Thursday training part two: The circle of (coffee) life
Yet another post from the intern:
The story of coffee begins (mostly likely) in Ethiopia, with Kaldi and his goats. Between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, coffee grows on trees as a little, red, cherry-like fruit, they’re green until they’re red and ripe. Each region produces a different taste and aroma depending on the environment and the production process the beans go through. That’s why you hear people say “this tastes like a sumatra, it seems pretty earthy and leathery” or “that one smells like blueberries, it must be an Ethiopia.”
Since the much of the landscape coffee grows in is difficult to access, most beans are handpicked by members of a cooperative, if you’re on a small scale farm. There is a whole other, scary side to coffee that is mass produced on plantations. Thankfully, Doma doesn’t participate in this side of things. Either way, coffee plants can grow in difficult to access places, along steep mountain slopes and forested areas.
Once the fruit is harvested, there are two different processes used to get to the bean. The first, which is most common, uses water. The “cherries” are run through a machine that takes the red casing off. The bean is still left with a sort of slimy gooey casing called mucilage. To get the mucilage off, the beans are soaked in water, this “fermentation” takes the casing off, at which point the beans are dried and ready to be roasted.
The other process, mostly used in Africa (though gaining popularity in Central America) is the “dry process.” As you can imagine, this process is ideal where rainfall is minimal. Coming from not to far away from Seattle, that’s a slightly bizarre concept… In a country like Ethiopia, the whole coffee cherries are set out in the sun to dry. When the cherry reaches a certain moisture content, it is run through a machine that takes the entire outer casing off, mucilage and all. Once again, the bean is ready to be roasted.
When the coffee beans arrive at the Doma plant, they are a pretty, pale, green color. Each coffee is uniquely roasted in the Loring Kestrel SmartRoast. For trade secrets you might have to blackmail Terry or Jim, pay them off with substantial sums of money a private, sunny island with palm trees and a life supply of ice cream.
Once roasted, each is placed in big tubs ready to be weighed and packaged inside the beautifully designed Doma coffee bags. I once was taught how to weigh the coffee and put it into the appropriate bag, but had trouble keeping up with the high speeds and perfect bagging techniques mastered by Matt and Justin. They are skilled in the rhythmic process of scoop, weigh, fold four times, stack and repeat. I felt sluggish and clumsy in comparison and may come back under cover of darkness to practice…
In the meantime, you now have beautifully roasted beans, ready to be sold and made into coffee!