Wandering through the coffee section of A1 Cash and Carry, you will be assailed with an amazing variety of available brands. Which ones to choose? Roasting profiles? Source of origin? Whole beans? Ground? How do they differ? I’m a heavy coffee drinker who loves the beverage but knows nothing about it. Okay, I know it comes from beans. I can see the pictures on the packaging. But that’s it. Are the beans dug up? Plucked from bushes like berries? Neither. They grow on trees.
Legend has it that the Ethiopian shepherd Kaldi noticed that when his goats munched on those red berry-like beans of the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau, they became so energetic that they didn’t want to sleep. He took the berries to a local Abbot, who made a drink from the berries that was very enjoyable. The Abbott shared his findings with other Abbotts, and the rest is history. By the 16th century, coffee was being cultivated and traded on the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Syria, Persia, Egypt and Turkey.
And it didn’t take long for the first coffee cafes to emerge and become very popular. With thousands of international pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca every year, coffee and coffee houses rapidly spread throughout Europe. It’s amazing to consider that 500 years hasn’t changed the essence of the coffee house. Just like today, 500 years ago they engaged in conversation, listened to music, caught up with the news... In England the populace increasingly attended ‘penny universities. So called because for the price of a penny one could buy a cup of coffee and have all kinds of stimulating conversation.
And what about the coffee? Well, there are four primary types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa.
ARABICA is the most common and most heavily marketed coffee. It’s beans create a sweeter, more delicate flavor profile than the other types, and the coffee itself tends to be less acidic. These characteristics make it the most popular type of bean in North America. Arabica beans are farmed in areas with high elevations above sea level with plenty of rainfall. Not surprisingly, the Brazilian rainforest has been the world’s foremost exporter of Arabica beans for centuries now. But the plants themselves are fairly delicate and prone to disease, so farming in great quantities is a challenge. This drives up the cost of the bean in the global market. However, most who enjoy its softer, sweeter taste, gladly pay the price. Of interest, it took the wily Portuguese emissary Francisco de Melo Palheta, to launch Brazil into its world-leading status as top coffee exporter. He was sent to French Guyana in
1727 as a representative of Brazil who had been asked to help resolve a land dispute between French and Dutch Guyana. But his unannounced mission was to get his hands on the heavily guarded coffee tree seedlings hoarded by the French Guyanese, who enjoyed early cultivation success and its reward of a very profitable export. All of his supplications for seedlings fell on deaf ears. So he devised an alternate plan - the French Guyanese governor’s wife, Marie-Claude de Vicq de Pontgibaud. The roguish De Melo Palheta knew that she found him attractive after she had engaged him in conversation on more than one occasion. After discreetly charming her whenever the opportunity presented itself, it was purported that a seduction ensued. With her assistance, he was able to smuggle out coffee seedlings when he left French Guyana. Thus armed, Brazil was able to begin the cultivation of the huge plantations that led to their global dominance.
ROBUSTA beans are second on the list of global production and the most popular in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Like its name, it’s more robust and bitter than Arabica. But as such, it lends itself perfectly to the preferred espresso types of coffee that abound in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where strong coffee is truly appreciated. Robusta is also extremely high in caffeine, which is a natural insect repellent. This, plus Robusta’s ability to adapt to many different environments, makes the Robusta bean much more resilient and easier to grow than the Arabica.
LIBERICA coffee beans are a rare treat. They originated in western and central Africa, from Liberia to Angola, but today are almost exclusive to the Philippines and Malaysia. Production is far too scarce for farmers to scale their operations to truly satisfy a global marketplace. The fact that this is no regular Arabica coffee becomes immediately apparent as soon as you smell it and taste it. The unmatched flavour profile of Liberica coffee is bound to be a favourite for true coffee lovers and a delight to discerning palates. Its single origin flavour characteristics include sweetness and fruit highlights comparable to jackfruit and blackberry. It’s a rare and expensive bean that is actually available in Canada (and not the U.S) through LeClair Organics.
EXCELSA is technically a member of the Liberica family, but its species is actually incredibly distinct. Some experts say it should be its own type. The Excelsa bean is native to Africa and grown mostly in Southeast Asia. However, despite it being easy to grow, not enough is grown to even barely dent the global market. It is a very misunderstood bean. Herein lies the problem. When improperly grown and roasted it has an inferior taste to the other types. But properly grown and roasted, it provides a superior tasting coffee, boasting a tart, fruity flavour and unique profiles that are frequently sought out by coffee enthusiasts. Like Liberica, its potential lies in its single origin appeal that is embraced by specialty coffee cafes and markets.
BLENDED (vs Single Origin)
Most of what is available on the shelves today are blends that include crops from many different plantations and geographical locations. There are also blends of different types of beans. One popular blend is 3 parts Arabica and 1 part Robusta.
A single origin coffee can be traced to one plantation, or at the least, one region of all the same type of bean. In this manner, a delicious, hiqh quality Robusta coffee may find its way into specialty grocery stores, or be available in those specialty coffee cafes. This will be a single origin Robusta made from craft, small-batch roasters. The very best Robusta coffee beans have hints of chocolate and rum within their flavour profile.
Single origin coffees are rapidly gaining popularity with the consumer base that frequents specialty coffee cafes, as well as the increasing number of consumers who just want to know where their coffee comes from and what it’s made from. Today’s consumers are often driven by increased transparency and innovative methods, so it’s no surprise that single origin coffees are a growing market.
So, either you are the one who likes a freshly brewed cup of milk coffee or black coffee, Canada’s leading wholesale restaurant supplier offers wide ranging coffee selection including your favorite coffee blend from your preferred coffee brand. Visit now to order just the right coffee blend for you to sip on!
with thanks to ncausa.org, districtroasters.com, perfectdailygrind.com and WikipediaView Coffee Blends