Long or tight, coffee has many followers! Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. It is grown in more than 70 countries, the two main world producers being Brazil and Colombia.
Coffee beans come from the berries of the coffee tree, a shrub native to the rainforest.
The coffee-producing countries are all located around the equator, as the coffee tree has a specific climate: a temperature between 20 and 25°C.
Reading time: 11 min
We’ll take a look at:
- 1 Coffee plantation
- 2 Grain harvesting and prepared:
- 3 Drying or washing
- 4 The different types of coffee beans
- 5 Decaffeination
- 6 The coffee market
- 7 F.A.Q
coffee plantation: 70% of world coffee production comes from mainly family farms of less than 10 hectares, most often less than five hectares. and 35 of coffee plantations are associated with huge estates such as those found in various countries, such as Brazil.
The land that these small producers cultivate is often clinging to the mountain slopes, up to 2,000 m above sea level: these are fragmented plots of land on which coffee is combined with food crops such as maize, cassava or plantain.
This traditional crop is generally environmentally friendly, particularly because it requires few pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Coffee cultivation provides a livelihood for a very large number of people, as the harvest, which is very rarely mechanized, requires a significant amount of labor, which forms the bulk of the cost of production. In Brazil alone, for example, it is estimated that more than 250.000 farmers live from coffee, and more than three million employed.
A young coffee tree is productive three to four years after planting. After that, the shrub can live for many decades. The top is folded down to avoid too much height development.
Plantations can be planted in the open, which facilitates the organization of cultivation operations and increases fruit production, but decreases the longevity and disease resistance of the coffee trees.
Plantations can also be planted in mid-shade (known as shade coffee), which is more in keeping with the autecology of the species, but reduces productivity and complicates management.
There are many variations in shade cultivation methods, ranging from planting directly in the forest, to clever combinations of shelter trees pruned according to the fruiting stage of the coffee trees, or to polyculture systems.
Shade plantations generally induce better biodiversity, although the quality of the shade varies greatly depending on the systems used and compared to the initial natural state.
Grain harvesting and prepared:
When the fruit reaches maturity, six to eight months after flowering for Arabica and nine to eleven months for Robusta, the coffee harvest can begin.
The coffee is picked when the red (or orange depending on the variety) color of the cherries indicates that it is sufficiently ripe.
The fruit is picked so that the green beans can be extracted. Manual picking to select the ripe beans (Picking 6 to 8 times) is preferred to machine picking (Striping). Two methods are used, harvesting or de-stemming:
1. Picking consists of handpicking only those cherries that are ripe to medium ripeness. This is the most expensive technique, requiring several days of consecutive harvesting on the same bush, but it provides the best quality of the coffee.
2. De-stemming, on the other hand, consists of scraping the branch of all its cherries, and the process can eventually be mechanized. This expeditious technique harvests a heterogeneous mixture of more or less ripe cherries, resulting in bitterer coffees (because the fruit is still green).
Floatation separation is used to remove (by density) defective cherries, twigs, and stones. After being dried to an even moisture content for storage, the beans are graded according to size, shape, and color.
A very special harvesting method allows the production, in low tonnage, of dung coffee, also called Kopi Luwak, in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, which is extracted from the excrement of a local civet.
This practice is denounced as particularly cruel to animals by the WildCRU university research unit. In the same vein, elephant coffee is produced in Thailand by extracting elephant dung (“black ivory”), its price reaching one thousand euros per kilo.
Coffee is one of the Rubiaceae, which includes some 500 genera and more than 6,000 species. Most are tropical trees and shrubs that grow in the lower levels of the forest. Often in the shade of cocoa trees.
There are probably at least 25 major species, all native to tropical Africa and some Indian Ocean islands, including Madagascar.
The two most economically important coffee tree species are Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) – which accounts for more than 65% of world production – and Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee). Two other species are cultivated on a smaller scale: Liberica coffee and Excelsa coffee
Drying or washing
Each cherry usually contains two coffee beans; when it contains only one, it is round and is called a pearl or caracole. The coffee beans must be extracted from the fruit and dried before being roasted, this can be done in two main ways: dry and wet. When the operation is complete, the unroasted coffee beans are green coffee.
The dry route (also called the natural method) is the oldest, simplest and requires little equipment.
The whole cherry has to be dried. There are variations to the method, depending on the size of the plantation, the facilities available and the quality required. The three main steps, cleaning, drying, and hulling, are described below.
First, the cherries are usually sorted and cleaned to separate immature, overripe, and damaged cherries and to remove dirt, twigs, and leaves. This separation can be done manually by means of a large sieve.
Cherries or other unwanted matter retained on the surface of the sieve can be removed. Ripe cherries can also be separated by flotation in basins near the drying areas.
The cherries are then spread out in the sun either on wide concrete or brick terraces or on mats resting on trestles at waist height. As they dry, the cherries are turned by hand or raked to ensure uniform drying.
Depending on weather conditions, it may take up to 4 weeks before the moisture content of the cherries drops to a maximum of 12.5%. In large plantations, machine drying is sometimes used to hasten the process after a preliminary drying in the sun for a few days.
Drying is the most important operation of the dry process because it has a decisive influence on the final quality of the green coffee. Coffee that is too dry becomes crumbly and produces too many broken beans during hulling (broken beans are classified as defective beans).
Poorly dried coffee has too high a moisture content and tends to deteriorate quickly due to fungi and bacteria. Dried cherries are stored in bulk in special silos until they are shipped to the factory where they are peeled, sorted, graded, and bagged.
