How are Arabica coffee beans harvested
Coffee is undoubtedly the Germans' favorite drink. The aromatic pick-me-up is enjoyed at home, in a café and even on the go. But how are beans made and how do the species differ from one another?
Coffee plants belong to the red family. There are many types of coffee, but only a few are suitable for making coffee. Arabica and Robusta are the most famous and best-selling types of coffee in the world. In addition to these two types, there are others that are not so easily available due to their rarity, but are still in great demand. The coffee beans form the seeds of the coffee plant or the coffee tree. Since it is easier for harvesting, the trees are kept rather small. The coffee cherry usually contains two coffee beans. But sometimes the fruit sets wither and form only one bean, the so-called pearl bean. This is particularly popular because it contains a stronger aroma.
The Arabica bean has the largest share in the coffee market. It is best known for its wholesomeness and its soft, fruity taste. You can recognize the bean by its oval body and the curved S-line on the flat side. Compared to Robusta, it contains less caffeine and is more demanding in terms of growing conditions.
Arabica beans prefer a higher elevation - between 800 and 2,000 meters - and require a balanced climate with mild, constant temperatures. From a cultivation height of 1,000 meters, one speaks of highland coffee. The more demanding conditions are prerequisites for the diverse flavors that make the bean so popular. But the Arabica plant is the only coffee plant that is able to fertilize itself; all other types of coffee are dependent on cross-fertilization by wind and bees. Some roasters only use arabica beans for their blends. This mixture is labeled “100% Arabica” on the packaging.
The Robusta plant is much more resistant than the Arabica plant. It is more resistant to diseases such as "coffee rust", which is due to the higher caffeine content, and can also handle higher temperatures better. Their cultivation height is less than 900 meters. It grows faster and is more productive than the arabica plant and its taste is earthy, woody and bitter.
That is why it is particularly popular for espresso blends. The bean is smaller and rounder compared to the Arabica bean. It usually has a straight slot on the flat side.
Lesser known types of coffee
On Lake Chad, which lies in Central Africa between the countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, the Excelsa plant discovered. Despite dry soil and in times of little rain, it thrives very well and is also very productive. The taste of the Excelsa coffee is strong and aromatic. Therefore, it is mainly consumed in the growing region. Only small quantities are exported abroad.
Also the Liberica plant - Cultivation areas are Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Benin, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam - is very robust. It is hardly susceptible to parasites and pests, has a long lifespan and has a very high crop yield. It has a very tart taste as it contains less sugar and more caffeine than Arabica and Robusta beans. However, their ripening process takes longer than other types of coffee. Liberica beans are often used as an admixture.
Stenophylla beans grow at a height of up to 700 meters and require very little water. The fruits of the Stenophylla plant are black and need more time to ripen compared to other types of coffee. That is why it is usually only grown for domestic needs. Stenophylla coffee tastes very mild because it contains very little caffeine. This type of coffee is cultivated in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria.
Special types of coffee
Types of coffee are mixtures and variations of the types of coffee mentioned above. The types of coffee listed here have peculiarities and differences due to local environmental factors or their development process.
Kopi Luwak comes from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi. It is also called cat coffee, as the stealthy cat species Fleckenmusang is responsible for its production. She eats different types of coffee beans. In the intestine, fermentation of the beans begins through digestion. After excretion, the beans are collected and processed. Kopi Luwak is considered the most expensive coffee in the world. The price for 1 kg is around 300 €. However, since this is linked to the annual yield, the price can fluctuate significantly.
The Arabica variety Maragogype is also called elephant bean because it is around 30% - 40% larger than common arabica beans. It is very low in acid and easily digestible. However, it is not suitable for industrial roasting, as it has to be carefully roasted twice so that it does not burn. The harvest yield of the maragogype plant is, however, lower than that of other arabica plants and their price is therefore higher. It is mainly grown in Mexico and Nicaragua.
Jamaica Blue Mountain is an Arabica plant grown exclusively in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The coffee cherries are hand-picked and not transported in sacks as usual, but in wooden barrels with black inscriptions. The growth of the plant takes longer due to the climatic conditions, but a better aroma can develop in this way. The climate is cool and there is a lot of rainfall. Since the growing area is very small, it is a real rarity. The Jamaica Blue Mountain tastes mild and sweet and is very aromatic.
