The Coffee Cherry
Hello! And welcome to our first blog of the year!
For our first blog I thought, why not start where our coffee journey begins? The Coffee Cherry. Have you ever thought about how that delicious, roasted coffee bean starts out?
The coffee beans we brew and drink every day are the seeds of a small berry, referred to as the coffee cherry. Two seeds lie inside each cherry, unless it is a pea berry: a cherry where the seeds did not separate so you have one round bean.Native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia, botanically the coffee plant is classified as an evergreen shrub, but it is mostly referred to as a bush or tree.
Coffee bushes have glossy, dark green oval leaves and small, fragrant white flowers that bloom simultaneously in clusters lasting only a few days, signalling the start of the coffee cherry growth! The views and sweet fragrances across the coffee hills when the flowers are in bloom are gorgeous. And in the Hawaiian Kona region, it is referred to as Kona Snow.
The coffee cherry begins as a green, unripe berry, that gradually ripens to yellow, turning to an orange colour, before finally turning a beautiful deep red. This is when it is harvested for the famous beans! Though some varietals ripen to yellow. The whole growing and ripening of the coffee cherry takes about eight months but can vary due to factors like climate, soil, other foliage (e.g. shade-grown), varietal and altitude. Though the ripeness is determined primarily by colour a more precise method is to squeeze the cherry, and if the seed (bean) comes out easily, then the cherry is ripe for harvest.
After harvesting, the next step to getting our cup of coffee is to remove the seeds, or beans, from the cherry.
Looking at the cherry you just think it is like a cherry: fruit and seed, just remove the fruit! But it is not so clear cut, and this is where it starts to get interesting.Each coffee cherry is made up of several layers: the outer skin (pulp) or exocarp; the mucilage or mesocarp, a silky, sticky layer, this sticky mucilage is composed of natural sugars and alcohols and contributes massively to the sweetness, acidity, and overall flavour profile of the coffee; a papery layer or endocarp called parchment; and the silver skin, a membrane which covers the two seeds.
Coffee processing is the removal of these layers of fruit. There are several ways to do it, removing all layers at once, some layers first and leaving some on, drying in the sun, or washing in water to mention but some; with each method impacting the flavour of the coffee differently. But let’s leave all that information for another blog... or two!
While the beans inside the coffee cherry are typically the prize and what is sought after, there's a growing market for the cherry fruit itself either dried and made into Cascara (coffee cherry tea), or ground into a coffee flour that can be used as an alternative flour. Currently we are not allowed to import or sell these products due to EU regulations, but hopefully we can soon. It is a great way to help cut down on waste and provide an additional income for coffee farmers.
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed our first blog. We’ll be back next month!