All the husks of the dried cherries are removed in the hulling machine.
The wet route requires special equipment and large quantities of water. When it is done according to the rules of the art, it better preserves the intrinsic qualities of the beans, produces a homogeneous green coffee with few defective beans. Coffee processed by this method is therefore generally considered to be of better quality and is traded at higher prices.
The different types of coffee beans
Arabica coffee accounts for 75% of world coffee production.
This variety originated in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and spread throughout the world. The delicate and demanding Arabica coffee tree is cultivated on mountain slopes between 600 and 2000 m above sea level, mainly in Central and South America and East Africa. Arabica has a full and mild flavor. It has a relatively low caffeine content (between 0.8 and 1.3%).
The Robusta coffee tree accounts for 25% of world production.
As its name suggests, it is robust. It grows at lower heights than Arabica and is resistant to disease. Its yield per shrub is higher. Robusta is mainly grown in West Africa and Southeast Asia. The flavor of Robusta is strong, somewhat bitter, very pure, but less aromatic than Arabica coffee. Its caffeine content ranges from 2% to 2.5%.
The coffee beans are roasted to release the coffee’s aromas while tempering their natural acidity. The longer the roasting process, the stronger and bitterer the coffee will be, and the less pronounced the original character of the bean.
Each variety of bean requires a specific roasting process to obtain the ideal balance between sweetness and acidity and thus create an optimal taste.
Decaffeination processes have been developed to enjoy the taste of coffee without the excitement. The reduction in caffeine content is at the expense of the taste qualities. Moreover, decaffeination is never total. A study by an American team tested nine brands of decaffeinated coffee by gas chromatography.
All, except one, contained caffeine in very significant doses: from 8.6 mg to 13.9 mg of caffeine, for an average of 85 mg in an equivalent dose of non-decaffeinated coffee (i.e. 10 to 15% of the caffeine in coffee), i.e. enough to cause a physical dependence on coffee in some decaffeinated coffee consumers40.
There are a number of ways of doing this. Their general principle consists of soaking the beans in water, then extracting the caffeine from the liquid thus obtained by adding organic solvent or by adsorption on activated carbon, and finally soaking the beans again in the caffeine-depleted liquid so that they reabsorb the other compounds still present.
The solvent, generally a chlorinated solvent (chloroform, trichloroethylene, and dichloromethane), or organic solvents such as benzene or ethyl acetate, is never in contact with the beans, only with the water in which the bean has been soaked.
It is then removed by distillation. There is also a decaffeination method using a jet of carbon dioxide under pressure, which is more recent and reputed to be less destructive for the aromas.
Decaffeination is carried out on green coffee beans in industrial plants. There are four main methods of decaffeination using different substances:
- ethyl acetate
- liquid or supercritical CO2
- methylene chloride.
These four methods all have the same basic steps:
- Swelling of the beans with water or steam to facilitate the extraction of caffeine
- Extraction of caffeine from beans
- Steam washing to remove all solvent residues (if applicable)/regeneration of adsorbents (if applicable)
- Drying decaffeinated coffee beans to restore their normal moisture content
- Under carefully controlled process conditions (temperature, pressure, and processing time), caffeine extraction relies on physical transport mechanisms. Due to the difference in concentration, caffeine is extracted from the cell structure and passes into the solvent surrounding the bean until the concentration of caffeine is the same inside and outside the bean.
The coffee market
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, annual world production has been growing at more than one hundred million bags, which corresponds to six to seven million tonnes, whereas in 1825 only one hundred thousand tonnes were produced. More than 80% of the bags are exported each year.
Nearly 90 countries export coffee cherries, 60 of which are developing countries, with coffee constituting the bulk of the export earnings of countries such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, or formerly Haiti.
By far the largest producer is Brazil (almost 30 percent of world production in 2015), followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. The largest producer is by far Brazil (almost 30 percent of world production in 2015), followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. The largest producer in the United States of America.
Statistical data on world agricultural production of coffee differ slightly depending on whether they come from the FAO (established on an evaluative basis) or the ICO (established on a declarative basis).
However, these data are monitored monthly by the ICO and cross-checked with each other, making the Organization the real recognized reference source for international markets. In any event, beyond the occasional crises of overproduction and inventory differences, the volumes produced, traded, and consumed are following an upward trend.
The production provides a livelihood for about twenty-five million people, mainly small producers while importing, processing and distribution provide a livelihood for about one hundred to one hundred and ten million people.
The importance of coffee in the world economy could not be underestimated. It is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world, ranking for many years immediately after oil as a source of foreign exchange for developing countries. It is cultivation, processing, trade, transport, and marketing employ millions of people around the world.
The price of these markets changes as a result of speculation-related movements. Coffee can be bought at any time for a future delivery period. A contract is then established between the parties, who undertake to honor their commitments. The seller has an obligation to deliver and the buyer an obligation to pay at the level of the fixed price.
Just looking at the color of the bean will tell you a lot about its taste, the darker the bean, the more roasted it is and the more bitterness and toasty taste will come out. If the coffee beans are close to black, pass your way!
Successfully growing coffee A plant native to West Africa and widely cultivated in the subtropics of Latin America (especially on the plateaus of Brazil and Colombia up to 1900 m altitude), coffee trees grow well in the shade of other trees and in a humid and relatively warm atmosphere.
The coffee tree is a plant with green, shiny leaves that can reach a height of 5 to 12 meters and a life expectancy of 25 to 50 years. The cultivation of coffee requires fertile, mineral-rich soil and a warm, humid climate.