Passion for Coffee

.. Life begins after the coffee



Knowing coffee

The first references about coffee lead us to the countries of Saudi Arabia, or better of the Yemen, where the plant grew naturally and was found by some missionaries: they were intrigued by the behaviour of their little goats, that ate its berries. In this way they understood the stimulating properties of the plant and used it to prepare a beverage to drink during the night prayers.

Later the plant was introduced in Africa, in the Ethiopian, Kenyan and Tanzanian areas, thanks to the Haya tribes, that used the green berries to make a preparation of energetic patties to chew during the day.

In many countries the development and cultivation of the coffee plant began during the colonialism period. English, Dutch and German colonists imported the plant to the various places in which they established. The coffee became a bargaining chip in the commercial transactions between Arabia and Africa, carried in wooden ships. Following a fire that took place during the carrying, they found out that the berries could be toasted, thus making the most of the aromas they produced.

Then the plant was exported to most of the countries of Central and South America, where the wet and warm climate allowed a great development and cultivation of it. Nowadays we find the cultivations of its species Arabica and Robusta in almost the whole world, in the area between the Tropic of Cancer and of Capricorn.



Coffee is cultivated in more than 50 countries but, being irreparably damaged by the cold, it needs a well- defined climate, with quite high temperatures and a certain alternation of sun and rainfall; that is why it can only grow between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The coffee plant belongs to the Rubiaceae family, and the most important species for the human economy are three: Arabica Coffea, Canephora or Robusta Coffea, Liberic Coffea.

The Robusta type, as it can be inferred by its name, is stronger than the other plants; it naturally grows in Congo, where it was discovered in 1898; it is less inclined to the attack by pests and subject to illnesses, it can survive also with minimal rainfall; it is cultivated from the sea level up to 800 metres. The Arabic type is quite a delicate plant and it needs more intensive care; it is cultivated between 600 and 2000 metres.

The Coffea plant is an evergreen shrub, whose cultivation can develop for 2 metres; it can be cultivated in the bright sunshine or in the shadow. For some types of Coffea the intense heat and the strong sunlight are not good, so very often in the plantations higher trees are grown in order to provide some shadow.


Preparation of the raw material

Usually the coffee harvest takes place twice a year, in March and September, or just once a year, depending on the climate. The harvest is a long and laborious operation as not all the berries ripen at the same time. The important thing is to pick only the ripe berries, because if you pick the unripe ones, they will no longer ripen. In fact, the superior quality types are always picked manually (Picking), on several occasions.
Usually, in the most extended plantations, where the most economic types are cultivated, the harvest can be done with the help of machines with brushes, that make all the fruits fall down at their base: this method is similar to the Stripping, which consists on the manual harvest of the drupes at one time by tearing them off from the inside to the outside of the branches, be they ripe, green or dry.

Once the berries are picked, the process continues with the cleaning; there are two methods for cleaning coffee: the dry and the wet. In the dry method, the natural one, the coffee berries are scattered on the floor, in thin layers, and left drying in the sun; during this process they are regularly raked, to allow a homogeneous dry.
In the wet method, instead, berries are immersed in the water and, through a cleaning machine, their pulp is taken away; then the grains are dried off through a mechanic dehydrator or in the sun, like previously explained.

Finally, coffee is selected and further cleaned: through particular methods, the grains are cleaned of external impurities, like pebbles, dust and dirt, and later divided according to their dimension and shape.