When discussing coffee, you’ll quickly learn that one of the fundamental characteristics of the cup is the origin of the bean. Where was the bean grown? This is an important question of heritage because it has many implications. Perhaps the first thing you would come to recognise are the occurrence of certain locations named, places such as Ecuador, Rwanda, Indonesia, or Ethiopia, for instance. The majority of speciality coffee bean growers are found on, what is known as, The Bean Belt. So called, simply, because it is the belt around the earth where numerous warm, humid, and elevated locations are found. Each of these environmental factors are prefered for a flavourful bean.
These tropical locations, along the equator, are prime for coffee growing. They host the necessary temperatures and elevations, alongside great soil and beneficial precipitation that support growth and taste. And there are associations and general flavour profiles of each country of origin. This is why, when selecting a coffee, your barista will start by describing the bean’s location, or why each bag will have a label of identification. Depending on the bean’s growth, it could be sweet, fruity, nutty, or even spicy. And if you’ve ever felt intimidated by the flavour profile of your cup, looking at the coffee’s origin is the most helpful way to start.
The coffee shrubs used for international production are, most commonly, of two varieties; Arabica and Robusta. The beans grown will then be harvested and processed, to remove the seeds. Processing the bean involves either drying or washing the outer cherry away. Then, once left with the green bean, it is ready to be roasted, which is one of the most significant impacts on the flavour of your coffee. Depending on how your coffee is roasted will depend on the balance of sweetness, acidity, and the overall intensity of your cup. So, if you’re considering a sweet and nutty bean from Brazil, then when it comes to the roasting, you’ll want to make sure that the process supports the desired characteristics.
It is generally understood that each coffee producing country has certain profiles and, aside from certain microclimates, this is mostly true. A coffee bean grown in Brazil is likely going to have a chocolaty and nutty taste, with an underlying sweetness. Ethiopia, depending on the processing method, will oftentimes have a fruity or floral taste, with berry-like notes. Despite its proximity to Ethiopia, Kenya has a strong and distinct flavour sometimes described as tomato-y, marrying a sweet and savoury taste. On the other end of the flavour wheel, an actual diagram often used for profiling, is Indonesia coffee that is renowned for its darker and earthy flavour. There’s also Panama’s Geisha, one of the most infamous and desirable type of coffee. It is an expensive coffee due to its production but it produces a notably complex flavour of sweet fruitiness that is favoured by many.
Each of the factors belonging to a bean’s origin are important to consider. If you are taking steps to learn about the growth and flavour of your coffee bean you will also want to make sure that the way you are using the bean doesn’t degrade the effort put into its creation. All beans and their flavours will have a method of brewing that will be best suited. The process of making coffee, be it by gently pouring water over the grounds or possibly by quickly pressuring it through, you’ll be emphasising certain aspects of the flavour and, if you want your coffee to taste as good as possible, you will want to pick the right method to be paired with the right bean.
So, if you’re preferred method of drinking coffee is an espresso, then you should consider a darker or medium roast. Or, if you want to serve brewed coffee by pouring over the water, then a lighter roast would be appropriate. These, however, are just guidelines, and one of the factors that keeps coffee constantly in popularity is that it is continuously being tested. New varieties and flavours are being discussed all the time, which is why it benefits to have a strong knowledge of production and taste. Your understanding will help you deliver a quality product in a forum where both supplier and customer are becoming quickly educated.
The equipment you use is the most important element to be confident with, both in knowledge and practice. Complementing your favourite Colombian bean with a perfect espresso will require a high-quality and reliable espresso machine. Furthermore, if you want to add milk to the drink, making a silky smooth piccolo, then you will need confidence in your steamer as well as the milk. Highly-regarded suppliers, such as Bibium will be a valuable resource in guiding you through the selection process, both of coffee bean and machine. See here for the top 6 commercial filter coffee machines. In addition to this, if you are interested in a more ambitious machine or perhaps want to reaffirm a basic knowledge, they supply plenty of information as well as select training to assure you are using the machine to its potential. Any selection can produce a great cup of coffee, and whether you are considering a bean to cup machine, a filter, or an espresso machine, it only matters that you feel confident in what kind of drink you want to offer.
There is certainly a lot to learn when it comes to coffee production, but don’t let that deter you from doing so. Begin by learning about the basics and throw yourself into the tasting. If you’re not already familiar with the varieties of coffee flavours then you could start by attending a cupping or simply just changing your usual order. Taking the time to learn about coffee, from its heritage to the cup, is not only a rewarding pursuit in of itself but it will assure that your selection of equipment and coffee bean will be a worthwhile investment. The coffee you serve will benefit, as will all those who drink it – including yourself.