Coffee Bean Flavor Starts With Climate and Growing Region

There are many factors that influence the flavor of coffee beans.  Ultimately the nuances we coffee geeks (aka coffee professionals) look for start with the soil the trees are grown in.  There are other factors that come into play such as climate, soil, rain, sun, harvesting, processing, storage and roasting that all play a role in why coffee tastes the way it does.  And we are not talking about flavors like vanilla-hazelnut or chocolate cream pie surprise; those types of ‘flavors’ are additives added after roasting (actually the beans are soaked in a flavor concentrate and absorb the flavor…ewww!)  Nothing natural about that!  However in this discussion, we will focus on the coffee origin that starts with climate and region.  After all, that is where it all starts.

There are several countries that produce Arabica coffee beans.  Obviously they cannot be grown in every country or they would be.  Coffee beans need to have the right climate and altitude in order to survive.  Each country must be located in a geographical zone capable of sustaining a coffee tree.  The optimal climate has to fall into one of two categories:  subtropical or equatorial.

The subtropical region boasts an altitude of 1800-3600 ft.  This would include parts of Brazil like the Sao Paulo state as well as Zimbabwe in Africa and Mexico.  The climate conditions allow for one growing season and one maturation season because of the equal rainy and dry seasons.

The equatorial regions with an altitude of 3600-6300 ft would be those found in say Ethiopia, Kenya and Colombia.  These regions haven’t any dry season so all drying of processed coffee beans has to be done by mechanical means not by mother nature.  She is not so dependable when you need 4 wks to dry coffee outside on a patio and the rain is not letting up.  The upside is that frequent rainfall allows for two harvesting seasons.

When you actually break down the origin by continent, you would have a list as follows:

North America and the Caribbean – Hawaii is known mainly for Kona coffee which gets its much sought after characteristics from the rich volcanic soil.  The Mexican states of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas boast a cup of coffee with a wonderful aroma and a depth of flavor, often with a pronounced sharpness.  Puerto Rican coffee is known for its balanced body, acidity and fruity aroma.

Central America – Guatemalan coffee beans are medium-to-full bodied coffees that usually have a depth and complexity of taste that is almost spicy, nutty or chocolaty.  Costa Rica is known for coffee that is a perfect balance and full bodied.  Panama coffees are anywhere from intensely acidy to delicately and brightly floral.

South America – Colombian coffees are generally mild, with a well-balanced acidity and overall sweetness while Brazil, still sweet to taste tends to offer a more low-acid, medium bodied coffee.

Africa and the Middle East – Ethiopia has three main growing regions for coffee beans which are Sidamo, Harer and Kaffa.   When tasted, Ethiopian coffee tends to be full flavored, a tad ‘earthy’, taste of berries, winey in character and full bodied.  Kenya coffee is sharp with a fruity acidity.  Kenyan also offers a full body and rich fragrance.

Arabia – Yemen is a deep and rich flavored coffee.  Fun fact – Mocha Java was an accidental blend of Arabian coffee and beans from the island of Java.

Asia – Indonesia is known for the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi (Celebes) that produce a rich, full body and mildly acidic coffee.  Vietnam produces mainly Robusta coffee.  Vietnamese coffee has a light acidity and mild body with a good balance. It is usually used for blending, especially in espresso blends.

When we roasters blend coffee beans to come up with something original, we usually start with a flavor profile that we want to accomplish and work backwards.  That is why having a working knowledge of all types of coffees is a good prerequisite for blending.  Of course you will have your ‘purists’ that say if a Guatemalan Estate coffee cups at a score of 90, why not let it stand on its own?  They don’t agree with blending and say it’s a way to cover up defects in the cup.  Well true it does that, however I do not believe that anyone would intentionally do that.  This profession has so much passion that I believe anyone in it is in it 100%.  By that, I feel that we are all striving for our absolute best so we go out of our way to ensure the product meets or exceeds every expectation.  I believe that blending gives a certain creativity to a roaster that would only be available in a particular roasting profile.

Having said that I happen to favor the single origin coffees more than the blends.  It’s a quest each season to get as many bags of the best estate and single farm green coffee beans that we can.  It is as much a goal to have a unique and sought after single origin as it is to have a unique and sought after original (and secret!) blend.

So, the next time you buy a bag of whole bean coffee or take a sip of the black brew, try to pick out the obvious flavor characteristics we talked about here.  You’ll be surprised at how much coffee geek stuff you may just know now!



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Coffee Makers that Serve Up a Perfect Cup of Joe

For many people, the morning doesn’t begin until after the first cup of coffee. The perfect cup of coffee can be a quest that seems to last a lifetime. Luckily, the right coffee maker can make the Holy Grail – the perfect cup of coffee- entirely possible. Let yourself start the morning the right way, with exactly what you’ve been longing for. With a day that begins perfectly, it is easier to set out to make the rest of the day just as perfectly too.

With the option to grind your own coffee beans, the world of coffee seems to become a brand new place. The Cuisinart DGB-700BC Grind-and-Brew has a built in burr grinder to automatically grind beans. With a twenty-four hour timer and twelve-cup capacity, you can ensure that coffee is ready, no matter what time of the day that you need it. Options for strength of the coffee and how finely you want the beans ground put you on the path to the perfect cup of coffee every morning.

