Did You Know
This is a Section where we discover everything there is about coffee from its origin to the modern day, from cultivation to the cup, and what makes it so captivating to such a wide variety of people and cultures.
Origin of Coffee Story
Have you ever thought about the amazing story of coffee?
No one really knows how Coffee was discovered, but all agree that it originated in Ethiopia. An ancient Ethiopian legend says that a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats acting erratic after eating some leaves and berries of a strange bush so he decided to try some berries for himself. He soon felt extra energy and was dancing around himself. Early usage of the new found plant was simply to chew on the berries or brew the leaves as a weak tea. And then, approximately in the 1400’s is when the seeds were roasted (at first probably by accident) and made into a dark delicious brew called coffee. The world was never the same since.
Retrieved [04/09/2021], from PBS History (https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=pbs+history+of+coffee&docid=607987732198684001&mid=2A63D0EDA6470DC98CFA2A63D0EDA6470DC98CFA&view=detail&FORM=VIRE)
Let's Start Here
The best way to begin our coffee journey is to first understand how these magical plants are identified, cataloged, and selected for a memorable cup of coffee.
How we Classify and Identify Plants and Animals
In order to fully understand the numerous varieties of coffee beans we enjoy, we first need to understand how we classify and identify these plants. These scientific processes are taxonomy, and morphology.
Generally, these tools help farmers, buyers, and others in the coffee industry to more easily identify the plant varieties being grown. Another way of identifying the different plant species would be through DNA sequencing, but this would be very expensive and prohibitive to most in the industry.
Britannica defines taxonomy as…
Taxonomy, in a broad sense is the science of classification, but more strictly the classification of living and extinct organisms—i.e., biological classification. The term is derived from the Greek taxis (“arrangement”) and nomos (“law”). Taxonomy is, therefore, the methodology and principles of systematic botany and zoology and sets up arrangements of the kinds of plants and animals in hierarchies of superior and subordinate groups. Among biologists the Linnaean system of binomial nomenclature, created by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus in the 1750s, is internationally accepted.
Obligatory Hierarchy of Ranks
Below is an Example of how this works
domain Eukaryota Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia Plantae
phylum Chordata Tracheophyta
class Mammalia Pteropsida
order Primates Coniferales
family Hominidae Pinaceae
genus Homo Pinus
species Homo sapiens (modern human) Pinus strobus (white pine)
Retrieved [04/05/2021], from Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/science/taxonomy)
Britannica defines Morphology as…
Morphology, in biology, the study of the size, shape, and structure of animals, plants, and microorganisms and of the relationships of their constituent parts. The term refers to the general aspects of biological form and arrangement of the parts of a plant or an animal. The term anatomy also refers to the study of biological structure but usually suggests study of the details of either gross or microscopic structure. In practice, however, the two terms are used almost synonymously.( ……..) Morphologists were originally concerned with the bones, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves comprised by the bodies of animals and the roots, stems, leaves, and flower parts comprised by the bodies of higher plants.
Retrieved [04/09/2021], Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/science/morphology-biology)
Nodal and Internodal Distancing
One tool of morphologists is to study nodal and internodal distancing of the different plants.
Nodes are the points on a stem where the buds, leaves, and branching twigs originate. They are important spots on the plant where significant healing, structural support, and biological processes take place.
Even without visible buds or leaves, you can tell where the node of a twig is by some signs that you will only see at a node:
a scar in the wood where a leaf has fallen away
A knob-like, slight fattening of the wood (think of a bamboo cane)
In plants with hollow stems such as forsythia, smooth hydrangea, and bamboos, the nodes are solid
Internodes are the sections of stem between the nodes. Usually, internodes seem long and provide spacing between nodes of many inches. However, some plants are notable for how close together their leaves are, and thus, their nodal distances are always shorter.
Retrieved [04/09/2021], The Spruce (https://www.thespruce.com/plant-nodes-and-internodes-3269548)
Let's Put it all Together
This is what the Taxonomy of Coffee looks like..
