From tree to cup

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil. It was way back in the 15th century that Arab traders took wild coffee from Ethiopia to Yemen. Ethiopia is the birthplace of the coffee tree, and has hundreds of varieties still growing in the wild.

Friday 17 August 2012, 05:45PM

Later the great colonial powers, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and Great Britain took coffee trees and planted them in their territories all over the world, particularly in South and Central America, but also in other parts of Africa and Asia.

Coffee appears like a red, green or yellow cherry and is grown on a bush like tree. In northern hemisphere countries the harvest is in the new year. The coffee cherries are picked by hand and then processed.

There a two main types of processing – wet and dry. Dry processing simply involves placing the harvested cherries on platforms to dry naturally in the sun.

Wet processing involves a washing process where outer layers of material encasing the coffee bean are shed during a washing and fermentation process.

Once the coffee is dry, the farmer or farming collectives supply samples to small and large buyers.

The samples, typically 300 grams, can be roasted on a small roasting machine which mimics a commercial roaster. Other processes the beans undergo include de-stoning and de-caffeination. 

Green coffee is very absorbent too, and it is very important to transport in a manner which minimises exposure to heat, humidity, external odours and pests. Green coffee can be stored for one year or even longer if kept in cool and dry conditions.

Most commercially sold coffee is roasted in a drum roasting machine. The drum made of metal rotates above hot burners. The coffee turn around inside and is “baked” by coming into contact with the hot metal drum walls and heated air which is regular and allowed to circulate inside the drum.

The roasting process takes about 15 minutes but differed from bean to bean depending on variety, density, moisture content and roast colour desired.

Coffee is then cooled and placed into bags with a one way seal to allow carbon dioxide to escape but prevent air from coming inside the bag, to ensure freshness is maintained.
Stored correctly, the roasted coffee manta stood freshness for up to three weeks.

Danny Hyams is an Australian coffee roaster, barista and barista trainer based in Phuket. He runs the Garage coffee shop in Kamala, and also provides advice and sales of a range of coffee equipment and coffee beans, and imports coffees for sale and roasts his own. He can be contacted at or 080-534-5512.



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