Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Monday, October 29, 2012

Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from?

Every morning I enjoy the beginning of a new day in this beautiful Costa Rica, invariably with a cup of coffee in my hand.  For the most part, I am simply content with having my coffee, not thinking about where it came from.

I have always been a coffee lover, and Costa Rican coffee is one of my favorites; it is actually very common to hear that it is one of the best in the world.  When a friend of mine mentioned she liked the flavor of the coffee fruit, I became very curious, since I never thought of coffee as a fruit.  Therefore, I decided to look into what is behind that aromatic cup of coffee I enjoy so much.

If you are not visiting or living in Costa Rica, your coffee probably has undertaken an amazing journey from far en exotic places, and gone through the incredible process of harvesting, sorting, drying, roasting, shipping, and brewing into your cup.

Without being a connoisseur, it is hard to know what the coffee tastes like, based on its name or the region of origin; however, the experts say that the specific region where the coffee was harvested has a lot to do with its taste.

According to the experts, there are four highly productive regions in the world, where each type of coffee grown has  very distinctive characteristics of aroma, flavor, acidity, and body.
1     Latin America
2     Africa/Arabia
3     Asia-Indo-Pacific
4     Hawaii~Jamaica Latin American Region, there are six countries with outstanding quality product, and each one of them has different characteristics.

Dry, Spicy, 
Rich, Sweet, 
Costa Rican
Rich, Smooth, 
Sweet, Smokey
Rich, Chocolaty, 
Mild, Subtle
Dry, Sweet, 
Hints of Hazelnut
Mild, Pleasant

The coffee production in Costa Rica started in 1779 in the Meseta Central.  This area had the perfect type of soil and climate conditions to promote the cultivation of the Arabica blend.
 Arabs were the first ones cultivating coffee, and trading it.  As the story goes, the knowledge of coffee spread to the Arabian Peninsula from Ethiopia during the 9th century.  A monk by the name of Kaldi, observed a group of goats eating berries from a certain tree in the Ethiopian field close to his monastery.  His curiosity led him to notice that after eating the berries; the goats would become energized, not wanting to sleep at night.  Kaldi reported his finding to the head of the monastery.  He decided to make a drink with the berries.  To his delight, the drink turned out to be a great energy booster, allowing him to be alert during the long hours of evening meditation.  The discovery immediately started to spread through Arabia, where the deliberate cultivation started.

How do we get from the coffee berries to the Aromatic cup of coffee?

Well, it all begins with the coffee plant; it produces a berry that turns red when it is ripe.  That is the best time to harvest it.  That same day of the harvest, the pulp must be removed to avoid fermentation; it is done using the wet process because it allows the coffee to be washed easily.  After removing the pulp, the beans are classified to assure quality, they are cleaned to avoid any fermentation of any pulp remnants.   Costa Rica uses the sundry method, which is the next step; in it, the beans rest under the sun during seven days.  At the end of the seven days, the bean is dry but “green,” and it needs to be roasted. 

Roasting is the last step of the process, and it is the most essential.  It requires impeccable timing and setting of temperature to provide the perfect product.  While the beans are roasting, they will split and their coating will be released.  The strength of the coffee flavor depends greatly on the bean roasting formula.  For example, the longer the bean is roasted, the more intense the flavor will be.  Ironically, it is assumed the stronger the flavor the more caffeine is in it; however, it is actually the opposite.  The longer the bean is roasted; the more caffeine is removed.  During the roasting process, the natural sugars in the bean brake down, they emerge and caramelized when exposed to high temperatures.  There are several roasting methods and each one helps to enhance specific features of the coffee beans.

Here is another interesting question I had for years.  If the bean is the seed, and it is being roasted, becoming a cup of coffee, how do you grow the plant from a seed? 
Well, here is a picture of the berries, when they are red; they are ready to process into the roasted coffee beans; however, when they are overripe, the color read turns into almost purple, and that seed can be used to grow a new plant. 

It takes around 60 days from germination to sprout.

Between 3 and four months, you will have a funny-looking sprout with a bean as a helmet.  After the 4th month, the sprout grows into a plant, it is only around the 9th month that the plant starts looking like a coffee plant; they grow as tall as 4.5 feet.
          The coffee plant starts producing the berries as early as the 3rd year, and as late as the fifth.  It will be productive for a period between 15 and 20 years.

Costa Rican coffee is high in quality and caffeine content.  In some cases, the pure-high quality coffee is blended with inferior varieties with the purpose of providing a local product at an affordable price.

Coffee has been vital to the Costa Rican economy.  Most of the coffee growers were prominent members of society.  Most recently, since the price of coffee dropped in the global markets, Costa Rica has been feeling the impact; nevertheless, the “Coffee Institute in Costa Rica” is working with other organizations to promote it around the world.

In fact, an International coffee symposium will take place on November 11, 2012, at the Ramada Plaza Herradura, Costa Rica.  This event is being organized by the Association for Science and Information on Coffee.  This event is particularly important because it is the first time the coffee specialist will meet in Central America and only the third time in Latin America since 1966.

  Whenever you visit Costa Rica, make sure    
you have the “Coffee Experience”

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