How many species of coffee are there?
and what do cultivators do with the fruit?
Yet we can roast coffee
So we dive into species of coffee
Since I know so little, I did ask AI Chat GPT to help out, and it did so, happily, and cheerfully. See below.
There are over 120 species of coffee. However, the most commonly known and widely cultivated are Coffea arabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (commonly known as Robusta). These two species dominate the global coffee market due to their distinct characteristics and flavors:
- Coffea Arabica (Arabica): Arabica coffee accounts for about 60-70% of the world's coffee production. It is preferred for its smoother, more complex, and often more flavorful profiles compared to Robusta. Arabica plants are grown at higher altitudes, often between 600 and 2,200 meters, which contributes to the bean’s flavor. They are more sensitive to environmental conditions and pests, which can make them more challenging and expensive to cultivate.
- Coffea Canephora (Robusta): Robusta accounts for about 30-40% of the world's coffee production. It is generally grown at lower altitudes and has a stronger, harsher, and more bitter taste compared to Arabica. Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content, which makes the plants more resistant to pests and diseases. They are also typically cheaper to produce. Robusta is often used in espresso blends for its full-bodied profile and better crema, as well as in instant coffee.
The remaining species of coffee are mostly wild or minimally cultivated. They sometimes contribute to coffee research, especially in terms of genetic diversity and resistance to diseases, but they are not significantly used in commercial coffee production. These other species, such as Coffea liberica and Coffea excelsa, have unique flavor profiles and characteristics, but their global market presence is minimal compared to Arabica and Robusta.
Back to me writing again about species of coffee
So, has no one thought to capitalize on these other species of coffee? How many species of coffee plant are there? 120! I would think that would be a boon to the coffee industry. Or, the cottage coffee industry.
By the way, I'm getting fairly big on Instagram with one of my other profiles, with 14.2 followers right now, and about 2600 on TikTok. One of the folks I follow it Nate Pertoski, a former general contractor who is homesteading in some remote corner of the country. West Virginia, I think. Nate is living my dream life, he is who I want to grow up to be. Except that I'm, well, lazy by nature. Nate largely supports himself with making and selling beard products, and roasting coffee. So, as a small boutique coffee roaster, he is living pretty goodly. In other words, it can be done.
Nate started off roasting coffee in an air popper, a popcorn machine, and grew from there. He a LOT larger following than I do, as he should. Nate's an interesting cat, as is his dog Minion. The point is, one doesn't need a botanist's knowledge to make great coffee.
What do coffee growers do with the fruit? The Cherry?
Here we bounce back to AI, because I honestly had no idea, so I asked.
The fruit that surrounds the coffee bean, often referred to as the coffee cherry, undergoes various uses and treatments depending on the region and the processing method of the coffee beans.
Processing Coffee Beans: The most common use of the coffee cherry is in the processing of coffee beans. After harvesting, the outer cherry is removed to extract the beans inside. This can be done through different methods such as dry, wet, or semi-washed processes, each affecting the flavor of the final coffee product.
Production of Cascara: In some regions, the dried skins of the coffee cherry are used to make a beverage called cascara, which is Spanish for "husk" or "shell". Cascara is steeped in hot water to make a tea-like drink. It has a sweet, fruity flavor and contains caffeine, though usually less than coffee itself.
Composting and Fertilizer: The discarded cherry pulp is used as compost or as a natural fertilizer on coffee farms. This practice helps in recycling nutrients and reducing waste.
Animal Feed: In some cases, the waste from coffee processing is used as feed for livestock. However, this practice is less common due to the presence of caffeine and other compounds in the cherry that might affect the animals.
Innovative Uses: Researchers and entrepreneurs are exploring innovative uses for coffee cherry pulp, including the creation of flour, which can be used in baking and cooking.
Regarding caffeine content, the coffee cherry itself does contain caffeine, but in lesser amounts compared to the coffee bean. The level of caffeine in the cherry can vary based on the coffee species and growing conditions. However, when processed into products like cascara, the caffeine content becomes more concentrated, though it still remains lower than a typical cup of coffee.
So, what is glaringly obvious in the above? Why the heck aren't the growers utilizing this beyond animal feed and fertilizer? It seems to me, with all the weird teas on the market these days that cascara (rhymes with mascara) made with any species of coffee would be a no brainer.
Yes, as a fertilizer, totally get it, but as animal feed? I'm an animal. Feed me cascara at least once. Wait, what if it's nasty? Let's ask AI once again
Cascara, made from the dried skins of coffee cherries, has a unique taste profile that differs significantly from traditional coffee. Its flavor is often described as:
- Fruity and Sweet: Cascara typically has a sweet, fruity taste, reminiscent of dried fruits like raisins or cherries.
- Slightly Floral: Some cascara drinks may have a subtle floral note, depending on the coffee cherry used.
- Tea-like: The overall profile is more akin to herbal tea than to coffee, with a light, refreshing body and a mild tartness similar to some fruit teas.
- Subtle Spice Notes: Occasionally, cascara can exhibit hints of spice or honey.
The taste of cascara can vary depending on several factors:
- Coffee Species: The species of coffee cherry used to make cascara can influence its flavor. Arabica cherries typically result in a sweeter, more delicate flavor profile, while Robusta might offer a stronger, more robust taste. However, the use of Robusta cherries in cascara production is less common.
- Terroir: Just like with coffee beans, the growing conditions (soil, climate, altitude) can affect the taste of the coffee cherries.
- Processing: How the cherries are dried and processed after being separated from the coffee beans can impact the flavor. For instance, sun-drying can bring out more sweetness.
While cascara is less popular than coffee, it has been gaining attention in the specialty coffee industry for its unique flavor and sustainable use of what was previously considered a byproduct of coffee production. However, the availability and specific taste profiles of cascara made from different coffee species might be limited due to the dominance of Arabica in the global market.
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