La Pause Café with Alex // From coffee tree, to fruit, to seed, to coffee

- By Alex Lafrenière
From coffee tree, to fruit, to seed, to coffee
As discussed in previous articles, we now understand that the secret to preparing a cup of coffee that meets our expectations is to prepare it methodically and respecting the variables leading to a balanced extraction. However, know that the coffee bean will also have been pampered like a king before being infused in your comforting morning cup. It will have matured under carefully controlled conditions, will have been harvested and carefully extracted from its fruit, will have had its rind dried in the sun and, finally, will have traveled to the four corners of the world. 
Cultivating this little bine of happiness requires real know-how. From temperature stability to plant shade levels, every decision the grower makes will impact the cup. I invite you to dissect with me some of the key variables in the cultivation of coffee plants during a coffee break! 

Most coffee bags available on the market are
blends of several grains of different origin. Moreover, there are nearly 75 species of coffee around the world. Only two of these species represent 95% of the coffee consumed on the globe: Arabica and Robusta. The taste in the cup of these two coffee species differs enormously and it is possible to explain this difference by analyzing their production process. 
On the one hand, Arabica coffee, the most widespread species in the world, is often described as fruity and light. Its plantations are real princesses: they are fragile, generally grow at altitude on mountain plateaus and sometimes even on the sides of volcanoes, where the soils are particularly fertile. These growing areas maintain a particularly stable temperature throughout the day, as the humidity and heat of the day is stored to be released at night. In addition, Arabica benefits from the unequaled purity of mountain water. These coffee plants have every chance on their side to develop fruits of the most
juicy. Furthermore, Mademoiselle Arabica does not like direct sunlight - it therefore tries to sneak between other plants and trees in order to benefit from the shade of their leaves. These leafy neighbors contribute to the complexity and deployment of the richness of the fruits of the coffee tree. Finally, given these very cozy conditions, the Arabica coffee species will take its time and will only produce its first cherries after 6 to 8 weeks. This long process of fruiting allows the aromas and sugars to concentrate in the seeds and thus, will lead to coffee beans that are sweet and very little bitter. The countries that have the geographical characteristics conducive to the cultivation of the Arabica species are mainly Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Ethiopia. 
Now, if we consider Arabica as the princess of the coffee species, the Robusta species would be the Viking. Aptly named, Robusta plants are hardy and find a way to grow in far from mild weather conditions. Fearless, Robusta is even resistant to many threats from insects and diseases. Grown on plains at low altitudes and in full sun, Robusta has a powerful, bitter and much fuller-bodied flavor profile in the cup. The countries allowing the cultivation of the Robusta coffee species are those where the temperature is very high throughout the year and having a very strong radiation from the sun, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Uganda and India. 
FUN-FACT: The caffeine content present in coffee allows it to fight certain attacks from its environment, such as insects. Robusta coffee is grown at lower altitudes and is therefore subject to being nibbled by many more bugs than plants grown in the mountains. It is for this reason that Robusta contains twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee!
Anyway, the first time I looked at a bag of coffee, the label details could have been written in French or in hieroglyphics and I would surely have remembered the same thing (i.e., Nothing at all). Now that we have broken down the impact of weather conditions to the cup, this reading seems much more informative to me. I challenge you to look at your next bag of coffee and target the parameters leading to the flavor profile you prefer. The origin of the grains comes from a country in Africa covered with plains? You may have found a coffee that will be full-bodied and intense in the cup, perfect for making an espresso. You read on the bag that the coffee was grown at an altitude of almost 2m in a country in Central America? So hurry up and head to checkout please! You may have found a delicate and bold coffee that will be most delicious in a manual filter.
Good coffee! :)
- Alex