Sponsored by Three Coffee Roasters.
Well, you already know the roast on your coffee beans affects the flavor of your coffee. But take the roaster and the barista out of the equation, and you’ll see that the origin mainly determines the flavor profile of coffee beans.
It’s something like, “Tell me who the farmer is, and I’ll tell you how good that coffee is.”
It’s a good thing single-origin specialty coffee has become a trend. Thus, anyone shopping for coffee beans in Dubai, Singapore, London, or wherever can find the coffee they love. They just have to look at the origin of the coffee indicated on the pack.
So, what are the factors related to the coffee origin that affect the flavor of coffee?
How the farmer cultivates coffee, maintains and nurtures the plants, and picks the coffee cherries affects the coffee beans’ final quality (and thus the flavor).
Giving every coffee plant more space should improve the quality of its yield. In addition, a more considerable distance between coffee plants means the plants don’t have to fight against each other for the same nutrients.
To improve the quality of their harvest even further, coffee farmers can plant coffee underneath existing trees for their shade.
Coffee farmers typically plant in rows for efficiency. But this practice is even more helpful for farmers in the mountainside since planting in rows helps prevent soil erosion.
The organized rows also allow the farmers to carefully monitor the fruits for ripeness and quality.
Farmers can intersperse shade trees in their coffee plant rows. This ensures that the coffee plants will have ample shade from the sun. In addition, some farmers dig trenches between rows of coffee trees to prevent fungal contagion through the soil and runoff water.
Other farming practices that can improve coffee quality and harvest include using drones to monitor the growth of coffee plants and spotting fungal infections and other diseases. In addition, some use automated sensors to detect moisture levels in the soil and the air.
Pruning is another practice that has a significant impact on quality. Regularly and strategically pruning coffee plant leaves ensures coffee cherries get enough sunlight and are well-aerated or ventilated. Pruning also minimizes infestation.
But the most crucial farming practice that influences the quality of the coffee in your cup is picking. Coffee cherries have to be picked at just the right ripeness to make superior coffee.
But since cherries do not ripen simultaneously, coffee cherries must therefore be picked by hand by pickers who are adept at assessing ripeness.
Specialty coffee farmers may even do an additional sorting step to pick out only the ripest cherries. They may even pick cherries that have dried in the trees and process them separately to make yet another type of specialty coffee.
It is advantageous to know the origin of your coffee. This way, you can learn how the coffee estate or farm grows its coffee plants. You can also understand what methods they use to ensure only the highest quality beans make it into coffee production.
Processing simply refers to what the coffee producers do to their coffee after harvest. It is at this step of the production process that the origin of your coffee matters the most.
Coffee farmers use different methods. And specialty coffee farmers often use innovative ways of processing their coffee. And every minute difference in the process can lead to significant changes in coffee flavor.
Coffee processing methods generally fall under one of the following processes: natural or dry-processed, washed or wet-processed, pulped natural processed, and honey processed.
In dry processing, the harvested coffee cherries are laid out in the sun to dry. The cherries are turned regularly to ensure aeration and even drying. Once the beans have dried, the cherries are de-pulped, and the beans extracted.
Since the coffee beans dry inside the sugary pulp, dry-processed coffee beans are sweet, smooth, full-bodied, and complex. However, if the fruits are not adequately aerated while drying, the coffee beans will get spoiled.
Dry processing is recommended in places that have low humidity and get a lot of sunlight.
Washed or Wet Processing
In wet processing, most of the pulp is removed in an automated process. Next, the beans and whatever remains of the pulp are immersed in water for fermentation to remove the remaining pulp. Next, the beans are washed and laid out to dry in the sun.
Farmers who use wet processing prefer it because it reduces the risk of spoiling. Wet processing also produces beans with characteristic acidity and clean, bright, and fruity flavor profiles.
Pulped Natural Processing
In pulped natural processing, the ripe coffee cherries are peeled then dried in the sun. In pulped natural processing, the bean dries inside the pulp, just like in natural dry processing.
Pulped natural processed coffee has the aromatic, full-body of dry-processed coffee and the brightness of washed coffee.
In honey processing, the farmer uses only the ripest of coffee cherries. Then, the cherries are de-pulped until only the sticky, sugar-rich mucilage layer remains on the beans.
Then, the beans are dried in a tedious but strategic process. The beans are usually dried under shade lest they dry too quickly, in which case the beans will be unable to absorb flavors from the mucilage. However, they must dry before the beans become moldy.
The amount of mucilage allowed to remain on the beans before drying and the quickness of the drying process determine the color of honey-processed coffee beans.
Yellow beans have the least mucilage and the shortest drying time, while black beans have 100% mucilage and the longest drying time. Red beans fall somewhere between the yellow and black beans in mucilage coverage and drying time.
Honey processed coffees provide complex but clearly defined flavors. They have a fuller body than wet-processed coffees, but they have a lovely sweetness and balanced acidity.
Know Where Your Coffee Comes From
Many factors determine coffee flavor, including how a coffee roaster roasts and blends it and how you or your barista prepares it.
But a coffee’s origin is a good indicator of coffee quality and flavor because a coffee estate’s farming and processing decisions impact the quality of the coffee it makes.
Thus, if you find a coffee you like, learn about its origin. It will not only deepen your knowledge about coffee but also enhance your appreciation for the work that goes into making each cup you enjoy.
Drew Dennehy is the co-founder of THREE Coffee, one of the region’s leading specialty coffee companies, headquartered in Dubai. His passion for coffee has led to the pursuit of career opportunities worldwide, from New Zealand and Europe to the United Arab Emirates. Drew’s goal is to enhance coffee experiences and ensure the industry is sustainable at every level. “We will achieve this by telling the story of the farmers who make each cup possible.”