Coffee production can be classified into three distinct phases, namely, cultivation, processing and roasting and, preparation of the beverage. Coffee cultivators found in handful of regions, pride themselves to be master artists of the process that give us the small two sectioned brown bean, crushed to powder, which we enjoy and are addictively temped by.
Folklore places the origins of coffee in unknown period, but we do know it was discovered by shepherds in modern-day Ethiopia, following which it traveled to the Arab world, Central Asia, India and on the other side to Europe and then Americans.
'It is an art! No stupid machine can do it, especially those idiotic metal boxes that you use nowadays!', such an outburst from Ishmael, a Dutch-Indian coffee grower in the Kodagu (Coorg) is quite common. Ishmael is no fan of commonly found coffee machines.
The enormous disapproving frown from his shiny bald head vanishes and is replaced with a fond, loving look as he described a fairytale of how coffee is grown. The wrinkled 80-year old man is an encyclopedia of information on coffee.
Coffea: Growing Coffee
Coffea is a genus with more than 90 species within it, two prominently used to harvest coffee beans which we use today. These include Robusta and Arabica. Coffee plantations are disciplined plantations which are used to uniformly plant the coffee shrub and properly harvest it.
Now several time frames regarding coffee cultivation are not exactly precise as the natural conditions such as weather and soil are not the same throughout the world.
- Conventionally coffee plants thrive the best in tropical and equatorial regions and accept monsoon prone climate as ideal.
- From the physical geographical point of view, regions with an elevation between 3,600 feet to 8,000 feet are most suited for its growth.
- The soil structure which suits any coffee plant the best is igneous or any kind of volcanic soils.
These exact conditions are found in very less regions of the world and owing to the dissimilarities and non-congruency in the conditions, coffee from almost different plantations tends to have certain different characteristics. The usual process of growing coffee is described ahead.
- A coffee plant is principally a shrub which can potentially grow into a large tree of well over 10 feet height. In fact a naturally growing coffee plant on an average touches the benchmark of 10-12 feet. In the plantations however, coffee plants are continuously cut short and kept down to a height of about 6 feet or so in order to facilitate harvesting.
- Once the fall starts, and the 'cherries' start to ripen, plantation owners and cherry growers hire 'pickers' to harvest or rather pick the cherries. In case of coffee cherries, picking, though slow is the preferred form of harvesting as cherries need to be picked only once they are sufficiently ripe.
Coffee pickers surf around the plantation looking for perfectly ripe cherries, continuing the process till the plant bears new flower or fruit. On an average a single pickers accumulates about 6 baskets or so. Though mechanical harvesting is possible, growers of coffee, choose to use manual labor, as growing coffee, is an art of the man's hand.
Please note that in some regions larger and taller trees are planted to protect the coffee plant. Depending upon several factors such as elevation height, plant and even the geographical features, coffee beans can be processed into several types of coffee.