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The Bean
by Sara Perry, from "the Complete Coffee Book," published by Chronicle Books, 1991.


Most plants first bloom, then bear fruit. The small, shrublike coffee tree does both at once, blooming with jasmine-scented white flowers at the same time that it bears ripe replica watches for sale and unripe fruit. This odd natural quirk makes growing coffee extremely labor intensive. On plantations where quality coffee is grown, each picker must return to the same tree several times a year to handpick only the ripe, crimson berries.

Your coffee's rich, dark brew begins with two seeds growing inside the coffee tree's fruit, or "cherry." Resembling a cranberry in size and shape, the cherry has a sweet pulp and two flat-sided seeds. These seeds are protected by a silky opaque covering, called the silverskin, and a parchment-like husk. (When only one round bean develops inside the cherry, it is called a peaberry.)

A healthy coffee tree produces five pounds of green beans a year, or about two thousand handpicked beans. Of these, perhaps four hundred beans are top quality, plucked over the course of a season with painstaking work. Compared to this, your purchase of a pound of coffee is a rather effortless task.

Tolerant, easy to please, coffee trees grow in almost any soil, but thrive in areas rich with volcanic minerals. In the seventeenth century, wild coffee trees from the highlands of Ethiopia were transported to the tropics. Today, they flourish as cultivated plants. The rainy season nurtures their growth, the sun ripens their fruit, Fake Watches and their beans at these lower altitudes mature in two to three months.

Although there are many species of coffee trees, only one produces exceptional coffee. Coffea arabica, which was first found growing in Yemen centuries ago, is the sole species of quality beans. The most widely cultivated coffee plant, arabica thrives at higher altitudes, where its beans mature slowly and have time to develop body and density. At these higher altitudes, they may take six or seven months, but this slower rate of fruit maturation gives the beans more time to develop flavor. Slower-maturing, high-density arabica beans are referred to as hard beans.

Coffea robusta is the type you are most likely to drink when you follow instructions to "add hot water and stir." Discovered in Africa toward the end of the nineteenth century, robusta is relatively new to the coffee industry but its role is significant. Because of its hardiness, high yield, and ability to grow at lower altitudes, its beans are cheaper to produce. This makes them ideal for blending with arabicas and for use in instant coffee. For those who like caffeine, robustas have twice as much kick as arabicas. Alas, their flavor tends to be harsh and pungent.

Depending on the type of coffee you drink, your beans have traveled from a very different part of the world Ray-Ban Sunglasses and have been processed in one of two very different ways. One process is called dry; the other is called wet.

The dry method is the oldest and most natural. It is also the cheapest. The fruit either dries on the tree, or the tree is shaken or stripped and its ripe and unripe fruit spread out to dry and shrivel in the sun. Workers rake the beans several times during a two- to threeweek period to make sure they dry evenly, put them through a milling machine to separate the debris from the beans, then grade them and ship them offto roasters.

In certain countries where inferior harvesting methods are practiced, and trees are shaken or stripped instead of handpicked, underdeveloped or imperfect beans are collected along with ripe ones. This not only creates inferior coffee, it also injures the trees. Most inferior coffees are processed using the dry method, but there are highquality coffees processed dry in areas where water is scarce. Indonesian and Ethiopian coffees are two examples.

The wet method is used with handpicked, fully ripe, quality beans. These are the washed beans carried by specialty stores. The beans are steeped and allowed to ferment for up to twenty-four hours in large tanks. Water is gently sprayed over them to remove the pulp and any debris. Then they are dried in the sun on large patios or in commercial tumble dryers. Finally, a hulling machine removes the protective silverskin that adheres to the bean's surface, and men and women patiently grade them by size, shape, and quality, pack them in 60 kilogram Replica Bell & Ross Watches (approximately 132-pound) bags, and ship them to roasters around the world. Eventually, their long journey ends in the home of a coffee drinker like you.

NAME YOUR BEAN. When you buy coffee, you are confronted with exotic names that either indicate the country of origin or how long the bean was roasted.

Arabica beans are identified by their geographical origin. Pure and unblended, they possess the characteristic flavor and aroma of their native soil. Further geographical appellations name the district, plantation, or port from which the beans were shipped. A coffee labeled Ethiopian Harrar tells you these beans were grown near the city of Harrar in Ethiopia.

Names such as French, Viennese, and Italian refer to the amount of roasting the beans received. They are the darkest beans and they have been roasted the longest time. The beans themselves come from different countries and are usually blended to give the best each country has to offer. A Viennese Mexican tells you pure Mexican beans were roasted longer than usual. The next chapter tells you how to distinguish between roasts.

Retailers also mix and name their own blends. These names have little to do with bean content but relate to the seller's personal preferences. Alaska has yet to grow a coffee bean, Fake Watches but Yukon Blend is a popular Northwest coffee. If you find yourself floundering in a sea of roasts, blends, and beans, find a retailer who posts written descriptions or provides free taste samples.

 

 
   
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