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History of Coffee
|March 11, 2010|
Like fine wine, the revered coffees of the world acquire distinctive qualities and exceptional flavor by virtue of their growing regions. Since our coffee company operates in the heart of northeastern Ohio's grape country and fine wineries, we are particularly conscious of a fundamental similarity between coffee production and wine production. A raw product of noble ancestry grown in a time-honored location is as crucial to wine making as it is to specialty coffee roasting.
Specialty-grade coffee represents the top two percent of all coffee grown worldwide each year. Mountainous regions of the Coffee Belt, a tropical band extending 30º north and south of the equator, produce the world's truly great coffees. High elevations provide ideal growing conditions for the coffee tree: a frost-free climate averaging 70º F year-round, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine. Coffee thrives in lush volcanic soil at elevations over 4,000. These conditions prolong bean development to enhance flavor and acidity. Latin America, Africa and Arabia, and the Pacific region benefit from these microclimates and represent the world's foremost coffee growing regions.
The grand crus—or great growing regions—of the coffee world are few in number. As accessible luxuries, these premier arabica coffees are treasured for their flavor and overall bean quality. They are identified by country, followed by growing region, estate, plantation, auction lot, or by a term denoting grade, such as AA. The coffees regarded as Latin America's most distinguished are, in order of prominence: Guatemala Antigua; Costa Rica La Minita, Dota, or Tarrazu; Panama Estate; Colombia from premier growing regions; Nicaragua Jinotega, Matagalpa, or Segovia; Mexican Altura; and Brazilian fancy grades.
The influence of geography on a cup of arabica coffee extends to processing and cultivation methods practiced in a region, as well as to political and environmental factors—each affecting a coffee's flavor, bean quality, or accessibility. For example, Sulawesi Toraja is a dry-processed coffee, meaning that its beans, or coffee seeds, are defruited by first drying the beans inside their coffee cherries and then removing the fruit. This approach imbues the bean with a sweet complexity, while sugars from the drying cherry impart more soluble solids to the bean that amplify body. The dry-process method employed in Sulawesi is central to understanding why the Sulawesi Toraja renders a sweet, full-bodied cup.
Ethiopia cultivates its coffees organically as it has for centuries. Untouched by chemicals and favored by tropical shade, the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe flourishes in fertile soil among crops of citrus and banana in villagers' gardens. Once the Yirgacheffe's cherries are harvested, they are either wet-processed, i.e., the fruit is removed before the beans are dried, or they are dry-processed. In either case, the defruited beans are spread out to dry on raised terraces. Owing to its cultivation and processing, the highly absorbent Yirgacheffe bean takes on flavors from its soil, coffee cherry, crops growing nearby, and drying surface. Celebrated for its cascade of lemon-laced notes and soaring floral aroma, the Yirgacheffe is exquisitely shaped by its location.
One will not taste a bean's "geography" in an extremely dark roasted coffee. A coffee's peak flavor is achieved at a precise point in the roasting process, generally between a "Medium-Light" and a "Medium Dark" roast. This target varies by coffee and is known as a coffee's roast style. Some coffees display equally well at several roast levels. Varietal flavors deepen to baritone complexities in a "Dark Roast," but in a "Very Dark Roast" all varietal properties are muted. The carbonized taste of a very darkly roasted coffee results when beans have yielded all flavor of origin to the power of a highly intense roast.
The influence of geography on a coffee bean is profound. Understanding this only deepens one's appreciation for Sumatra Mandheling's earthy flavor, Guatemala Antigua's chocolate-toned spice, or Kenya AA's fruit- hued complexity. The extraordinary appeal of single-origin flavor has long persuaded coffee lovers to embrace the world's most impressive offerings.
|TAGS: ROAST STYLE, GUATEMALA ANTIGUA, COSTA RICA TARRAZU, COLOMBIA SUPREMO POPAYAN, ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE, KENYA AA, SUMATRA MANDHELING, COFFEES OF AFRICA AND ARABIA, COFFEES OF THE AMERICAS, COFFEES OF THE PACIFIC|
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