While enjoying a good cup of coffee is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine what long way there is upstream of a couple of sips. Nevertheless the steps of transformation, but also the nations and continents crossed, are so numerous that we can rightly speak of a real “journey” of coffee, from the field to our cup.
The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub belonging to the family of the Rubiaceae of the genus Coffea. The coffee is grown from mountain slopes to the sea coasts, in full sun or shadow, protected by dense foliage of trees, semi-sylvan or in large intensive plantations. As the pedoclimatic conditions vary (soil, microclimate, shadow or sun, etc.) the intrinsic qualities of the coffee bean and the finished product will change accordingly.
When the fruits reach full ripeness, they must be collected almost immediately, a procedure that is not simple, considering that the cherries (the outer envelope enclosing the two beans) do not mature at the same time.
After being processed and dried, before being bagged, the coffee is cleaned by destoners, to eliminate, through the aspiration of beans, pebbles, dust and topsoil. Any metal bodies are removed using magnets. The selection of the beans is carried out through the use of sifting machines, which subdivide them by size (from 4 to 8 mm) and shape (flat, round or malformed).
In many countries, once completed the cleaning and sorting phases, the so-called raw or green coffee is selected manually. Personnel responsible for the selection, with the help of simple baskets or selecting them through a conveyor belt, remove the beans with particular defects. In producing countries, before marketing, coffee is classified based on external appearance and genetic (origin, botanical species, year of harvest, grain form, color, size, just to name a few) and its organoleptic characteristics. After the selection, the coffee is weighed, bagged in jute or sisal sacks and stored, ready to be exported (generally in sacks of 60 kg).
Behind the cup of coffee you taste at the bar, at home or in the office and behind each technical transformation step, there is a world that involves countless professionalism and various types of services: in addition to the professionals mentioned so far, think of the financial markets (London and New York, for example) that daily determine the market benchmark for green coffee, to the carriers, the shipping companies, to the brokers, the trading companies, the insurance, to specialized shippers, up to roasters. The boarding of coffee from the producing countries, its transport by ship and all the landing operations in the various ports of the consuming countries are the less known phases, but no less important, of the coffee route from the plant to the cup. In the port of landing then, the coffee is emptied from the container for its storage, is weighed and sampled, to verify both the weight and quality, according to the description of the origin or the purchase contract and its compliance with sanitation requirements.
Green coffee is an agricultural product, therefore can be subjected to qualitative variations which, if not managed before roasting, can negatively influence the final taste of the beverage; for this reason, it’s paid a lot of attention during the initial selection and correspondence between the goods purchased by contract and the one reached at the purchaser’s destination.
The roasting process is one of the fundamental steps in the processing of coffee beans. As well as to making green coffee ready for consumption, it gives each blend its peculiar characteristic, in terms of both aromatic and organoleptic profile. The roasting of the beans, more than a technical skill is a true art.
We need a long training to become experienced roasters. As a painter combines colors to give new shades, so the master roaster mixes different kinds of coffee to create new compositions.
To perform the roasting operation there are two methods: the industrial one and the artisanal one. The two techniques differ in the intensity of the heat and in the toasting times. The slowness of the artisanal method is considered the only way to bring out the sophistication and complexity of top-quality coffees.
Coffee is the most loved drink in the world: it is estimated that every year no more than 100 million sacks of coffee beans are consumed, transformed into the famous elixir and tasted in the most varied ways. Different methods and rites have been developed all over the world to taste coffee: in the Middle East, in Greece and the Balkan countries, the “Turkish” method is widespread, in the Scandinavian countries they consume it boiled and filtered, in the United States the Filter Coffee is the most used preparation, in Japan, they drink it in cans also, in Italian houses we find Moka. In this panorama of preparations, the Italian espresso (not to be confused with the homemade preparation through the Moka) stands out for being the method that manages to extract from the beans, thanks to Italian technology, a true concentrate of flavors and aromas. Its cream, the aroma, the body and the taste are the four unmistakable characteristics that differentiate espresso from other preparations. Its name (espresso) stands for the preparation technique itself, because it means that the coffee is prepared “expressly for the customer”, at the moment of its request. With about fifty grains of toasted coffee, finely ground, brewed by hot water at high pressure, not only is the so popular black beverage, but also a concentrate in which a thoU.S.A.nd aromatic substances are released that make the espresso unique. Besides, the sensations it returns in the cup do not end at the moment of tasting, but persist for a long time.
A great mixture, however, is not enough to taste a great coffee and a wrong step in the brewing process may nullify all its journey and the work of skilled hands that have processed it. The experience of those who prepare the drink, combined with the correct equipment and professionalism of their use, will make every sip of your beloved coffee a truly unforgettable experience.