.
Demand for Arabica – Coffee lovers around the world seek out quality Arabica coffee, primarily from specialty coffee purveyors. Arabica consumption has grown consistently at double-digit rates, despite rising prices that grew 100% in the last year. Global demand for Arabica continues to skyrocket as countries like China, India and Brazil transition from tea to coffee.
The Coffee Plant – Three to four years after the coffee tree is planted, sweet-smelling flowers emerge which are pollinated to produce fruit. A coffee cherry matures as it changes from green to bright deep red – around 30 to 35 weeks after flowering.
Harvesting – During the dry season, the ripe, red cherries are picked by hand. Mechanized methods are rarely used for high-end coffees because machines cannot distinguish ripe fruit from green. A picker typically harvests 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherry each day, which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans.
Processing – In some regions, the freshly picked cherries are simply spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. In other regions, the green berries (which float on water) are removed before the ripe berries are mashed through a screen to become pulped. The pulp and coffee beans are separated by centrifugal force. The coffee beans (which are actually the seeds) are briefly fermented (to remove the slick layer of mucilage) then dried to reach 11 percent moisture content. The dried beans are further processed to be husked, polished, graded and sorted. Unsatisfactory beans are removed.
Export – The milled beans, commonly called “green coffee,” are loaded onto ships for transport to the importing country. The green coffee is shipped in jute or sisal bags which are loaded into shipping containers.
Roasting – Roasting produces the dark aromatic beans that delight the senses. Roasting occurs at a very high heat. The beans are traditionally tumbled in a rotating drum to keep them from burning. When they reach 400 degrees internally, they turn brown as the oil locked inside emerges.
Grinding – The proper grind releases the maximum flavor from a cup of coffee. How coarse or fine depends on the brewing method. Quickly brewed, i.e. an espresso machine, demands a finer grind than a slowly brewed drip approach. Today’s coffee lovers grind their coffee at home with each brew.
Concluding Thought – When you consider the long journey your coffee has made – from farmer to your table – prepare your coffee thoughtfully and enjoy it with pleasure.
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