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Coffee bean

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This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (July 2011)
For the chain of coffee shops based in Los Angeles, see The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Roasted Coffee beans.

A coffee bean is a seed of a coffee plant. It is the pit inside the red or purple fruit often referred to as a cherry. Even though they are seeds, they are referred to as ‘beans’ because of their resemblance to true beans. The fruits – coffee cherries or coffee berries – most commonly contain two stones with their flat sides together. In a crop of coffee, a small percentage of cherries contain a single bean, instead of the usual two. This is called a peaberry. Like brazil nuts and white rice, coffee beans consist mostly of endosperm [1].

The two most economically important varieties of coffee plant are the Arabica and the Robusta. 75-80% of the coffee produced worldwide is Arabica and 20% is Robusta. [1]. Arabica beans consist of 0.8-1.4% caffeine and Robusta beans consist of 1.7-4% caffeine. [2]. As coffee is one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages, coffee beans are a major cash crop, and an important export product, counting for over 50% of some developing nations’ foreign exchange earnings. [3] The United States imports more coffee than any other nation [4]. The average person in the United States consumed 4.09kg (9lbs) of coffee in the year 2009. [5]



[edit] Origin

Cultivation of the coffee bean originated in Yemen, in approximately 850 C.E.[citation needed] Farming of the coffee plant then spread to the rest of Arabia, where it was first mentioned in writing around 900 C.E. The Yemenites guarded it carefully, but some plants were eventually smuggled out to the Dutch, who kept a few plants for gardens in the Netherlands.[citation needed]

The Americas were first introduced to the plants around 1723.

South America is now responsible for approximately 45% of the world’s total coffee exports. [6]

[edit] Significant dates

  • First cultivation in Europe (also first cultivation outside of east Africa/Arabia) – 1616
  • First cultivation in India (Malabar) – late 1600’s
  • First cultivation in Java – 1699
  • First cultivation in Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico) – 1715–1730
  • First cultivation in South America – 1730
  • First cultivation in Dutch East Indies – 1720
  • Roasted beans first sold on retail market (Pittsburgh) – 1865
  • Important spray-drying techniques developed in 1950s

[edit] Etymology

The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the European languages generally appear to have got the name from Turkish kahveh, about 1600, perhaps through Italian caffè. Arab qahwah, in Turkish pronounced kahveh, the name of the infusion or beverage; said by Arab lexicographers to have originally meant ‘wine’ or some kind of wine, and to be a derivative of a verbroot qahiya ‘to have no appetite.’ Some have conjectured that it is a foreign, perhaps African, word disguised, and have thought it connected with the name of Kaffa in the south Abyssinian highlands, where the plant appears to be native. But of this there is no evidence, and the name qahwah is not given to the berry or plant, which is called bunn, the native name in Shoa being b’n.[citation needed]

[edit] Coffee plant

The coffee tree averages from 5–10 m (15–30 ft.) in height. As the tree gets older, it branches less and less and bears more leaves and fruit. The tree typically begins to bear fruit 3–4 years after being planted, and continues to produce for 10–20 more years, depending on the type of plant and the area.[citation needed]

Coffee plants are grown in rows several feet apart. Some farmers plant fruit trees around them or plant the coffee on the sides of hills, because they need specific conditions to flourish. Ideally, Arabica coffee beans are grown at temperatures between 15-24°C and Robusta at 24-30°C and receive between 1500-3000mm (60-120in)of rainfall per year. [7] Heavy rain is needed in the beginning of the season when the fruit is developing, and less later in the season as it ripens. The harvesting period can be anywhere from three weeks to three months, and in some places the harvesting period continues all year round.[citation needed]

[edit] Processing

For more details on this topic, see Processing of coffee.

When the fruit is ripe, it is almost always handpicked, using either selective picking, where only the ripe fruit is removed or strip-picking, where all of the fruit is removed from a branch all at once. Because a tree can have both ripe and unripe berries at the same time, one area of crop has to be picked several times, making harvesting the most labor intensive process of coffee bean production.[citation needed]

There are two methods of processing the coffee berries. The first method is wet processing, which is usually carried out in Central America and areas of Africa. The flesh of the berries is separated from the seeds and then the beans are fermented – soaked in water for about two days. This dissolves any pulp or sticky residue that may still be attached to the beans. The beans are then washed and dried in the sun, or, in the case of commercial manufacturers, in drying machines.[citation needed]

The dry processing method is cheaper and simpler, used for lower quality beans in Brazil and much of Africa. Twigs and other foreign objects are separated from the berries and the fruit is then spread out in the sun on cement or brick for 2–3 weeks, turned regularly for even drying. The dried pulp is removed from the beans afterward.[citation needed]

After processing has taken place, the husks are removed and the beans are roasted, which gives them their varying brown color, and they can then be sorted for bagging.[citation needed]

[edit] Gallery

  • Roasted coffee beans

  • Coffee cherries on coffee plant (Coffea arabica)

  • Structure of coffee berry and beans: 1: center cut 2:bean (endosperm) 3: silver skin (testa, epidermis), 4: parchment (hull, endocarp) 5: pectin layer 6: pulp (mesocarp) 7: outer skin (pericarp, exocarp)

  • Coffee bean

  • Coffee berries

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