Have you ever wondered what it takes to make your coffee in the morning? From plant to package and everything in between, coffee goes through a long journey to become the drink you love.
Thankfully, we’re here to clear up the mystery for you! Whether you want to know exactly where your coffee comes from or what type of coffee bean to look for in the supermarket, we’ve got you covered.
Keep reading for a full breakdown of how coffee comes to be!
Where Is Coffee Grown?
Coffee has a grand history, stretching back to ancient Ethiopia and a goat herder named Kaldi. As the legend goes, Kaldi saw the effect coffee berries had on his herd of goats, leading to the creation of coffee itself.
While the story is most likely only a legend, coffee does originate from around Ethiopia, though the exact location is unknown. After its original discovery, coffee began to spread globally to the growing regions we recognize today. Unfortunately, if you’re trying to learn how to grow coffee beans for yourself, you might have some difficulty.
Due to the tropical climates and high altitudes needed to grow coffee, these regions only appear in a specific belt of land, wrapping around the globe in the tropics. Located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, this is called the Bean Belt, and it is where all coffee starts its journey.
The Bean Belt
Spanning the entire tropical region of the globe, the Bean Belt contains all 44 coffee-producing countries globally. Each area will have its own claim to fame in the industry, and all regions have their merits!
South America holds the world’s 1st and 3rd largest coffee producers in Brazil and Colombia, respectively. Central America prides itself on notoriously balanced blends of flavor in their beans, while African coffee is often considered to be the “purest” coffee - since it is the original source. Vietnamese coffee has also started to become more and more popular in the United States.
No matter what country your coffee comes from, it will still go through a relatively similar procedure, starting at the beginning; the coffee farm.
From Farm to Brew
Regardless of its location on the earth, coffee is grown using very similar methods. We’ll start at the very beginning; coffee planting.
The Beginning: Beans to Trees
The coffee bean plant, or more accurately, the coffee tree, is planted in orchards, using the seeds of two varieties of coffee. Most coffee comes from the Arabica plant, as over 60% of the world’s growers create Arabica coffee. This coffee is said to be sweeter and smoother than its counterpart, Robusta coffee.
Once planted, coffee grows to maturity in 3-4 years before it can be picked and processed.
Sustainable vs. Unsustainable
Due to the massive demand for coffee in recent years, the growing methods of coffee have split into two styles. One style is focused on increased production (unsustainable), while the other is focused on steady, healthy growing practices that benefit the environment and coffee farmers themselves (sustainable).
Traditionally, growing coffee plants are paired with larger trees above them, which provide a large canopy of shade. Shade-growing coffee helps to keep the soil healthy and create a sustainable method of coffee production.
Shade-growing also reduces the number of chemicals and pesticides needed to produce coffee, making this an excellent example of sustainable coffee plant care.
Unfortunately, increased demand for coffee worldwide lead to the creation of hybrid, sun-resistant plants. While this certainly increases the production of coffee, more pesticides are required to keep these plants healthy.
These pesticides can destroy soil health, and more often than not, will require coffee farmers to expand their farms. Growing these farms results in the loss of large swathes of rainforest being cut down and ultimately leads to the label “unsustainable.”
Many other factors, beyond growing methods, make coffee sustainable, something that we take very seriously at HighBrew. You can read more about our sustainability efforts through our Direct Trade Partnership here.
The Middle: Processing and Roasting
After the coffee reaches full maturity, it is picked and processed before getting shipped to roasters worldwide. Coffee cherries are either picked by hand, selecting the ripest cherries, or “strip picked,” a process that removes all of the cherries from a coffee tree.
Once picked, the cherries are processed using a wet or dry milling method, and the coffee beans are separated from the fruit of the cherry. The beans are then dried and packed in bulk to be shipped to roasters.
Processing coffee can be a costly undertaking, and wet milling can hinder farmers’ production. It takes away time and resources from growing the coffee trees. High Brew has worked with our direct trade partnership to support and construct centralized wet mills around the Colombian farms we source our beans from to help ease this strain.
These centralized wet mills help to dramatically reduce water usage and increase water filtration in the area, making for better environmental impacts all around. Centralizing wet mills also frees up farmers to have a better work/life balance and provides a secure place to sell their crops, meaning they can work less and make more.
The coffee that ships to roasters is called “green coffee,” and you might not even recognize the coffee bean before the roasting process! This green coffee is roasted to the specifications of each individual company, leading to the light, medium, and dark roast options you often see when looking for coffee!
The roast type is entirely based on preference and coffee style, so don’t be afraid to try a few options before settling on your favorite. At High Brew, we make sure our beans are roasted to a perfect light-medium roast before we begin our cold-brewing process, and it works out well for us!
The End: Grinding and Brewing
Once roasted, all that’s left is to make the cup of coffee itself! The roasted beans are ground up and brewed to your liking. At High Brew, we’re partial to cold-brewing our coffee for a smoother, sweeter, and stronger brew, but we don’t judge!
Coffee is a beloved product worldwide, and knowing how it is produced can help coffee continue into the future. Thankfully, with more support for sustainable coffee practices and better-informed consumers, we’re confident coffee is here to stay.
Born from Adventure
At High Brew, we focus on making our coffee delicious and sustainable for adventurers and trend-setters alike. From our Direct Trade partnership with coffee farms in Columbia to each carefully brewed can of cold-brew coffee, we’re excited to share our adventure with you.
It’s not just where you take your coffee, but where your coffee takes you.