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A great cup of roasted coffee starts with the beans. Whether you buy coffee beans and ground them yourself or prefer to use ground coffee, the bean makes a big difference in what your coffee is going to taste like.
The most popular type of beans today, according to the Coffee Research Institute, are Arabica coffee beans. They make up 75-80 percent of the world's production.
Factors that will affect the flavor and quality of the coffee including the growing region, variety of plant, chemistry of the soil and the weather in the region, according to the National Coffee Association of the U.S.A.
Then there is the roasting. Every type of bean will have a different flavor at different roasting temperatures, according to the Coffee Research Institute. This is where the roaster's skill comes into play:
There are two main species of coffee grown for commercial use: Coffea robusta and Coffea Arabica. Robusta has double the caffeine, but not the taste you expect from a specialty coffee. Think back to the worst cup of coffee you ever had while waiting in a government office, and you're probably remembering an over-stewed pot of Robusta. For that quality gourmet coffee taste you have grown used to at corner coffee houses, you'll want to stick to Arabica beans only.
For a selection of excellent Arabica coffee beans, try here, Gourmet Arabica Coffee Beans.
You'll find both of these terms being used from time to time. 'Shade grown' means that instead of wide open plantations of nothing but coffee plants in rows, the coffee is partially shaded by trees. Shade grown coffee plantations play a key role in the conservation of migratory birds that find a sanctuary in their forest-like environment. Hence 'bird-friendly'.
Much of the coffee we drink in North America comes from Central and South America. And there's some great coffee coming from those countries. But it isn't to everyone's taste. Some people prefer coffees from the Far East, from Africa, from Hawaii and other places. The better you come to know your coffees, the fussier you'll become. And you'll want whole beans from a particular country of origin.
When you buy whole beans, you really know what you're getting. As you get to know coffee better, you'll come to know whether you prefer a dark, medium or light roast. And you'll get to know which parts of the world grow the beans that best suit your taste.
Coffee plants are fussy! : ) They grow only near the equator - between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. They need fertile soil, no frost and most of the best coffees are grown in mountainous regions between 4,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. The gourmet coffee growing regions of the world are the Americas, Africa, Arabia and Indonesia.
The coffee beans you see in stores are dark. That's because they have been roasted. But the bean or 'seed' that lies at the center of a coffee berry on the bush is green. Some gourmet coffee lovers will buy green beans and then roast them to the exact taste they like in a home roaster.
Twenty years ago nobody was that interested in the quality of coffee they drank. The coffee in diners, restaurants and in our homes was of a poor quality, and nobody really questioned it. But in recent years, millions of people have discovered the delicious taste and aroma of gourmet coffee. Now you can buy and grind your own gourmet coffee beans and enjoy flavors from all the coffee-growing areas of the world.
When you buy whole beans from a reputable source, you know what you're buying. The trouble with a lot of ground coffees is that they contain a whole mix of different beans from different growing areas. And sometimes, when coffee prices go up, even big coffee companies will add cheaper coffee types to their ground blends, just to keep the price down.
It's tempting to buy your coffee ready-ground. That way you don't have to grind it yourself. And if you drink coffee just as a quick get-me-up in the morning, that can be fine.
But if you really enjoy the full taste of gourmet coffee from different parts of the world, then you'll want to buy whole beans. A ground coffee will never give you the same, full, rich taste and flavor.
For a gourmet coffee taste, check out our selection of Arabica coffee beans.
When we buy a good wine, we not only choose the growing region, but also develop a preference for wines of a particular type than come from a specific estate. A few years back you couldn't even imagine doing the same with coffee, but now you can. There are plenty of estate coffees out there. They are a little more expensive - but when you take those beans home, you'll know exactly where the coffee came from, and what it's going to taste like.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|