From Plant to Cup

The coffee we drink is the final result of an extensive chain that is important to keep in mind at all times and that gives us the opportunity to value this drink not only as a stimulus, but as a product that reaches us, the final consumers, with a lot of effort and time behind them.

Specialty coffee , in particular, is characterized by having a series of agents concerned about its quality throughout the entire journey that the bean makes from birth until it is enjoyed in a cup. Furthermore, we are fortunate to know in detail the traceability of each batch we serve, so we would like to share with you the different stages it experiences on its journey.

When a farm commits to harvesting coffee, it must be clear that from the time the grain is planted until flowering occurs (this is how the coffee tree tells us that it will be productive) a minimum of three years will pass. Throughout this time, the plant will require certain care, as well as good temperature conditions and fertile soil that provides it with enough strength to develop. Once this time has passed, the plant begins to bear fruit; less than a kilo of final coffee is obtained from each coffee tree. If the conditions are optimal and work is done, the plant can perform optimally for up to 12-14 years of life.

The fruits can only be collected when they have reached their point of ripeness , which is why the collection must be manual. Furthermore, not all of them ripen at the same time, which makes harvesting a long and somewhat tedious process. Once collected, we must process them (washing them, pulping them, drying them in the sun...) and thresh them , to obtain the green grain (raw) that will be exported to roasters around the world.

Most coffee will travel, usually by ship, from producing countries to consuming countries. The first are located among the tropics, but they are not usually the countries with the most consumption. On the other hand, countries in the cold and temperate zones of the world (and where coffee is not produced) are the main importers of grain. In this graph you can see who are the largest coffee consumers per capita on the planet.

The export and import of coffee is a whole world in itself, with unimaginable difficulties and inconveniences: continuous price fluctuations in freight or different national currencies, logistical problems, mistreatment of the product, etc. Normally little is said about this phase of the coffee value chain but it is vital for everything to work and coffee to be enjoyed around the world.

Coffee is usually already roasted in the area where it will be served. It does not come roasted from Colombia to be served in Madrid. The logic behind this is very simple: green coffee, raw, preserves better than roasted. Once it is roasted, its oxidation is much faster and in about two months the product deteriorates noticeably. On the other hand, green coffee can maintain its freshness characteristics for about a year if properly preserved.

The next phase in the journey from plant to cup is where roasting comes into play. Coffee must be roasted , so that it is transformed into a soluble product with pleasant flavors resulting from the maillard and caramelization reactions.

It is the roaster's mission to find a suitable roasting profile for each coffee, doing different tests until finding the right development and extracting all the characteristics it offers us. We work with a changing product, so it will also be vitally important to carry out quality controls to guarantee a stable profile. A coffee with an underdeveloped roast will have vegetal, astringent and very acidic nuances, while an overly roasted coffee will be bitter, with charcoal and ash flavors.

Finally, the moment it reaches the cafeterias, you have to carry out several tests to get to know it and get the best out of it. These tests allow us to discover its main attributes to understand what we are looking for in each coffee when extracting it and to be able to share with end customers the characteristics of what they are going to drink.

This entire well-configured process allows the final consumer to enjoy a clean, balanced drink, with complex flavors and a lot of sweetness. Appreciating the process and effort of all the links in the chain makes drinking a delicious coffee an even more satisfying experience.

Valentina Cartechini.

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