Many steps go into the process of getting coffee from a farm to you; only when each step is performed properly do you receive the true pleasure that can be coffee.
Coffee trees grow on farms (estates), generally in equatorial regions. If a coffee has an estate designation, then it is generally of higher quality, as the roaster will know the specific origin and growing conditions. This is one of the many similarities the specialty coffee industry shares with the wine industry, as many of the wines sold today have estate, or vineyard, designation. We believe it is important to know the conditions for growing the coffee, as well as the commitment to excellence of each estate. City Bean has established some wonderful relationships with the growers of the coffees we roast. Coffee quality is the driving force for our purchasing criteria, but we also place importance on sustainability criteria, such as a farm’s sensitivity to the environment in which it grows coffee (soil, flora, animal life, etc.), health of a farm’s workforce, and education of the children of a farm’s workplace.
Coffee is simply the seed of a cherry, which is not very pleasant to eat. Two seeds grow in every cherry, which are on trees that reach about eight feet in height. Each tree produces one to two pounds of coffee every year. Caffea Arabica, or Arabica, is considered the finest species of coffee and is the only coffee roasted by City Bean. Arabicas grow at 3,500 to 6,000 feet elevation, and generally in hilly or mountainous regions. Many larger coffee estates have automatic picking equipment and harvest all of their coffee at once. This is the equivalent of picking all the oranges off a tree at one time; obviously, some will be ripe, some will be spoiled, and some will be overripe. City Bean looks to work with estates that handpick their coffee and have several harvests during the season to ensure ripe, top quality raw coffee with maximum flavor.
Once picked, coffee gets processed and then sorted. The processing of coffee involves removing the pulpy portion of the coffee cherry so all that remains is the seed (bean) in its parchment skin. The coffee then goes through a washing process (wet or dry method) and the skins are removed. Once dried, the coffee is ready for sorting.
Each country has its own sorting and grading standards. Some of the more common sorting methods are by size (bigger is better), the hardness of the bean (harder is better), number of flaws (number of flawed beans in a lot), and region of origin. Unfortunately, there is no established system of grading across the board, which makes evaluating and purchasing all the more complicated. This is why the experience of the roaster in evaluating coffee becomes so important.