Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Basic Training Part 4: General Information and Propagation

Growth and processing of coffee is made up of many steps, but can be organized into four categories: proliferation, harvest, processing, and grading (some also include a decaffeination step). Coffee is classified in the family Rubiacee, in the Genus Coffea, and is divided into two main species: Arabica and Robusta. General characteristics of each are:

Growth Climate: tropics near equator at altitudes between 980 yards to 1.2 miles at a temperature between 59F and 75F.
Characteristics: can grow to be 3-6 yards tall. Arabica prefers climate variation, but are less resistant to disease. Arabica produces a less bitter smelling or severe tasting product than Robusta. Also, Arabica is self-pollinating.

Growth Climate: tropics near equator at altitudes between 220 to 660 yards at temperatures between 75F and 84F.
Characteristics: can grow to be 8-14 yards tall, but are trimmed to 4 yards on plantations for harvesting convenience. Robusta prefers steady climates, but is more resistant to disease. Caffeine content is about 2-3% higher than Arabica. Also, Robusta is pollinated by insects drawn to its flowers.

Depending on the origin of each coffee, its character will differentiate. From spicy and smoky notes to fruity and flowery, each coffee’s profile will be unique based on its growing season, roast, and preparation. Every coffee tree grows flowers that last a few days. After the flowers wane, a cherry (or drupe) is produced. The cherry develops gradually: from green to yellow, to dark red when ripe. If the cherry is left on the tree too long though, it will begin to degrade into a dark brown color. The cherry itself is made up of five main components.

The first part of the cherry is the outer covering, the exocarp, which would be considered the “fruit” section. Immediately underneath is the mesocarp, a very thin jelly-like layer. Still inside are the seeds, or beans. The beans are wrapped in a substantial white colored endocarp, commonly called the “parchment”. Beneath the endocarp, totally encasing the individual beans is a thin layer called the silverskin. Finally, wrapped in the previous four encasings, are the beans. Arabica seeds are usually elongated with an “S” shaped crack down the middle. Robusta seeds are much more round and have a straight groove down their middle. They are usually grayish brown instead of Arabica’s blue-green tint.

Lord, thank you for this amazing fruit. Please keep me learning and advancing my understanding of it. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

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