Over half the world’s coffee is grown in South America, but it was originally cultivated in Yemen. Coffee grows exclusively in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Coffee beans are actually the seeds of the coffee plant and come in pairs within the red-colored coffee “cherry”.
Here is some supplemental information on fair trade coffee:
Regardless of where they come from, a lot of coffee bean workers are earning wages worth less than a cup of the product they reap.
In addition to South America, coffee is grown in Central America (including southern parts of Mexico), Africa, South East Asia, and Pacific Islands like Hawaii. These areas are within the “Coffee Belt,” defined as the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The character of the beans vary greatly from region to region, as do the methods by which they are processed. Most coffee shops that sell whole beans will telly you where the coffee is from and fill you in on its specific characteristics.
Coffee beans are the seeds of the red grape-like fruit of the coffee tree. There are several layers to get through before the actual “bean”: there’s a thick, bitter skin, then the sweet fruit, a slimy layer called the parenchyma, and then the seeds, which are wrapped in a papery substance. The fruit is picked when ripe and processed immediately.
There are two basic ways that the cherries are processed. The dry method is done by laying the fruit out in the sun until they are dry enough for the seeds to rattle around inside (when moisture content has reached below 11%). This takes about a week to a week and a half. The wet method is performed by removing the skin and fruit within the first day in a pulping machine and then running the remaining seeds and parenchyma through an enzyme bath that removes the parenchyma. The seeds are then dried.
When dry, the beans are hulled and sorted by size and density. Denser beans are considered better than lighter beans.
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