WHAT IS COFFEE?
We all know coffee as that black fragrant liquid that we can't get enough of. But where does it come from, and how is it made?
View the slideshow below for a simple guide of Coffee: from Shrub to Cup.
There are 3 main classifications or types of coffee - Robusta, Liberia, and Arabica.
Robusta coffees, also known as coffea canephora, is a resistant coffee species that is grown in lower altitudes. In Southeast Asia, where we are located, Robustas are widely used to make our traditional coffees (Kopi). This species is easier to cultivate and maintain, and contains more caffeine than Arabica coffees.
Liberica coffees, is a lesser seen, lesser known coffee species, and only makes up about 1-2% of coffees in the world today.
This species however, is a popular component of 'White' traditional coffees in Malaysia.
Arabica coffees, also known as coffea arabica, is the species that makes up most of coffee production today. This species grows at high altitudes, usually on high mountainous regions far above sea level. Arabica is harder to cultivate, being less resistant to diseases. However, due to its more nuanced and complex inherent profiles, this species has grown in its popularity. When we talk about Specialty Coffee, more often than not, this refers to Arabica coffees.
What makes a coffee specialty? What is this thing we call Specialty Coffee and why is this term thrown around so much now?
According to the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America), a coffee is termed 'Specialty' if it scores 80 and above. This grading was given to Arabica coffees initially, but in recent years, Robustas have been getting into the specialty arena as Specialty Robustas.
However, for a coffee to be truly Specialty in the present day industry, the entire chain from farmer to barista, is crucial.
The farmer has to cultivate Specialty Grade coffees, the processing mill has to ensure its processing methods allow the coffees to shine, to ensure the defects are low and that quality is good. When the coffees are shipped out to green coffee buyers, these buyers have to conduct quality checks on these coffees, and to ensure proper storage conditions of the greens before they are sent for roasting.
At the roastery, roasters perform detailed roast designs, analysis and profiling for their coffees, and quality assurance by making sure that these coffees are roasted well, and any bad beans are removed from their roasted lot.
The final person behind that specialty cup, is the barista. The barista should be well versed in
the coffee she serves.The barista determines when and how each coffee should be served to the
customer. The barista understands how the coffee reacts to different variables, and using her
knowledge, fine tunes the coffee to be brewed and served to the customer.
If any one of these stages is not properly conducted, even a specialty grade coffee may not turn
out to be truly, specialty.