• Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Know your coffee beans

Back in the day, when coffee was still a new entrant on the drinks scene (with people preferring alcohol to water) and tea was yet to make a concrete appearance, there weren't that many kinds of coffee beans to choose from.

You took what you got, depending on whether you were harvesting them in Africa, banning them in the Middle East or being snooty and intellectual in a coffee house in Paris or London. Fortunately for coffee aficionados in this century, there's an almost alarming array of choices available to you in determining how you drink your coffee, right from the kind of bean you want your coffee to come from, to the specific variety of cookie crumbs you want sprinkled on top.

For now though, let's stick to the basics: your humble coffee bean. There are two basic types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is considered the more sophisticated of the two, and is used in making finer coffee, while Robusta is the heartier of the two and is used to make stronger, fuller-bodied coffees. According to statistics, these two types form about 90pc of the total consumption of coffee beans and related products. There are also local varieties of coffee beans from slightly varying species, but since much of the quality of coffee beans depends on their location rather than the plant they're grown on, coffee beans are more often sold and classified according to where they're grown. Robusta beans are also the ones most often used in instant coffee or canned coffee because they're cheaper and offer a stronger flavour. Gourmet coffees on the other hand prefer Arabica beans .

If you've ever been stumped at the supermarket when trying to figure out which coffee would suit you best, the reason for this is probably that choosing coffee is never as simple as knowing that there are only two main types of coffee bean. The thing to remember is that neither of these is used alone in making coffee, but a number of additional substances are added, as well as the fact that their location can make a great deal of difference in the way they taste. Blue Mountains, Kenya AA or Kona coffee are all brands that advertise their location as part of their distinctive tastes. For example, the Blue Mountains are a cool and misty region in the West Indies, and the coffee that comes from here is very expensive not only because of its delicate flavour, but also because it is grown in a very small area and therefore is not produced in large quantities. Kona coffee which comes from Hawaii also boasts a distinct flavour, and is also very expensive because of the care with which it is processed.


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