I’ve always loved coffee, and as a self-proclaimed coffee snob, I thought I knew a lot about my daily brew. Here in Australia, we’re so spoiled for choice with amazing coffee and a strong cafe culture; but I, like most people, only saw half of the picture: the modern cafes, the hipster barista, the finished product in my hand. I never actually considered how much more there was to the world of coffee, and what it took to get me my daily cup. How many of us actually know where our black gold comes from?
Years before starting JOY Organic Coffee Roasters, my wife Patty and I travelled through Central and South America – it was there that we discovered the vast and complex world of the coffee industry… and fell in love with it. We visited coffee farms and local roasters, met the families who worked the land and had a first-hand education in what it took to bring coffee from the farm to your cup.
What IS coffee? Where does it come from?
Coffee is grown in some of the most beautiful parts of the world, known in the coffee industry as the “bean belt” or “coffee belt”, and includes countries like Colombia, Mexico, Indonesia and Ethiopia, to name a few. From our experience in travelling to origin, we were blown away by the beauty of these countries and the people who live there. We were welcomed with open arms to experience the culture and lifestyle that was on offer. The more we learned about the coffee industry and the people behind it, the more we wanted to learn – and the locals were more than happy to give us an inside look into their world.
Most people are surprised to learn that what we call “coffee beans” are actually seeds of a fruit. The coffee cherry houses two seeds which are harvested at different times of the year depending on origin. Each shot of coffee at your local café uses about 80 beans or 22g (depending on roast type and origin) – and if you think about the fact that coffee cherries are mostly picked by hand, it’s amazing to think of the amount of work that goes into one shot of espresso! Taking that thought one step further – each coffee tree produces about 4.5kg/year, which after roasting is about 800g/year. How many coffee trees a year do you need to get your daily espresso?
From harvest to export – what happens next?
Once the cherry is harvested, there are several steps in getting the coffee into your cup. First, cherries are processed to remove the pulp that surrounds the seeds (coffee beans), and can either be wet or natural processed.
At JOY, we source both wet and natural processed beans, always putting quality and consistency first. As all of our coffee is certified organic, and rarer than conventional coffee, we focus a lot of our energy into sourcing the best high-quality beans to serve our customers and our wholesale partners.
The beans are then spread out to be either sun dried, or machine dried, rotated constantly to ensure even drying. One of our favourite things to do while travelling was to walk around different towns and villages to see the coffee drying in the sun. As most coffee producers are small-scale families and co-operatives, you would often see coffee drying in their front yard, rooftop, or garden – it was so amazing to see firsthand how the process happens on the ground.
Beans are then prepared for export: hulled and placed into large 60-70kg bags. Coffee is tested for quality and consistency (called “cupping”), and receives a cupping score from 1-100.
When sourcing coffee we always look for the highest possible cupping score which translates into a complex, flavourful coffee for our customers. If a coffee scores higher than 80 points it is considered specialty coffee. So the next time you’re in your local café, why not ask where your coffee comes from, and what it’s cupping score is?
Your local roaster takes it from there.
When we receive the beans, called “green beans”, we analyse and decide on the best roast profile for the specific variety - each bean gets treated differently. A Colombian coffee will taste completely different to an Ethiopian coffee. Roasters like us are always experimenting with different roast profiles and varieties, to bring you unique flavours and coffees.
Next time you’re at your local café, try asking for a single origin coffee and taste the difference between different origins. For instance, at JOY you can experience different coffees in the café and also to take home. I believe this is where all the fun is in the coffee industry and, as your palette becomes more refined and you notice subtleties in different coffee varieties, you can become the biggest coffee snob you like!
For the love…
I hope you’ve loved getting an insight into the fascinating world of coffee – looking at where it comes from, and the journey coffee beans make before they arrive ready for grinding at your local café.
Join us for our next article, where we talk about how to expand your coffee knowledge and make the perfect cup at home.