that Traveled Around the World...
story of coffee begins in the highlands of Ethiopia, the
home of the wild coffee plant. Its descendants, named Coffea arabica, account for two thirds of world
Exactly when the properties of the roasted
bean were discovered, however, is uncertain. Nevertheless, arabica coffee was being cultivated on the Arabian
Peninsula by the 15th centure C.E. Despite a prohibition
on the export of the fertile bean, the Dutch acquired
either trees or live seeds in the year 1616. They soon
established plantations in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and
Java, now part of Indonesia.
In 1706 the Dutch transported a young tree from their
estates in Java to the botanical gardens in Amsterdam, the
Netherlands. The tree flourished. Its descendants were
then shipped to Dutch colonies in Suriname and the
Caribbean. In 1714 the mayor of Amsterdam gave King Louis
XIV of France one descendant. The king had it planted in a
greenhouse at the Jardin des Plantes, the Royal Garden, in
Paris. The French were eager to enter the coffee trade.
They purchased seeds and trees and shipped them to the
island of Reunion. The seeds failed to grow, and according
to some authorities, all but one of the trees eventually
Nevertheless, 15,000 seeds from that one tree were
planted in 1720, and a plantation was finally established.
So valuable were these trees that anyone found destroying
one was subject to the death penalty! The French also
hoped to establish plantations in the Caribbean, but their
first two attempts failed.
Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, a French naval officer on leave
in Paris, made it his personal mission to take a tree to
his estate in Martinique on his return voyage from France.
He sailed for the island in May 1723 with a descendant of
the Paris tree.
For the trip, de Clieu placed his precious plant in a box
made partly of glass so that the tree could absorb
sunlight and remain warm on cloudy days, explains All
About Coffee. A fellow passenger, who may have been
envious of de Clieu and who did not want him to enjoy the
glory of success, tried to wrest the plant from him but
failed. The tree survived. It also survived the ship's
encounter with Tunisian pirates, a violent storm and,
worst of all, a shortage of fresh water when the ship
became becalmed in the Doldrums. "Water was lacking to
such an extent," wrote de Clieu, "that for more than a
month I was obliged to share my scanty ration with the
plant upon which my happiest hopes were founded and which
was the source of my delight."
De Clieu's devotion was rewarded. His charge arrived in
Martinique in good health, and it thrived and multiplied
in the tropical environment. "From this single plant,
Martinique supplied seed directly or indirectly to all the
countries of the Americas except Brazil, French Guiana and
Suriname," states Gordon Wrigley in his book Coffee.
Meanwhile, Brazil and French Guiana also wanted coffee
trees. In Suriname, the Dutch still possessed descendants
of the Amsterdam tree but kept them closely guarded. In
1722, however, French Guiana obtained seeds from a felon
who had escaped into Suriname and stole some seeds. In
exchange for his seeds, the authorities in French Guiana
agreed to give him freedom, and they repatriated him.
Initial, furtive attempts to get viable seeds or seedlings
into Brazil failed. Then Suriname and French Guiana became
involved in a border dispute and asked Brazil to provide
an arbitrator. Brazil dispatched Francisco de Melo Palheta,
an army officer, the French Guiana, instructing him to
settle the dispute and to bring home some coffee plants.
The hearings were a success, and the governor gave Palheta
a farewell banquet. As a gesture of appreciation for this
guest of honor, the governor's wife presented Palheta with
a beautiful bouquet. Hidden among the flowers, however,
were viable coffee seeds and seedlings. Hence, it could be
said that in 1727, Brazil's now billion-dollar coffee
industry was born in a bouquet.
Thus, the young tree that went from Java to Amsterdam in
1706, together with its offspring in Paris, furnished all
the planting material for Central and South America.
Explains Wrigley: "Consequently the whole genetic base of
the Arabica coffee industry is very narrow."
Today, over 25 million family farms in some 80 countries
grow an estimated 15 billion coffee trees. Their product
ends up in the 2.25 billion cups of coffee that are
consumed each day.
A coffee bean is the seed of the
coffee plant (the
pit inside the red or purple fruit). The fruits,
coffee cherries or coffee berries, most commonly contain
two stones with their flat sides together. Coffee beans
consist mostly of
endosperm that contains 0.8 - 2.5 %
caffeine, which is one of the main reasons the plants
are cultivated. Coffee beans are an important
export product for some countries.
origin of the Arabic qahwa (قهوة), is uncertain. It
is either derived from the name of the
Kaffa region in southern
Ethiopia, where coffee was cultivated, or by a
truncation of qahwat al-būnn, meaning "wine of the
bean" in Arabic.
coffee plant include Coffea arabica, Coffea
benghalensis, Coffea canephora, Coffea
congensis, Coffea excelsa, Coffea gallienii,
Coffea bonnieri, Coffea mogeneti, Coffea
liberica, and Coffea stenophylla. The seeds of
different species produce
coffee with slightly different characteristics.
arabica accounts for about 75% of the world's coffee
trade, while Coffea canephora (syn. Coffea
robusta) is cultivated where Coffea arabica
does not thrive, and Coffea liberica and Coffea
excelsa are grown in limited areas.
Bean to Cup
In a crop of
coffee, a small percentage of cherries contain a single
bean, instead of the usual two. This is called a
when ripe are either hand picked (usually on the smaller
independent farms) or my machines which shake the branches
causing the cherries to fall into a collection tray. Once
harvested, the beans must have their outer layers removed
to expose the coffee bean inside. One of two methods is
used to remove the outer layers. The ‘wet process’
involves the cherries being mechanically pulped and then
placed in a fermentation tank for between 12 and 36 hours
to loosen the parchment from the slippery outside layers
of the cherry. The parchment layer, which still remains
attached to the seed is then left to dry for 12 to 15 days
in big open sunny areas, during which time they are turned
several times a day to ensure even drying. The parchment
then rots away from the seed. The ‘dry processes’
basically involves the harvested cherries being left in
the sun for a period of about 4 weeks and then hulling the
dried up parchment layers to reveal the beans.
beans has been extracted, the beans are sorted and graded
by size and density. This process also removes any
unwanted materials such as twigs, small stones, etc. Once
sorted, the beans are bagged and then transported to large
storage depots ready to be shipped around the world.
beans, when they arrive at their destination are again
warehoused ready to be distributed to the roasters. It is
now up to the roasters to skillfully extract the best
possible taste from the bean by means of heating them.
numerous devices for roasting beans but they all do the
same, heat the bean to a high temperature in order for a
chemical reaction to take place inside the beans that in
turn produces the coffee flavor we all love.
the roasting style required the bean will be heated to
between 210 degrees centigrade and 240 degrees centigrade.
During this heating, the bean will double its size and
turn from a green bean, to a brown to very dark brown
color. About 20% of the beans mass will also be lost
during this process. Also during the process of heating,
the bean will begin to pop (like popcorn). Depending on
the stage of popping and the color of the roasted bean,
this is what the roaster will be using to determine the
roasting style of the bean.
bean has reached the required styles the roaster is
looking for, the beans are cooled, either by water (mist
spraying them) or by air (the most common method). The
beans can then be ground immediately for consumption or
left as whole beans for later grinding.