There are few times in my year when a cup of coffee is more appropriate than at 7am on a crisp fall morning as we’re setting up for the farmers’ market. It warms the blood and makes the dark mornings a little less sleepy. Unfortunately since the work requires two busy hands I rarely get more than half way through my cup of joe before it ends up in some random corner of our setup, cold and forgotten. Good thing I don’t buy the expensive stuff. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a decent cup of coffee, I do, but it wasn’t until I started on with the market that I really saw that there was an art hidden in that cup. So what does it take?
Well of course it starts with the beans. Interestingly, a coffee bean is actually the seed of a coffee plant and not a bean at all. The plant is native to tropical and southern Africa and Asia, and does just fine in South America as well. The tree produces cherries that contain the beans (seeds). There are many varieties of coffee tree, all which have their own unique qualities, but the most popular varieties for coffee consumption today are Coffea arabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (Robusta). Like wine, the location where these plants are grown will lend a great deal to the quality of the bean produced, and the trained palette (not mine) will notice the subtle differences regions impart. For this reason it’s understandable why the beans are carefully selected (not to mention political and ethical factors), but it is the artistry in the roast where the flavor really gets developed.
Roasting beans essentially means subjecting them to heat for a period of time long enough to cook out the water, caramelize the sugars and migrate the oils outward. The longer the beans roast the darker they get and the more the natural flavor of the beans is changed; only the skilled roaster knows how to control the process to maximize the flavor they are after. Roasting is delicate work. The results can range from a light to dark, with several options in between, and the flavor will change significantly along the way. This is why it’s so great to have boutique coffee shops and roasters around, they more freely experiment with this process and are willing to share their successes and failures with their customers. It’s all part of enjoying and learning more about the food you eat. Our vendor of the week, Cup to Cup Coffee Roasters, is one such company. James Spano has many different types of coffee, he loves what he does and he even has a great website and blog where he shares his knowledge. If you enjoy coffee please stop by their booth this Saturday and try a roast you’ve never had before. Ask them what makes your selection special and the flavors to look for, and be sure to check out James’ blog on www.cuptocupcoffee.com.
image sourced at www.teaandcoffee.net