What do you know about coffee? Most of the world’s coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer to the north and the Tropic of Capricorn to the south. The year around temperature in this region runs around 75 degrees and has very little chance of frost. With an abundant rainfall the coffee plants have the ideal conditions to thrive.
The type of coffee plant grown in each region varies. About two thirds grow the fine-flavored Arabica bean. The Arabica bean requires high altitudes from 3000 to 6000 feet. The other type of coffee bean is Robusta that grows at lower altitudes. It does not have the refined flavor of the Arabica, but has almost twice the caffeine content. Robusta is also less expensive because it is more abundant and can be harvested with machines instead of being picked by hand. Organic coffee percentages are way lower due to the cost that it takes to grow the coffee.
Many of the popular coffees available in supermarkets are a blend of Arabica and Robusta. These coffees will have greater caffeine content, but a harsh, inferior taste. Quality coffees will also be labeled according to their country of origin.
As with wine, coffee has developed a whole vocabulary to describe and evaluate the different beans and brews. The initial indication of the freshness and quality of coffee is its “fragrance”. If there is no fragrance then the coffee’s quality is stale or past its prime. When the hot water hits the grounds, you refer to this as the “aroma” The feel of the brew in your mouth is the “body” of the coffee. Your coffee should be heavy enough to linger in the mouth a few moments after it is swallowed. It should not feel thick or oily on the tongue. The term acidity has nothing to do with bitterness but is a characteristic to be valued. It refers to a brisk and lively quality that yields a refreshing taste to a cup and balances its richer flavor. It is the dominant characteristic of coffees grown at higher altitudes. All organic coffees are grown at higher altitudes.
All of these properties contribute to a coffee’s flavor. Sweet, bright, fruity, or earthy are positive descriptions. Harsh, woody or muddy descriptions are negative. A mellow coffee is balanced with low to medium acidity. A mild coffee has a delicate flavor. This applies to many higher altitude Central American beans. Some coffees have a pronounced flavor that is distinguishable, such as Indonesian Arabica which has a hint of cardamom. About coffee, It all boils down to what you like. Choose your special brew and make sure it is organic.