The coffee cherry
The fruit of the coffee plant is called the coffee cherry because it is red in color when ripe. Only the bourbon coffee plant, which belongs to the Arabica species and grows in Kenya and Brazil, is an exception here, because its ripe coffee cherries are yellow. Unripe coffee cherries are green and turn yellow and red as they ripen. Overripe cherries turn black.
The coffee cherry contains two coffee beans inside, each of which is surrounded by a silver skin, which in turn is covered by a parchment skin. The two beans lie flat against each other. The two outer layers of the coffee cherry form the pulp - also called pulp -, which consists mainly of water, and the fruit skin.
Since coffee plants have no season, their fruits are not all ripe at the same time. The plants can bloom, bear unripe and ripe fruit, and wilt at the same time. This tropical phenomenon has an impact on harvesting and processing, since high-quality and aromatic coffee beans of the best quality can only be made from ripe fruits.
Coffee is called in the so-called Coffee belt cultivated. This extends from the 23rd parallel north to the 25th parallel south. Around 80 countries cultivate coffee plants, but not all of them also export their coffee abroad. Only in the vicinity of the equator, along the tropical and subtropical zones - and with a few exceptions - do coffee plants find the optimal conditions they need to grow. The influencing factors include:
Temperature: Coffee plants like it warm. The optimal temperatures are between 18 and 25 degrees. However, it must not be warmer than 30 degrees and not cooler than 13 degrees. The plants need constant temperatures without large fluctuations. Frost is particularly harmful to plants and can lead to crop failures. Direct sunlight must be avoided by shady plants and trees.
Rainfall: In general, coffee plants require a lot of rainfall. Because they like high humidity. The exception is the Excelsa plant, which can cope well with little rainfall and dry soil.
Mounting height: The higher coffee grows, the more time it takes. On the other hand, coffee beans that were grown in higher areas produce more aromatic substances and are milder.
Coffee-growing countries in Central America and the Caribbean
Costa Rica: Thanks to the volcanic ash, the soil is particularly fertile and has a mild aroma. Since it is required by law, only arabica beans are grown in Costa Rica.
Dominican Republic: Quality over quantity - this is ensured by 50,000 smaller producers with traditional cultivation and harvesting methods.
El Salvador: The coffee from El Salvador - only Arabica is grown - stands for the highest quality. The plantation owners see it as their duty to always maintain this quality.
Guatemala: The soil of Guatemala is enriched with minerals by active volcanoes. Arabica beans are mainly grown. Robusta only grows a small part of the plantations.
Haiti: Since the coffee farmers cannot afford insect and weed repellants, only the purest organic coffee - mainly Arabica - is grown.
Hawaii: In Hawaii there is only one cultivation area which covers approx. 100 km² and is located on the slope of a volcano. Kona coffee is a type of Arabica and is very popular among coffee lovers.
Honduras: Coffee from Honduras is best known for its strong aroma. The best Arabica beans grow at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 meters (High Grown) and up to a height of 2,000 meters (Strictly High Grown).
Jamaica: In the high areas of the Blue Mountains, the coffee of the same name is grown on small plantations. Since the beans are all handpicked and you need more beans for a cup of coffee than for other types, this coffee is one of the most expensive types in the world.
Cuba: In Cuba, low-lying cultivation areas provide a special aroma. The hand-picking guarantees the highest quality of the mostly grown Arabica beans.
Mexico: The majority of Mexican coffee beans - predominantly Arabica, little Robusta - comes from organic cultivation, which takes place on small plantations in the highlands.
Nicaragua: Since many smallholders have neither money for harvesting machines nor pesticides, the majority of the mainly grown Arabica beans are of organic origin and are mostly fairly traded.
Panama: The predominantly hand-picked Arabica beans from Panama are considered gourmet coffee. To date, however, this is still quite unknown among coffee lovers.
Puerto Rico: An average temperature of 26 degrees and fertile soils thanks to mixed culture offer the best conditions for the Arabica beans, which are harvested and sorted by hand and are among the top coffees.
Coffee-growing countries in South America
Brazil: 17 out of 26 states grow coffee - Arabica and Robusta - in Brazil and thus make up 1/3 of world production. Since Brazil consumes a large amount of the coffee it cultivates itself, some varieties are not even exported.
Ecuador: Many of the growing areas for Robusta beans are very low-lying and close to the coast. The growing areas of Arabica beans, on the other hand, are among the highest growing areas of all.
Galapagos Islands: 100% organic and arabica beans of the highest quality. Since the islands are a national park, the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers are prohibited. This is also not necessary with the nutrient-rich volcanic soil.
