Tag: beans

Coffee trip to Brazil

I am a reporter and my husband works in a bank. His bank arranged a trip to the coffee plantations in Brazil for the best workers. I envied him on this trip, because I have always dreamed of visiting Brazil, seeing how people do without all the technology that defines and limits us. It was hard for me to accept that he was going on my dream trip.

However, the day before departure, it turned out that one of the participants had a car accident. Nothing dangerous, but his leg was broken and he couldn’t be on the expedition. My beloved husband put so much pressure on the management that could not find a replacement that they agreed to put me on the list.

I had one day to get all the things I needed and I panicked, but quickly realized that I just couldn’t give up. I had been planning this trip for so long, I read a lot about life on the plantation, learned Portuguese… I just couldn’t give up.

My boss did not agree to my vacation, so I terminated my job. I took extra life insurance for my husband and me, just in case. I didn’t want to lose my home just because I was traveling, and you know how expensive treatment abroad can be.

We set off on April 2, 2012.

Nobody thought then that some of us might not come back from this trip.

 When we started our journey to Brazil, I was nearly 40. I wanted to see the peaceful places where hard work is something more than making money.

Brazil was the place for that. We got there on the very first day of my job as the team manager’s assistant. I started to notice things that were different. It was a good start and I wanted to get more comfortable. After a few games, I decided to do something new. I wanted to see the city and how it was organized. I wanted to explore the “nightlife”.

I was lucky enough to spend a few nights in Rio de Janeiro as a reporter, so to be at the centre of the city’s nightlife was definitely something to see. For the first time, I had seen a place that was not only interesting for tourists, but also interesting for people who were coming from abroad.

This journey began in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, near the Brazilian border with Ecuador, a country where coffee has been growing in recent decades.

After that we spent several weeks on our journey to Brazil’s third largest coffee producing area, Civea do Brasília de Amazônia, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, where Civea has an annual production capacity of over 1 million tonnes of coffee — enough to meet the needs of approximately one million people here.

From Civea de Arte to Civea de Amazônia

For the last week of July we set out from Civea de Arte near the Brazilian border, to begin our journey to Brazil’s third largest coffee producing area, Civea do Brasília de Amazônia, located on the northern slopes of the Amazon. The area is the most important and least studied part of the Amazon. It is not uncommon for the first time-travelers from other time periods to visit the area of the Amazon known as the Great Lakes. It’s been estimated that over 30 million Europeans crossed the Amazon, but they were largely lost to history and culture, and only discovered after the discovery of the Great Lakes by Europeans. We were fortunate enough to have a group of scientists from Brazil who were able to visit the area and provide us with information about the area.

During this visit, I met many locals and experienced many of their lives. I spent some of my day in the jungle and spent a few nights at the community’s coffee farm. When I went home after the visit, my wife and I spent our days on our trip. The only change from what I remember before the trip was the introduction of a couple of coffee plants I had growing, which was a huge surprise to them.

From Civea do Brasília de Amazônia to Civea do Brasília de Amazônia

After arriving in Amazônia I began my journey on our journey to Civea do Brasília and the coffee plantation that would be our home base.

As we continued to travel north and west, in hopes of finding new coffee growing locations, I came across a large farm in the remote town of Amazônia. The farmer introduced me to a few locals who were involved in the local coffee industry.

It was during this visit they discovered my coffee plant, which was about to become my home. In our first encounter as a couple, the farmer had helped me find my way, and had taught me the most important things about coffee. He was a real guide.

Curious about what else I could learn about coffee growing and what this small farmer had discovered, I decided to learn from the native farmer. I spent the rest of the afternoon with him and his family. 

The first thing that struck me while spending time with these farmers is that the farming community is very friendly, and that they all have very little fear in what they do. They know how to care for their soil, and how to care for the plant, and even how to care for the crops. It was a very unique experience, to be honest.

In the afternoon, the farmer and I started a conversation that would help me better understand and respect other people’s farming practices.

That was my biggest shock. Everybody wanted to stay there, not to return to America. And so we were forced to give up. And we’re not going to leave this country. We will be in this country and we will have a new family. We will take care of these kids who grew up in New York City.”

