by Christopher Marsitto, Roast Master at CULT Coffee
As a coffee roaster, there are many mornings while enjoying my first sips of coffee that I will pause and reflect on what it took to produce this great beverage.
There are so many processes that a small coffee bean needs to get through before it reaches the ultimate goal of delicious brewed coffee. Just as with any other tree or plant it all starts in the ground, with all its rich nutrients that start developing the flavor nuances of that origin. From there it will take that small plant three to five years of growth before it will even start bearing fruit or what we call a coffee cherry. Each coffee tree can produce approximately one and a half pounds of coffee per year and has an average life span of fifty to sixty years barring any devastation. Once the tree bears fruit, it is ripened to a beautiful deep red color indicating it is ready to be picked. Imagine a small army of men and woman with baskets standing on the fertile mountainous slopes, hand picking the perfectly ripe coffee cherry. This process usually takes about three passes throughout a month to pick the cherries as they achieve that perfect color. Once harvested the coffee cherries will continue to the processing mill where it begins the transformation into the actual green coffee bean.
There are many different ways to process the ripe coffee cherries to produce a range of different flavors. The cherries can be dried naturally, honey processed or pulped natural and fully washed. Once dried the coffee beans are stored with a natural protective parchment and held to rest for a pre-determined time. After the coffee has rested, it is dry milled to remove the protective parchment and then sorted for color and size. Many coffee mills still use the hand method of workers sorting the off colored beans by sight. Some of the larger mills use mechanical methods to sort the off colored coffees, ensuring a consistent bag of green coffee beans. The coffee also goes through a screen system that sorts the green coffee by size. Once the milling is complete the coffee is weighed and bagged in sacks that range from 100 to 154 pounds depending on the country and is now ready to make its long journey to the coffee roasting facilities.
As the roast master, it is my job to graciously accept the gift of the green bean- the fruits of all these described labors. From here I ensure that each and every one of the beans is turned into coffee that delights the taste-buds. The roasting process will turn green coffee into that beautiful and delicious brown bean that we have grown accustomed to seeing when preparing our coffee. To create the perfect brown bean, it takes a special knowledge and craft of the coffee roaster to capture the many flavors captured within coffee bean. After the roasting is complete, the coffee proceeds to the men and women who package the coffee to prepare for the delivery to a restaurant, coffee house or home. Upon reaching its final destination the barista, server or everyday person like you and I prepare the coffee for yet another transformation into the beverages that we all love and enjoy.
Next time while awaiting your coffee to brew, consider the amazing journey of the coffee bean. While pouring your first cup of the morning recall the pouring out of labors and flavors that that fill your mug. Sit, absorb and enjoy!