A trip around the world
From the plant to the package
The coffee we drink every day represents the final step in a fascinating voyage around the world, the result of a long process with deep roots in history and experience.
The coffee plant
The coffee plant grows in the countries around the equator, primarily Central America, Central Africa and Asia. It grows at an altitude of 200 to 2000 metres, and prefers a hot, damp climate.
There are at least 66 species of coffee plants, but only two are sold on the market: Coffea Arabica, aromatic and full-bodied with a more delicate flavour, and Coffea Canephora, commonly known as Robusta, with a more intense flavour and a higher caffeine content.
The fruit is a drupe, like a cherry, containing coffee beans protected by two films, one of which is rigid (known as the parchment) while the other is much finer and silvery in colour.
The flowering of the coffee plant depends on the amount of rainfall, a factor which is entirely beyond human control. This means that the same branch will bear flowers, unripe fruit and ripe fruit, all at the same time, making harvesting very complicated; it can be performed either mechanically or by hand.
There are two primary techniques for harvesting by hand: picking, which permits better selection of fruit, but costs more, and stripping, which results in a less homogeneous product but costs less.
The coffee beans obtained from the fruit are green in colour and are shipped in 60 kg jute sacks to importing countries. Jute allows the beans to breathe, eliminating the risk of forming mould or condensation.
The beans are carefully selected at their destination to guarantee a top quality final product. This operation is performed through optical selectors which use a system of reflected light to analyse individual beans, expelling those that do not meet the quality criteria.
Green coffee beans are roasted at 200-230 degrees centigrade for about ten minutes. The roasting process plays a particularly important role in determining the flavour, aroma and typical dark colour of the coffee. In Italy, where people prefer a bolder flavour, coffee is roasted at higher temperatures than in other countries.
Coffee must be packaged as soon as it is roasted
to ensure that it doesn’t lose any of its flavour or aroma.
There are four methods of packaging coffee:
- hermetically sealed packaging
- packaging under pressure
- vacuum packaging
- packaging in a high-pressure vacuum