Coffee is produced in over fifty countries worldwide. It is one of the most widely traded agricultural products in the world. Over 2.25 billion cups are consumed daily. The importance of coffee to the global economy cannot be overstated. There are twenty-five million small farms that produce 80% of the world's coffee. Many of these producers fail to earn a reliable living and it's not unusual that they barely cover the cost of production.
Fortunately, there is a growing movement dedicated to raising standards and making quality the highest priority. Producers are encouraged to invest time, sustainable farming practices and resources, in producing the highest quality coffee possible. With better coffee, they are guaranteed a higher price and often times they are paid considerably more than Fair Trade prices. This supports their families and allows them to grow their business and continue producing high quality coffee.
The Specialty coffee movement is rapidly expanding as more and more people are choosing not only a higher standard of quality and flavor in their cup, but also a higher standard of living for every person involved along the way.
If you drink two cups of coffee a day, you will require eighteen coffee trees (it's actually a shrub) devoted just to you, annually. Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) makes up approximately 70% of the world's coffee production. It takes three to five years for a newly planted tree to begin to bear fruit. The fruit, known as a coffee cherry, turns bright red when it is ripe and ready for harvest.
Coffee is seasonal, just as with any other produce. The harvest seasons vary throughout the different coffee-producing countries. Almost all high quality coffee is hand picked, one coffee cherry at a time. Only cherries at peak ripeness are harvested and generally three or four passes are made during a harvest season. The average coffee tree produces an annual yield of 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of roasted coffee.
Once the cherries have been picked they must be processed in one of the three basic methods- Washed, Semi-washed, and Natural. The method by which the coffee is processed affects the resulting flavor. In the center of each cherry are two seeds, the so-called green coffee beans. Occasionally, there is a single seed and these are known as peaberry. During processing, the beans are hand-sorted based on quality.
Green coffee is then graded and classified for export. Coffees of the best cup quality secure the highest price. For the finest coffees, origin of the beans (farm or estate,country) is especially important. Each region has some general flavor characteristics. Green coffee beans are packaged and loaded into shipping containers ready for export. Transport can take a few weeks to a few months.
Many factors have contributed to the coffees taste and quality up to this point. It is at this stage in the process that all of a coffees potential is enhanced or lost. You can't take mediocre coffee, roast it and make it better. But, you can easily ruin all of the efforts put into producing excellent coffees if it's not roasted well. Roasting coffee is a synergistic combination of art and science. The process of roasting requires paying close attention to subtle cues in sight, smell, temperature, airflow and overall progression. There's little room between under-roasted and over-roasted. A good roast allows for the crafting of a great cup of coffee.
It's important for freshly roasted coffee to be enjoyed soon after roasting. Knowing the roast date is an important factor in making a good brew. There's an ideal window after roasting, between twenty-four hours and two weeks where coffee continues to develop and is at its best. Signing up for a subscription is one way to ensure you are receiving the freshest, best tasting coffees available. There's no need to remember to place an order. Set it and forget it. Once you sign up, coffee is roasted and delivered on a set schedule. It's that easy.
Now it's time to enjoy the many efforts of coffee's great journey. There are many methods for brewing a good cup of coffee and several factors to consider regardless of the method you choose. Coffee-to-water ratio, grind size, water temperature and brew time each has an affect on the resulting brew. If any of these is off the coffee can be over-extracted (bitter, strong) or under-extracted (sour, weak). Here are some basic guidelines:
- Use Seven Stones freshly roasted beans (just kidding...no I'm not)
- Start with a ratio of 2 Tbsp (12g) coffee beans per 6oz (192g) of water
- Heat the water to between 195° and 205°F
- Pre-rinse paper filter if you're using one
- Preheat mug
- Adjust grind for brew method
- Grind immediately before brewing (a burr grinder is ideal for an even grind)
- Store beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing in the refrigerator or freezer