So you need a cup of coffee to get you going in the morning, and you are probably quite happy to drink whatever brews the cappuccino machines in the office are dispensing. If it’s hot, it smells like coffee and it gives you the necessary head rush to start your day, that’s all you need.
So it may astonish you to realise exactly how many different types and origins of coffee there are out there. Some people devote their entire careers to coffee tasting to find the perfect mix of beans to create just the right taste. These professional tasters are called cuppers and really know their coffee.
Centered on the equator, a band twenty five degrees to the north and south houses the seventy countries where coffee beans are grown. From South America and the Caribbean, to Africa and the Middle East, this strip around the centre of the globe provides just the right conditions for coffee plantations to thrive. Each country, and sometimes each area within the same country, produces beans with their own special characteristics to produce distinctive flavors.
The two main divisions of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. Robusta is the more potent of the two, with double the amount of caffeine. The Arabica beans have more taste and a pleasing fragrance, making them suitable for superior quality blends.
The Arabica bean is split again into two categories. The higher quality Milds, are grown at over three thousand feet, the perfect altitude for coffee growth. Brazils, not surprisingly a product of Brazil, are grown in larger quantities, at lower altitudes, on the many large plantations of the area.
When seeking the perfect coffee, most people choose ready roasted beans, although it is possible to buy the soft, green beans and roast them yourself. There are a number of categories of roast, from the light or cinnamon roast, which is strong and acidic, to the dark or city roast, a less bitter sweeter category, often used for espresso. In between is the medium or American roast, the standard used for everyday drinking and extremely popular.
Two other varieties of European roast are the full bodied French roast, and the very dark Italian roast, used in speciality espressos. Both of these are dark roasts and so the resulting brews are less acidic and sweeter than your average cup. The longer roasting process allows the sugars in the bean to caramelize and much of the bitter caffeine to burn away.
So next time you reach for a cup of the strong stuff to wake you up in the morning, take a minute to find out what goes into your coffee makers. Maybe consider what you really want in a coffee and spend some time looking for your perfect roast.