Before a coffee bean is ever ground to give you your morning brew, it has a colorful history behind it. Arabica beans (not to be mixed up with their more intensely caffeinated but less tasty cousin, the Robusta bean) are cultivated at high altitudes in various countries around the world. After planting, it takes five to seven long years before the plant reaches maturity and starts producing its coveted coffee cherries. Ideally picked at the peak of their ripeness, when they sport a deep red color, the cherries are submitted to a variety of methods to remove the fleshy outer portion and leave behind the coffee bean. Of course, not every cherry that’s collected is perfect. Some may be too green, others too ripe, some visited by a local coffee cherry-loving insect. After collection, these less-than-perfect cherries are painstakingly picked out by hand (or some clever machines, or other methods), while the rest move on to the de-pulping stage. But the quest for the best doesn’t end there. The beans are dried and further categorized according to such desirable characteristics as density, size, color and shape, and – like kids in school – they are graded. The crème de la crème of the bunch is known as ‘specialty’ grade, and these are the beans you’ll find in our roastery.
The Baddies of the Bunch
Defective beans are more than just unsightly; they can also impart a bad flavor to a good batch of roasted coffee. Specialty grade coffee is picked over enough times that such imperfect beans – along with sticks, stones, leaves and other contaminants – are kept to a minimum, to ensure a superior final product. Those on the hit list include:
Full black – a green bean that has gone to the ‘dark side’. These usually derive from the collection of overripe cherries that have fallen from the coffee tree.
Partial black – as its names implies, not an entirely black bean.
Dried Cherries – beans that managed to keep their clothes on throughout the collection and processing steps.
Floaters – during one method of sorting, coffee cherries are placed in water. Ripe cherries sink, overripe and unripe cherries float.
Foxy beans – no, not sexy. Just rust colored beans caused by improper processing.
Pales – pasty little beans that can result from drought and which release bad flavors and odors.
Stinkers – party crashers that spoil good coffee with foul tastes.
Quakers – beans that don’t darken during the roasting process. SINGLE ORIGIN COFFEES You may have heard this term before, and it refers to coffees that are not blended, but rather come from a solitary geographic locale. The different conditions of soil, sunshine and rain can impart very unique flavors to coffee beans, which is layered upon the flavors given to them by their processing. In light of this, coffees can have different characteristics based on the growing conditions of that year, although their basic nature remains constant. Did you ever think you might catch a hint of blueberries in a cup of coffee? It can happen. At 23 Degrees Roastery, we carry a number of single origin coffees, roast them to maximize their distinctive flavors, and offer them to you for an exploration of taste.