Kingdom = Plantae
Phylum = Angeosperma
Infrakingdom = Streptophyta (land plants)
Class = Magnoliopsida - Asteridae
Order = Gentianales
Family = Rubiaceae, madders
*** And now onto something we may recognize ****
Genus = Coffea L. = Coffee
Species = Coffea arabica = Arabian coffee
Species = Coffea canephora = Robusta coffee
Species = Coffea liberica = Liberian coffee
Examples of Other Species
Species = Coffea benghalensis = bengal coffee
Species = Coffea congensis = congo coffee
Species = Coffea stenophylla
Retrieved [04/02/2021], from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (http://www.itis.gov).
The Genus: Coffea
Of the Genus, Coffea, there are a multitude of species, but only a few are commercially relevant for the coffee industry, these are the
Canephora –or- (Robusta)
Liberica – or - (Liberian) species.
Just for comparison, Arabica species accounts for 70% of the worlds coffee production with the remaining 30% going to Robusta and Liberica.
The Arabica species is the primary bean used in the specialty coffee market due to the inherent, well balanced, range of flavors and aromas, that one may find while enjoying a cup of coffee. For example, these flavors and aromas can be of chocolate, orange zest, roasted almonds, vanilla, hibiscus, green apple, red fruit, blue berries, butter caramel, etc… as you can imagine there are no shortage of descriptors and all are dependent on the variety of bean and how it is roasted and brewed.
Retrieved [04/02/2021], from the Specialty Coffee Association (SPA) (https://sca.coffee/research/botany?page=resources&d=a-botanists-guide-to-specialty-coffee)
The Robusta and Liberica species are generally considered inferior to Arabica, they are grown and most commonly used for instant coffee and some espresso blends. With that, there are a handful of craft roasters who are trying to demonstrate that Robusta has a place at the coffee shop.
As we know Arabica is known for cup profiles suitable for specialty coffee. Part of this success is due to the care and attention put into its farming, production, and processing. The current suggestion is, if we give a similar level of attention to Robusta’s cultivation and processing practices we could improve its quality.
Joaquim Inácio Sertório Neto is a Robusta Grader and Conilon Consultant from Brazil. He describes the sensory profile of specialty Robusta as being “full-bodied with a long aftertaste, low to medium acidity, low bitterness, and with notes of fruits and spices.”
He continues to explain that these qualities need to be considered during roasting. For example, Robusta could have half of the sugars, and less acid than Arabica so there needs to be special considerations and expertise that few have when roasting Robusta to really let this coffee shine.
Retrieved [04/24/2021], Perfect Daily Grind (https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/inside-brazils-specialty-robusta-scene/
Additional support for how Robusta may be a diamond in the rough reinforces the notion that paying attention to how these coffees are cultivated, harvested, processed, and roasted can drive flavor note characteristics of jasmine and fruit, bringing a whole new level to espresso blends, and maybe even as a standalone specialty coffee.
Retrieved [04/23/2021], Barista Magazine (https://www.baristamagazine.com/exploring-speciality-robusta-category/)
As a Side Note: Robusta contains nearly double the caffeine than Arabica
The Liberica species accounts for less than 1% of the overall coffee production and typically seen as an inferior species and grown in the Philippines and Malaysia? As with the Robusta bean, Liberica is gaining some attention and some possible slow forward movement as a decent re-discovered cup of coffee when grown, processed, and roasted with care.
As Asser Christensen writes,
“LIBERICA COFFEE SHOULDN’T BE UNDERESTIMATED”
“Liberica is almost never seen in the so-called serious coffee shops. But the forgotten coffee species has massive potential.” In part, Asser continues, the (natural processed) bean flavors had a vibrant jackfruit and unusual but delicious chorizo aroma whereas the (washed process) bean flavors had bitter chocolates, lemon, and bergamot. The sweetness was intense and the acidity was almost absent. These profiles were great on their own but would be fantastic as a blend for espresso.
Retrieved [04/14/2021], The Coffee Chronicler (https://coffeechronicler.com/liberica-coffee/)