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Where Your Coffee Comes From

Aug 18, 2007
The process that coffee goes through between the plant and your cup is a long and convoluted one indeed. Most people drink coffee for their whole lives without ever thinking about what goes on before it reaches stores.

The countries with the highest output of coffee include Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam. However, almost every country makes at least some coffee. It can grow all over the place, at a variety of altitudes. It is important that it gets plenty of water, and that the growers know what the coffee needs to flourish. Other than that, there are not many restrictions. Coffee plants, or "Coffea Robusta", take several years to fully mature. But once the plants are matured, they produce fruit for almost the entire year, barring any harsh weather.

Most people would not even recognize a coffee plant. The fruits are red and soft, much like cherries or tomatoes. The growers leave these fruits on the plant for several months, as they ripen. Once they are perfect for harvest, they are handpicked. This is necessary, since at any given time there could be fruits in all stages of ripeness. Only human harvesters have the sense to distinguish between the ones that are ready and the ones that need a few more months.

So now they have a bunch of red fruits, but how do they get the coffee beans out? There are several different methods. The first is to dry them out by leaving them in the sun for a few days. Then, the fruits are put through a processing machine that crushes the bean out of the fruit. The second way is to pulp the fruits in a machine, then keep them in large water tanks that dissolve the last of the pulp off of the beans. This method is frequently preferable, since it is said that soaking in the water causes the beans to improve their potency and quality.

With the raw beans taken out one way or another, the processors proceed to sort the beans. Defective beans with poor color, size, or odd shapes are removed from the main batch, and may go to other uses. The good beans are tested for quality and taste, and if they are up to standards, they are shipped out. Usually they are shipped unroasted, then roasted in factories at their country of destination. The roasting is the most important part, and gives the coffee the unique flavor that you enjoy when you buy it from the store.
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