The trip to the coffee plantations on the edge of the Amazon and Brazil was in the early weeks of 2012. There were no planes, no planes were flying to the country or from Brazil. In fact, there were no flights from Brazil at all, not that our friend who had gone up there had any idea what was going on. 

The only thing I can recall is that there were no flights from the USA, either; no aircraft were flying. It was a small, small country. I can only describe it as, like, a tiny little tiny country. And you could only have that small little country, with all these people who were so close to each other and just in that tiny, tiny little small part of the world that you could never think of it as much larger than it is, because you just knew people you knew.

That was the only time I saw the tiny tiny country from the ground. It’s not a big country and there is not a lot of traffic there, but it is the first time I’ve ever seen it from the air. It had a kind of like, a quiet feel about it. It was just, it was all in a very small place where a lot of people lived, which was kind of the best I felt, because I was a little kid growing up. It was just a small place where a lot of people lived. 

We had a hotel with a little garden and a little pool and a little cottage in the backyard. And it was just such a peaceful, tranquil, peaceful country. The only sounds in that tiny tiny little place were those of the birds. And those birds came flying all the time. They’d come flying up from the forest that’s up there. And then, the next year, you would have to get up there and take in every little bird that would come through. 

They were just so magnificent, the animals. They were just so cute, the things you would see in a picture or something or they would come up from the forest and just sit and be still. They were just very adorable, but that was about it.

The coffee plantation was so peaceful, and the birds were so adorable, and the way that the plants, that’s really where I felt the most comfort. In the coffee plantation it was, the plantations, all the people would sit around and talk and just relax as if nothing’s happened. It was a little like a movie set. I didn’t feel any tension. 

We were just like a small family. But then one day I said, “Why don’t we leave? Why not go home? I would get back to life in the United States.” And he told me that they do the most important thing you could do. The most important thing you can do. 

And I said, “Oh really? Oh, it’s such a good idea. Why would I not stay here to be closer to them and do what I know best, which is just get back to my country?” And I would say, “I’m not gonna leave, but we can stay in this tiny little tiny little little country, just go back to the forest, just take a nap in this little little tiny little cottage and just be quiet.” 

And so we were just kind of, we’re just kind of, we’re just doing that. That’s the reason. It’s the best thing you could do. And it’s just the most peaceful way to live. And I would do it and be like that, just the most peaceful way to live.

For almost two decades, I’ve been working with a small team of local and foreign researchers to establish our presence inside the Amazon, as well as to explore its biodiversity and potential for coffee production.

We are in the middle of our journey to the country’s largest coffee plantation, Civea de Arte de Pública, in the Amazon’s north. I spent a few weeks working with the local community, and learned to speak Brazilian, as well as some of the indigenous languages.

What secrets do the coffee beans contain?

What to look for when buying coffee?

The taste of our morning coffee depends not only on the way it is roasted and prepared, but also on what kind of beans we use. Theoretically, there are over 60 species of coffee tree in the world. In a fact, only Arabica and Robusta matter. What is the difference between these varieties and how to consciously choose beans for your espresso?

Where do coffee beans come from?

A coffee tree is a tree that grows up to 15 meters in a natural environment. On the plantation, however, it looks much more like a bush, because it is cut to a height of 2 meters. Several times a year, white flowers appear on it, which, when pollinated, turn into small, red fruits.

In the center of these cherry-like balls there are two grains, which are separated by a characteristic furrow called by the specialists a seam.

ARABICA AND ROBUSTA – WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

Most coffee beans for espresso machines available in stores are mixtures that most often contain Arabica and Robusta. Although this first type of coffee is widely considered more exclusive, Robusta also has many fans. What is the difference between the two species?

Arabica

This type of coffee beans is by far the most common. Arabica dominates 70% of the market and is valued most by gourmets. Coffee Arabica is also the oldest coffee, which discovery dates to the mid-eleventh century. What is characterized by?
Its grains are oblong and flat, in the middle of them there is an “s” -shaped seam. The slightly greenish color is also significant for them. However, this is just the look. What are the properties and taste of Arabica?

