For centuries, society has viewed coffee as a commodity. We show up to any restaurant or grocery store and expect a fresh, hot cup or aisles full of beans. We walk around cities and see countless coffee shops on every block. To many people, coffee magically appears. Why? Because it always has. But where does it really come from?
Countless people are involved in the processes that put coffee in your mug.
- Planting: coffee beans are planted as seeds that grow into coffee trees.
- Harvesting: three years after planting, coffee trees bear fruit (coffee cherries). These cherries are carefully picked when ripe, and usually, one harvest occurs per year.
- Processing: to prevent the cherries from spoiling, they are processed shortly after harvest. Using a dry method or wet method, the pulp and moisture are removed from the cherries.
- Drying: if processed using the wet method, the beans must be carefully dried and rotated on a flat surface in order to reduce the moisture content and store properly.
- Milling: machines remove the dried husks of the cherries, and they are sorted by weight and size (disposing of defective ones).
- Exporting: the milled coffee beans are packaged and transported in shipping containers around the globe.
- Tasting: experts taste the coffee and judge it based on aroma, flavor, and visual quality. This process helps determine what specific blends or roasts a particular bean would work well with.
- Roasting: at a temperature of 550 degrees Fahrenheit, beans are roasted and rotated to prevent burning. The beans are immediately cooled by air or water.
- Grinding: the coffee is then ground according to the preferred brew method in order to produce the best flavors. Fine grinds should be prepared more quickly than coarse grinds.
- Brewing: the ground coffee is combined with water in a variety of ways that finds its way to your cup!
Just as we depend on roasters and coffeehouses for our caffeine fix, farmers rely on specific climate conditions in order to grow a plentiful crop. Coffee plants thrive with adequate sunlight that isn’t too harsh, proper tree cover, and a healthy amount of rainfall. Without these conducive climatic conditions, the coffees we know and love would taste radically different. Regrettably, many coffee farmers have noticed significant changes in their crops due to unfortunate climate patterns.
Until we create impactful changes to stabilize and mitigate climate issues, it remains vitally important to support small farms. Currently, World Coffee Research is on the hunt for climate-resilient strains of coffee beans that can withstand unpredictable weather patterns and harmful, disease-ridden pests. By identifying the coffee plants tough enough to survive erratic environmental conditions, scientists can help prevent farmers from growing unsuccessful crops.
As scientists continue discovering ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change, challenge yourself to make small, sustainable choices when you can. Many different roasters prioritize the sustainability of their beans and ensure smaller farms receive adequate support and fair payment. Try their coffee! Every behavior you reconsider makes an impact, and your morning cup of joe will thank you for it.