Similar in nature is the coffee pot that comes with the ability to roast your own coffee beans. The Nesco Pro Coffee Roaster makes stale beans a thing of the past. Every morning can begin with the smell of freshly roasted coffee, and in twenty to thirty minutes, coffee goes from roasting to brewing.

Beginners to coffee might like something with fewer options that is already prepared for them. The Keurig B50 Special Edition Home Brewing System makes one cup at a time, ideal for someone who doesn’t drink large amounts of coffee at one time, or who likes lots of choices. It is as simple as inserting one of the patented K-cups and letting the Keurig prepare perfect coffee or tea every time! The Keurig comes with an eighteen cup variety pack, letting you discover which brews and blends are the right intensity and strength for you.

On the other hand, for the coffee lovers who want to control everything about their coffee, the Melita Porcelain Manual Coffee Maker is ideal! This porcelain coffee maker prepares brews the old-fashioned way, and can make up to six cups. Coffee roasts or tea leaves are prepared using the traditional drip method, with the porcelain keeping your brew nice and toasty. While this way may not be the fastest, it is the way to keep your eye on the exact strength of your morning drink!

Espresso lovers will fall for the Cuisinart EM-200 Programmable Espresso Maker, which is perfect for both beginners and advanced coffee makers. All the fancy drinks you pay for at coffee shops can now be made at home as this makes espresso, cappuccino and lattes. Cup sizes are already programmed in to allow for drink making to be an easy task. There are fifteen bars of pressure, and even a cup-warming plate that keeps espresso cups perfectly heated.

Other features include a steam nozzle and preprogrammed button for cappuccino or lattes, a stainless steel frothing pitcher used to steam milk for drinks, a commercial steam wand that steams milk for cappuccinos and lattes, and the option to use either ground or pod espresso.

Advanced espresso makers may also like the Taleo Touch Espresso Machine with Milk Island. This countertop appliance comes with all the luxuries, including a touch screen interface. Customizing your own coffee blends is a breeze with the three programmable beverage settings and the Milk Island, which is a milk-frothing device that works automatically to create perfect froth with just a turn of a dial. All the settings on the Taleo Touch are equally as easy.

Enough with all those options – sometimes you just want a coffee maker that can brew your coffee exactly when you want it without any other bells and whistles. The Professional Series Programmable Coffee Maker is exactly that. This twelve-cup coffee maker has a timer, so that whenever you want your coffee, it will be there waiting. There is also a pause and serve option so you don’t have to wait for the entire pot to brew before serving yourself.

A similar coffee maker with just a few more options is the Cuisinart CHW-12 Programmable Coffee Maker. Like the coffee maker from Professional Series, this machine is programmable to brew coffee at any time, can serve twelve cups, and has the pause and serve option. A few more small details allow this coffee maker to stand out from the crowd.

Never have your coffee stored in the carafe at the wrong temperature again – there is a carafe temperature control which gives you three options to keep your beverage at the perfect temperature. The hot water system in the CHW-12 allows for instant soup, tea, cocoa and other similar liquids to be made as well – and there is even a goldtone filter to remove any impurities from the water before brewing. Sometimes simple can truly be perfection.

With the right tools, which in this case would be the right coffee maker, the perfect cup of joe is an easy thing to find. You’ll find that perfect treat waiting for you in your kitchen, already made by your brand new coffee maker. Could life get any better?



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When One Loves Cappucino

There is a type of coffee, called Fair Trade coffee, that is produced a little differently than other types of coffee. By “produced differently”, we do not mean that the beans used are inferior, or that the coffee produced will be different. The purpose of Fair Trade coffee is to protect coffee workers, and any coffee grower or producer in this organization agrees to make sure that the people who harvest and sort coffee products are treated fairly.

In the United States, we consume a great deal of coffee. Most people can’t imagine starting their day or finishing a meal without a cup of coffee. But we never give a thought to how coffee beans are produced, harvested and shipped. We just drink it and take all of that for granted. But maybe we should think about fair treatment for coffee workers.

In many areas of the world, coffee workers are treated unfairly. Large plantations hire laborers at paltry wages and then expect them to work long, backbreaking hours in the sun.  Plantations that are part of Fair Trade Coffee have agreed to respect coffee workers’ rights.  They agree to meet certain minimum standards for working conditions and worker compensation.

The organization behind Fair Trade Coffee tries to educate the coffee consumer so that he will be encouraged to buy products that are not being produced by exploited laborers. Fair Trade Coffee encourages consumers not to buy products they do not certify, and they will not certify a product if it comes from a producer who has unfair conditions.

The concept is that American coffee drinkers will not want to support a company that mistreats its workers, any more than the American consumer wants to buy clothing that is produced in sweatshops. Excellent products for your coffee, your cappuccino or your espresso are available from producers who treat their workers fairly.

As a matter of fact, some people have referred to exploitative plantations as “sweatshops in the fields”. And even the small farmer who sells his coffee bean to big exporters is treated unfairly since he gets very little pay for the coffee, even when rates are high. This leads to poverty and destitution in the countryside.

If you believe that it is wrong to support organizations that do not treat their workers fairly, it is time for you to start paying attention to Fair Trade Coffee labels. You can find very good quality coffee that is endorsed by this organization.

You can go to the Fair Trade Coffee website, and you will find a list of producers who are part of their agreement and have been certified to be fair to their workers. Dean’s Bean brand is just one example of how you can enjoy your cup of morning mocha while you make sure that the people who worked so hard to bring it to you are not being treated unfairly.



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