Colombia: Most of the coffee grows on modern plantations. The rest is cultivated by small farmers. Colombia is the largest producer of Arabica beans, some of which are even sold single-variety on the international market.
Peru: Almost exclusively small farmers take care of the quality of the Arabica beans from Peru, which are handpicked and wet processed.
Venezuela: In Venezuela, coffee is grown on small farms. This is mainly intended for personal use, but is very popular with connoisseurs and coffee lovers.
Coffee-growing countries in Africa
Ethiopia: In Ethiopia, the Arabica beans are processed both wet and dry. Little by little, attempts are being made to return to the glorious coffee trading times that prevailed before the revolution in 1974.
Burundi: The coffee - mainly Arabica and a little Robusta - is cultivated on the high plateau of the country, handpicked and mostly processed wet.
Ivory Coast: In addition to cocoa, the Ivory Coast almost exclusively grows hand-picked and sun-dried Robustas. There is no fermentation.
Yemen: The Arabica beans are cultivated in the highlands of Yemen. Harvesting is done by hand and drying is done in the sun. Coffee cultivation is ecological, as there is no money for artificial fertilizers.
Cameroon: Arabica and Robusta are grown in equal parts in Cameroon. The quality of the beans varies due to regional differences. The Robusta is mainly used for mixtures.
Kenya: 1,300 large plantations and 600,000 small producers cultivate the bourbon trees (Arabica) and pick the yellow ripe coffee cherries by hand.
Madagascar: The hand-picked Robusta beans are known for their good quality. Gradually, the cultivation of arabica plants is also being expanded.
Democratic Republic of Congo: Mainly small farmers take care of the cultivation of the coffee plants. The majority of the plants grown are Robustas, as there is Congo coffee, a wild-growing Robusta variety.
Rwanda: Rwanda is best known for its quality coffees. The tropical climate ensures the optimal conditions that the Arabica beans need for their growth.
Zambia: Arabica beans of the highest quality grow on the high plateaus of Zambia. However, due to the low annual harvest volumes, the share of the world market is very small.
Sao Tome e Principe: The Arabica beans cultivated and hand-picked here are a rarity. The nutrient-rich soil ensures the best quality, of which only around 1,000 sacks are exported each year.
Zimbabwe: Due to some political setbacks in coffee production, Zimbabwe can only produce small quantities of coffee. However, the Arabica plants are allowed to grow freely. In order to optimally supply them with nutrients, they are transplanted every few years.
St. Helena: Coffee cultivation on St. Helena - both Arabica and Robusta - is carried out exclusively by hand. Thanks to its volcanic origin, the island's soil is very rich in nutrients and provides high-quality beans.
South Africa: Most of the already small production volume of the South African Arabica beans is used for domestic coffee consumption.
Tanzania: The majority of the arabica and robusta beans grown in Tanzania are pearl beans. The coffee plants are mostly grown by farmers and farmers in the shade of banana plants.
Uganda: Both Robusta and Arabica find the perfect growing conditions in Uganda. However, Uganda is one of the most important Robusta suppliers worldwide. Therefore, only a small part is used for the cultivation of Arabica plants.
Coffee-growing countries in Asia and the Pacific
Australia: The coffee plants of the Bourbon variety provide high-quality Arabica beans of the best quality. Due to the low export volume and the high popularity of Australian coffee, it is becoming an expensive pleasure to enjoy.
India: Both Arabica and Robusta beans are grown in India. The special feature: the harvested beans ripen through monsoon rains and winds.
Indonesia: Diverse, that's the coffees from Indonesia. Kopi Luwak, Java coffee and lager coffee that ripens in warehouses is produced here. Indonesia is one of the largest Robusta exporters in the world.
New Caledonia: The Robusta beans from New Caledonia are extremely popular among coffee lovers, also due to the low amount of caffeine. However, this is very expensive due to its rarity and high production costs.
Papa New Guinea: Most of the coffee is grown on small plantations in the highlands. Since the rough terrain does not allow the use of machines, the coffee plantations are completely cared for by hand.Both Robusta and Arabica are cultivated, whereby the Arabica plants are related to those of the Jamaica Blue Mountain.
Philippines: The majority of coffee production is made up of the Robusta bean. But in the Philippines, in addition to this type of coffee, there are also Arabica, Excelsa and Liberica.
Vietnam: In Vietnam, Robusta is primarily cultivated. The plants are mainly grown on small farms. A small part of the harvest is of good quality. Most of the rest is more average quality.
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