Coffee. Can you identify the aroma, the taste, and the texture of deliciously roasted beans? Now imagine the bean before it’s roasted—dense, light in color with a grassy, herbal scent. This is called Green Coffee. The main difference between the two is density, moisture content, and of course—taste!
Below is a basic history of the coffee bean and how it came to be served as a roasted, brewed luxury.
The discoveries aren’t certain, but it’s thought that the main two families, Arabica and Robusta, were discovered at least 1,000 years ago in separate parts of Africa—Arabica in South Sudan and Ethiopia, and Robusta in West Africa. Of course, the seeds weren’t found perfectly roasted as we serve here at Fonté—but people still very quickly discovered the invigorating offerings of the coffee beans. The beans would be harvested from the coffee plant and removed from the cherry, and blended with fat and seeds to create energy bars before traveling; leaves from the plant were boiled with the removed cherry skin for an herbal infusion.
African slaves likely carried coffee across the Red Sea, making its way into Asia. By the 1400s, Sufis were drinking coffee cherry tea to help them stay alert during prayer. Solely driven by taste, the first roasters appeared in Arabia in the 1500s, where the coffee was lightly roasted on metal and porcelain pans and ground prior to drinking. This method spread to Turkey, Egypt, and North America, and laid the foundation for the coffee we drink today. The Arabs were the first to trade coffee, and within a few hundred years, coffee was a worldly traded commodity.
Coffee is cultivated in different ways the world over, owing to diversity in local customs, climate, and geography. The oldest and most traditional coffee growing methods are still used in parts of Central America and India, where Coffea plants grow alongside other types of plants, at high elevations, sheltered from the sun’s rays.
This is in great contrast to a major producer like Brazil, where intensive, large-scale cultivation relies on sunlight, and where significant investments are required in irrigation and mechanical harvesting equipment. There is a greater environmental impact.
Coffee plants bloom in the rain, so flowers and fruit are found together, making the collection a complicated affair. Hand selection of cherries (each containing two beans) one-by-one, called picking, is expensive but conducive to higher quality. Under an alternative method, stripping, every fruit, whether mature or immature, is removed from branches in an undifferentiated way and separated later. A related method, whereby branches are shaken mechanically, also requires further inspection and separation. Neither stripping nor shaking is necessarily efficient, even though fruit is initially collected in higher volumes.
Once collected, sticks, leaves, stones, and other natural foreign bodies are separated from the cherries.
The seeds (beans) are extracted from the fruit (cherries) in one of two ways: by washing or drying. Drying produces what the industry calls “natural coffee”.
Washed Coffee –
fruit is mechanically stripped, then placed in water tanks where residual pulp ferments well and is easily removed. The now-separated seeds are then dried and shelled by removing the parchment.
Natural Coffee –
fruit is dried in the sun for up to 20 days. Once the peels, pulp, and seeds are all completely dry, machines are used to separate the beans.
The seeds resulting from both processes are green coffee beans, which are then classified according to size and shape. Generally speaking, the larger the bean, the higher the price it can fetch.
Green Coffee Today
Most consumers only see roasted beans, but fresh, green coffee is still exported and imported around the globe. In recent years, the medical world has declared green coffee to have high amounts of chlorogenic acid, which has been associated with monitoring high blood pressure and regulating blood sugar and metabolism.
Regardless of whatever benefits are out there, we highly recommend consuming your beans perfectly roasted.