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 year.

There 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.

There 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 growers are.

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.

Happy Roasting !!!

Coffee 101
How to Store Coffee



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