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From Plantation to Mug, Coffee Lovers Follow that Bean

Shelly Cone, March 3, 2014
Coffee lures some people out of bed. Sipping a bold cup is a requirement before some people can use their words in the morning. Others just enjoy a mid-day pick me up. Millions of people enjoy, rely on or are addicted to coffee. It’s a beloved morning ritual. But, have you ever given thought to where that magnificent libation comes from?

More than 2.25 billion cups are consumed daily all over the world. Most coffee use the Arabica or Robusta beans. There are a lot of legends that explain how coffee became a part of our culture. One legend has it that human cultivation of coffee began after goats in Ethiopia were seen mounting each other after eating the leaves and fruits of the coffee tree. Another tells the tale of a man who began to chew on the beans only to find they were bitter, he lean roasted them only to realize the beans were too hard. Then he boiled them and discovered an enticing brown liquid that sustained him for several days. Of course those are just legends but surely, as a coffee addict you know the powers of bean.
Much of the process starts in places like Ethiopia, Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam or Indonesia where the beans are picked, sorted and screened. In fact more than 90 percent of coffee production happens in developing countries. In some parts of the world this is done by hand, but in others, especially for large commercial production, mechanization helps this along.

The berries are separated from their flesh to reveal the seeds. The seeds then go through a fermentation process. Then they are dried, sorted, labeled as green coffee beans and sold.

Still they are not the coffee beans we so long to have in our cup. They must go through yet more processing before they make the coffee. To make for longer shelf life the beans are sold green to commercial coffee makers who will roast them. They are sold to places like Starbucks at one of its roasting plants like the one near Seattle, Washington or Peet’s Coffee at its roasting plant in Alameda, California.

Once at the roasting plant the beans embark on the next step to becoming wonderful fuel for your day. But before they hit your cup they have to be roasted. The roasting process is what gives the coffee beans their flavor.
The process consists of sorting, roasting, cooling the beans and finally packaging. The beans are conveyed to a roaster, given the proper roast then they are dumped from the roasting chamber and cooled. Degrees of roast vary and take into consideration such as things as coffee’s origin, variety, processing method, or desired flavor characteristics.

Roasting can actually diminish the amount of caffeine in the coffee slightly. The original flavor of the beans also diminishes. With a lighter roast you’ll get more of the flavor that results from the bean’s origin and the effect of soil, weather conditions and the variety of bean itself. With increased roast you actually taste more of the roast.

From a the light bodied, cinnamon flavor of a light roast to the caramel flavors of a medium roast, to the bittersweet flavor of dark roast, it all takes place at the roasting facility before being sent to your favorite coffee house. For a place like Starbucks that means throughout the United States, Canada or as far away as China. Other place like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf the beans can go from their roasting facility to locations all from California and as far flung as Israel, Cambodia, Mongolia and Qatar.

After a quick grind and brew the bean hits your cup and your day begins.

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