What matters most in coffee production affects the final flavor
For centuries we have paid attention to how the origin, climate, terroir and grape influence wine, and almost everyone knows a handful of grapes and some characteristic wines from the most important wine producing countries. Coffee is an equally important beverage, socially and culturally, but treated very differently. For most people, coffee is just coffee, and few people bother about the origin, or type.
But things are beginning to change, luckily. Coffee drinkers are increasingly beginning to pay attention to the various factors that influence the taste. For instance, at www.gourmesso.com, it is now possible to buy Gourmesso capsules with coffee blends from specific countries, such as Ethiopia, Honduras and Nicaragua. Every Gourmesso blend also comes with a flavor description, like we are used to from wine. The Colombia Arabica Mezzo, for example, is described as “velvety floral” with “aromas of licorice and cocoa” and “hints of jasmine”. This article takes you on a trip around the globe, as it lists the key factors that influence the taste of coffee.
Country origin and terroir
Terroir is a term frequently used to describe wine, but equally useful for coffee. The terroir describes how local growing conditions such as climate, soil and elevation influence the taste. There are many terroirs in a country, making it hard to define coffee solely based on its national origin. There are nevertheless some discernible differences.
Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia are some of the largest coffee producing countries globally. Coffee connoisseurs describe Brazilian coffee as relatively balanced, light and creamy, with mellow acidity and notes of chocolate, nuts and fruits. Colombian coffee is generally balanced, even-bodied and somewhat sweet, with medium acidity and hints of cinnamon, cocoa and brown sugar. Indonesian coffee is described as intense, full-bodied and rich in flavors.
In addition to the many wine tours that already exist in important wine regions, more tours focusing on coffee are beginning to appear, as the interest in coffee production grows.
Coffee bean variety
The bean variety is perhaps more important than the origin. Just like there are hundreds of grapes used in wine production, many coffee bean varieties are grown commercially. The two most important ones are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is considered of higher quality and mainly grown in Latin America, eastern Africa and Asia. Robusta is more bitter and less rich in flavor, and mainly grown in central Africa, southeast Asia and Brazil. Gourmesso coffee is made from Arabica and Robusta beans from some of the best growing regions around the world.
Processing and roasting
After harvesting, beans are processed, dried, milled, roasted and ground – all of which influence the taste. The roasting level is particularly important as it changes the beans’ chemical composition and brings out the flavors. Generally, light roasts are milder, while dark roasts are more bitter and less acidic. The U.S. National Coffee Association provides more information about all the steps from seed to cup, and how they influence the taste.
Finally, the brewing method has a huge influence on the taste. Specific brewing methods dominate in different countries. The French press, popular in large parts of Europe, produces a full-bodied and well-balanced coffee. In the USA, pour over is a popular method that produces a clear and smooth beverage. In Italy, Moka pots are used to prepare strong, espresso-like brews.