Coffee is a crop just like strawberries, or apples. It comes from a tree
or bush in the ground and it has a typical life cycle: it grows, peaks,
matures and declines. When the crop is gone, it is gone for good. No two
crops are exactly alike although generalities do persevere year after
are two main species of coffee trees: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica trees
produce less coffee per tree than Robusta and they require more attention;
that equates to higher prices. They also produce the more flavorful beans
and are known as specialty coffees. There are a number of subspecies of
Arabica, perhaps the most common being typical Catuai, Caturra and Mocca.
Hybrids and sub-species also abound, like Maragogype, Bourbon and Pacas
to name a few--all Arabica.
Robusta is a high-yield, low maintenance tree that produces beans with
little flavor and lots of caffeine, much more than Arabica varieties.
They are used primarily as inexpensive fillers in commercial coffee, sold
to soft drink bottlers as a caffeine source, and used sparingly in many
peoples' Espresso blends. That being said, virtually everything else written
here will be about the Arabica species.
Coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn...all
the way around the globe. There are many factors that impact the flavor
of each crop. Most are typical agricultural things like soil condition,
sunshine and precipitation. Other factors are the amount of shade the
trees have: more shade = slower ripening process = more qualities are
drawn from the soil and the air. How the trees are pruned makes a difference,
as with any fruit bearing plant. The kind of fertilization that is used
whether chemical or organic and of course the method of pest control that
is used: chemical or natural.
has been a big surge for "organic" coffees lately both good
and bad. On the downside, the certification process is heavily bureaucratic
and very expensive, which weighs heavily on the poor farmer--most small
Does organic growing really make a difference? Probably so for the following
reasons: Care and nurturing provided by the farmer is probably the single
most significant factor in producing quality coffee. With all the hype
for organics and the higher price yields for their crop, these caring
growers lean toward organics whenever possible and in turn they are nicer
to their trees. Thus their organically grown coffee is usually better
than their non-organic crop. Organic coffee must be certified organic
to be sold as organic, so look carefully for our "organically grown"
small farm coffees if you want the really good stuff.
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