June 30, 2021

The magical coffee bean

Coffee bean shining

Where does the coffee bean come from?

Coffee plants are magical, living organisms that can grow up to 10 meters tall when growing in the wild. Coffee grows best within a temperature range of 18°-27°C on volcanic soil or deep sandstone rock formations where there is plenty of water available from precipitation all year round. It takes about 3-4 years for a coffee plant to mature to where the beans can be harvested.

Coffee beans are unique as they grow inside a cherry like fruit. Coffee beans develop from these little “cherry” fruits which consist of an inner pulp with two coffee bean pods in it each covered by another thin layer called parchment and finally one more membrane at its center. In fact, the term “coffee bean” is misleading; they are actually seeds. You'll usually find two of these inside each cherry-like fruit that grows on a coffee plant.

Coffee producers know just when to harvest these cherries for the most delicious flavours possible. The perfect time is when they turn a bright, cherry red and are ready for picking. These coffee berries grow on branches of plants that start out green before turning this beautiful colour signaling their readiness to be harvested. The flavour of coffee can be affected by the specific process in which it is harvested. It takes a certain amount of time for each type to reach peak taste quality, and harvesting from different plants with varying maturity levels will affect how quickly that happens.

Anatomy of a bean

Inside every coffee cherry, you will find two seeds. These seeds are protected by several protective layersthat must be carefully removed before they can be roasted.

  • Exocarp: Outer skin or peel of the fruit. Start as a green colour that slowly changes colour to red as the fruit matures.
  • Mesocarp: Thin layer of pulp or flesh underneath the exocarp.
  • Endocarp: A parchment-like envelope that covers the bean. During the maturation process, this layer hardens to limit the final size of the bean.
  • Spermoderm: Another layer of a thin membrane or seed skin that covers the bean.
  • Endosperm: The true seed (bean) itself. Before it is roasted, it is a beautiful green colour.

It’s only after all of these layers are carefully peeled away, that we can finally begin the roasting process.

Harvesting the Coffee Bean

Once this happens, the harvesting process is initiated with a machine or picked by plantation workers which are native to that region because of its mountainous terrain. The reason people take part in these arduous duties instead of machines is due to geographical location: most often plantations exist on large mountains making it difficult for machinery access between farms and fields

It is not just the bean that has to be perfect. The time of year it was harvested and how its roasted can make or break a cup, so coffee production goes far beyond picking beans off trees.  After the coffee cherries are harvested, the beans are extracted from the fruit and, eventually, roasted. It is at this point that the coffee finally becomes the dark brown bean we all recognise.