Fast Facts on National Coffee Day
Cup o’ Joe, Java, cafe, latte, espresso, mud, or mom’s little helper… Whatever you call that morning cup of goodness, you probably reach for it to help wake you up. But did you know coffee provides some health benefits?
- When caffeine in coffee reaches the brain, it increases the activity of neurotransmitters that assist with mood, energy and reaction times
- Some studies suggest that caffeine in coffee boosts the metabolic rate and helps people burn fat
- Coffee provides antioxidants your body needs
- Coffee has been purported to lower blood glucose levels and help ward off Type II diabetes
- A Harvard study suggests a correlation between lower suicide risks and coffee consumption
- Coffee appears to protect against some forms of cancer
If you hadn’t considered the health benefits in your cup of Joe, you likely haven’t given much thought to how the coffee ends up at your favorite coffee shop either. Long before your barista preps your enormous Pumpkin latte or shot of espresso, the growers, harvesters, millers, roasters and marketers each had a hand in making possible your ideal cup of coffee.
The Journey from Field to Cup
Where Coffee Grows
According to the National Coffee Association USA (NCA), coffee is grown in over 50 countries around the world, primarily “along the Equatorial zone called “The Bean Belt,” located between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South.” Robusta beans prefer warmer temperatures and lower ground, while the Arabica beans thrive in higher altitudes with rich soil.
Your “perfect” cup of coffee is largely dependent upon where the beans are grown and how they are processed-wet or dry- after harvesting. Even within coffee from the same plantation there exists a wide variety of quality and tastes.
Coffee Growing and Processing
Coffee grows in fruit called cherries. Inside each cherry is two beans. It can take 3-4 years for a coffee tree to begin yielding fruit, which is one reason why hurricanes and other storms that destroy trees can impact coffee prices for years. Cherries are harvested when they turn red. Most countries pick the coffee by hand, carefully selecting only the ripe ones.
Once harvested, the coffee is either dry processed or wet processed. Dry processing dries the coffee cherry in the sun, turning periodically until the dried cherry has less than 11% water. Dry processing is used in countries such as Yemen that have limited water resources. Wet processing, separates the beans from the skin and pulp then soaks them in fermentation tanks until natural enzymes remove the rest of the pulp.
Roasted to Perfection
Roasting after the processing changes green coffee beans into the bark, magical beans we know and love. Coffee is normally roasted in the country where it will be consumed, so that coffee lovers can enjoy the freshest coffee possible. Roasted coffee falls into three categories: light, medium and dark roasts.
Some Favorite Beans
Some coffee favorites include:
Kona, United States, Hawaii
This rich, aromatic and medium blend grows on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano. This uber- rich black soil, filtered light from tropical cloud cover, and ideal rainfall offer an excellent environment for coffee seedlings.
Mexican, Mexico’s southern states of Chiapas, Veracruz, and Oaxaca
Mexican coffee has a deep flavor and rich aroma and is often used in blends and dark roasts. Mexico is one of the top coffee producers in the world, and most of the coffee is grown on small farms, not large plantations.
One of the best known coffees is also one of the most difficult to transport from farm to production and shipping centers. Colombia’s rugged terrain, while ideal to grow the coffee, means that growers often must transport their harvest via mule or Jeep. Much of the Colombia’s coffee is produced on small, family farms with careful growing techniques. It’s smooth and mild flavor is a favorite of coffee drinkers.
Ethiopian, Ethiopia’s growing regions — Harrar, Sidamo, and Kaffa
“Bold” best describes Ethiopian coffee. Coffee trees have grown wild here for centuries and most coffee is still harvested from wild trees. The country uses wet processing techniques to give the coffee bold, earthy, and full bodied taste.
Becomming a Connoisseur
To become a true coffee connoisseur, you’ll want to sample coffees from around the globe. Most coffee shops will offer a daily variety so you can expand your caffeinated horizons—or decaf if you prefer. However, to explore freshly-brewed coffee varieties at home, you might want to join a coffee of the month club. Coffee clubs send you around a pound of coffee per month to your door. The company often selects the very best of the recent crops and makes recommendations based on your preferences.
- Craft Coffee provides freshly roasted coffee based on your monthly preferences.
- Boca Java offers 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions that make the perfect treat for you or gift for the coffee lover in your life.
- Gevalia, now owned by Kraft Foods, has been shipping coffee from around the world for decades. You choose the frequency with which you want coffee delivered to your door.
The recommended daily coffee intake is 3-4 cups. Hurry! You wouldn’t want to fall behind.12