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This Week in Coffee: Focus on Farming Part 1

More snow?! We can think of no better way to warm up to this winter weather than coming by for a hot cup of coffee, tea, or perhaps a delicious mocha latte. Cozy up with a croissant or sticky bun from Iggy’s Bread of Cambridge, take comfort in a bowl of hot oatmeal with brown sugar, dates, cranberries, and pecans, or get a warm boost of protein with our house made vegetarian chili. Yum!

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Currently in the Cafe we are brewing up some recent favorites from Gracenote Coffee and George Howell Coffee. In the espresso hopper today, we have Gracenote’s Ethiopian Konga, a bright and naturally sweet espresso that presents with notes of stone fruit, candied lemon, and hibiscus. Coming up next will be Pulcal of Guatemala. This option is soothing and sweet with flavors of caramel, brownie, and key lime pie.

For pourover options this week we are serving George Howell’s Karinga from Kenya and Kochere from Ethiopia. Karinga is rich with fruit flavors of blackberry, black grape, and apple. Kochere is light and tea-like with flavors of earl grey, honeydew, and apricot.

Focus on Farming: Overview

Leaving the snowy Northeast behind, we can turn tour attention to tropical, coffee growing regions for a focus on farming! In the coming weeks, stay tuned to the “This Week in Coffee” posts for further details on the various factors that affect the growing and taste of coffee.

Photo Courtesy of George Howell Coffee

Photo Courtesy of George Howell Coffee

Today, we will start with some basics…

There are four primary factors that influence methods for growing and eventual taste of coffee beans: where, what, how, and harvest.

First, a farmer must decide where is the best place to plant. There are several secondary factors that affect this decision, including soil characteristics, altitude, and climate.

The next question is what species to grow. Not all coffee plants are the same. Some species produce higher quality coffees than others, and certain species will grow better in certain climactic conditions or at certain elevations.

The third factor, “how,” refers to care for the coffee plant and methods to ensure that the plant is receiving proper nutrients and an appropriate amount of water.

The fourth and final decision making factor is when and how to harvest. Harvesting is a tricky and delicate process, complicated by the varied rate of ripening. Coffee beans are seeds of coffee cherries that grow in clusters on the coffee shrub. Ideally coffee is harvested when it is ripe, however, within one cluster of coffee cherries, some cherries can be more ripe than others. Farmers must take great care to hand pick the appropriately ripened cherries to produce the highest quality product possible. Once harvested, the coffee is processed to remove the fruit, dried, and then packaged and shipped to roasters around the world.

Want to learn more about the ins and out of growing coffee? George Howell Coffee is a wonderful resource, with clear and interesting descriptions of the farming and sourcing process on their website.

Another great source for more information is LexMedia’s “What’s Brewing?” broadcast of George Howell’s “Coffee Talk” at the Studio this past October. Check out Part 1: Finding the Best Coffee Around the World for more on sourcing coffee. More detail on “What’s Brewing?” and other episode links are available on an earlier post to our blog.

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