Coffee is a gift to us from millions of farming families around the world... and we must treat it as such, never forgetting the love, care and painstaking labor that goes into cultivating our favorite crop. Like wine grapes in Sonoma County, organic coffee gets much of its flavor from the growing conditions and processing methods of each region. Here is a brief overview of the meticulous steps involved in nurturing organic coffee from seed to cup:
ARABICA: The two most important species of coffee economically are Coffea Arabica, which accounts for over 70% of world production, and Coffea Canephora (robusta coffee). Arabica was first classified in 1753 and the best known varieties are “Typica” and “Bourbon,” although many different strains and cultivars have been developed. Some popular strains are Caturra (Brazil, Colombia), Mundo Novo (Brazil), Tico (Central America), the dwarf San Ramon and the Jamaican Blue Mountain. Arabica coffee is often susceptible to attack by pests and diseases, making resistance a major goal of plant breeding programs. Arabica is grown throughout Latin America, Central and East Africa, India and Indonesia. The cup characteristics of fine Arabica coffees are complex, multi-dimensional, rich and full with flavors ranging from citrus to chocolate, floral to peppery, tart to sweet.
PLANTING: The average Arabica plant is a large bush with dark-green oval leaves and fruits that are oval and mature in 7 to 9 months. Each Arabica fruit (cherry) contains two seeds (the coffee beans), however, 5% of each Arabica harvest can yield fruits that have only one seed. This is called a “peaberry”, and using special screens at the mill can separate these out per specific requests from roasters. Arabica trees grow between 7-15 feet in height and live an average of 50 years. The processing of Arabica coffees can range from rustic to sophisticated. Many coffee producing countries now invest millions of dollars to improve their processing infrastructure. Most notable are Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Taylor Maid only purchases certified organic coffees. Organic agriculture stimulates the environment’s natural development of disease and pest control. Because much organic coffee is shade grown, large amounts of forest may be preserved through this growing method. This preservation has many additional benefits: minimizing soil erosion and preserving habitat, especially for birds. Tree leaves and bird droppings naturally fertilize the soil and birds aid in pest control by eating insects that would otherwise feast on coffee plants.
HANDPICKING: The finest organic Arabica coffees are grown on steep hillsides at altitudes up to 7000ft, making mechanization virtually impossible. Each step of the coffee experience is executed by hand labor. On average, 68 human hands are needed to bring a pound of coffee to you. This is 10 times the hand labor of competing products (Wine, Beer, Cigars, etc.) Arabica trees are high maintenance, needing abundant love and attention in order to thrive. They need rain, but not too much, and just the right amount of sun and shade. Coffee thrives when grown under a dynamic shade canopy where native flora and fauna flourish. It tastes best when birds sing cherries into ripeness.
WASHED: Washed organic coffees are harvested and wet milled to remove the outer fruit layer, exposing a sugary mucilage layer. The coffee is then transferred into “fermentation ponds” for up to 48 hours. Once the mucilage has fermented to the point that the beans will adhere to a wooden probe, the coffees are then rinsed in a series of washing stations to remove the fermented mucilage. Once adequately cleaned, the coffees are dried either on cement patios, plastic tarps, raised beds, or a mechanical dryer powered by either solar, diesel or wood. Fermentation is believed to enhance the multi-dimensional flavors inherent in specialty Arabica beans. These coffees are predominantly sold as “single origin” coffees or are used in blends when bright notes or complexity is needed.
SEMI WASHED: Semi-washed organic coffees are picked and then wet-milled to remover the outer fruit layer, exposing a sugary mucilage layer. The beans are then dried on cement patios, plastic tarp or raised beds. The flavor characteristics of semi-washed coffees are: rich, bold, and earthy with a sweet “young hay” or “alfalfa” aroma. These coffees are also desirable as ingredients in espresso-based blends and for single origin use.
NATURAL: Natural organic coffees are harvested and placed on cement patios, tarps or raised beds with the fruit still in tact. They are dried as you would dry a raisin or cherry. This processing method is common in coffee growing areas with less rainfall and available water. Just as grape growers risk loosing their entire harvest to rain and mold when they lay out screens of raisins to dry in September, a coffee grower could loose his whole harvest to mold if conditions aren't dry enough.
The flavor characteristics of natural processed coffee are syrupy, sweet, smooth, mellow and earthy. These coffees are predominantly used as the base of espresso blends.
SORTING: Once dried to 10-13% humidity, the coffees remain in “parchment” until ready for export where they are mechanically hulled and hand-sorted by weight, size and density and bagged for export.
CUPPING: Before organic coffee takes its journey to us, we are provided a small pre-ship sample from the farm. This sample allows us to get an idea of what is on the way. If a pre-ship sample meets our expectations and will deliver the level of excellence we seek, we connect with the transporter and begin to arrange shipment into the port of Oakland. We decide if a coffee meets or exceeds expectations using the SCAA's rigorous scoring standards for grading coffee.
ROASTING: The degree to which coffee is developed through the application of heat is called the roast. During the roasting process, the coffee bean both loses weight through evaporation and gains size. Caffeine, it turns out, is stable up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The caffeine to weight ratio changes the bean as it increases in size but looses weight. While each and every Arabica bean should have a comparable amount of caffeine in it, a French- roasted bean will have higher caffeine/weight than a medium-roasted bean. The Taylor Maid roast is full flavored without the linger of bitter. We work to find the sweet spot of the coffee, capturing the aroma, body and acidity that is characteristic of the farm and the bean, not the roast. What you will taste in our coffee is what we feel best represents the care and attention paid to in on the farm.