Coffee brewed from such beans will be mild and aromatic. Slight acidity can be felt, as well as chocolate or spicy notes. This type of beans is also characterized by a low caffeine content, which ranges between 0.9 and 1.7%.

The unique taste of Arabica is, however, paid for by the great difficulties associated with its cultivation. The coffee that gives this type of grain is very sensitive to any climate change. The plant must be grown in tropical conditions. So high humidity is necessary and the temperature should oscillate around 30 degrees Celsius. There are mainly varieties from Brazilian plantations and “other milds”, which are grown most often in Columbia, India, as well as in Java and the Caribbean.
Characteristic features:

  • low caffeine content,
  • chocolate or spicy aftertaste,
  • slight acidity,
  • longitudinal grains with the “s” furrow.

Robusta

It is a type of coffee beans that almost covers the rest of the market. The main difference is the much higher caffeine content, which can sometimes reach almost 5%. This property of Canephora coffea, because it is called Robusta in a different way, makes it eagerly added to Arabica, so that the brew, apart from its unique taste, is also much more stimulating.
This type of coffee beans was discovered in the nineteenth century and the attention of growers was primarily drawn to the fact that trees of this species are much more resistant to climatic conditions, and also bear fruit more often than Arabica.
Robusta beans are oval and have a straight seam. A sharp, bitter aftertaste is perceptible. Most often it is grown in central Africa and Vietnam. Characteristic features:

  • expressive, bitter taste,
  • high caffeine content,
  • oval grains with a straight furrow,
  • significantly greater resistance to climatic conditions and diseases.

Other types of coffee beans

Arabica and Robusta are the best known coffee beans, but not the only ones. In stores, we can still meet with Liberika and Excelsa, but they are not as aromatic as the dominant types. The advantage of Liberyka is definitely high efficiency, because its grains reach much larger sizes. It is used as an admixture in low quality coffees or instant coffees.

The most expensive does not mean the best!

The quality of coffee is not so much determined by the price, even though good coffee must cost. Ridiculously expensive coffees, although often quite good, owe their price primarily to the legends that are created around them. Italian coffees, which many people like, are usually scorched and taste similar. So what should you pay attention to?

“Specialty coffee” quality mark

The term or rather this title is given to coffees, which usually come from small plantations, located in places where there is a perfect microclimate for coffee growing. They are hand picked and processed. If coffee from such a plantation scored 80 or more points (out of 100) on the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) scale, it receives the “specialty coffee” quality mark. These are non-industrial coffees, grown using traditional methods. The “specialty” coffee segment was born at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s.

Coffee evaluation is carried out by certified kippers who examine samples of unburned beans, as well as burnt, ground and brewed. It is checked for foreign matter such as pebbles or sticks. The appearance and size of the grains are assessed. In the case of grains burnt, ground and flooded with water, the aroma and taste, acidity, fleshiness (i.e. the body), aftertaste, sweetness, and purity of the brew are evaluated. This is a complicated process and requires a lot of knowledge about coffee and a well-functioning nose and taste buds. If all these factors are taken into account and the coffee scores over 80 points, it will be specialty coffee.

Around 5% of the coffee grown in the world belongs to the specialty segment. The rest, i.e. 95%, is industrial coffee, grown on large plantations, where the coffee fruit is harvested with combine harvesters, and then roasted in large roasters: (too) quickly and in (too) high temperature. The result is coffee that may give you a kick, but it’s definitely hard to feel the notes of nuts, chocolate or citrus, there is no perfect balance between pleasant bitterness and the acidity and other qualities of high-quality coffee. It is quite cheap, which is important for most buyers.

The name “specialty coffee” is reserved for coffees that have undergone the certification process. All coffees that have names such as ‘premium’ or ‘gourment’ in their names are often not specialty coffees. These terms are purely marketing, and in no way have to be associated with the quality of the coffee.

„Cup of Excellence”

A special area of specialty coffees is “cup of excellence”. It is a multi-stage competition that results in the selection of the best coffees. Each farmer can submit samples of his coffees, which are first evaluated in the national competition, and then the best ones go to the international stage. Beans that reach a minimum of 86 points receive the title “Cup of Excellence”, which plantations can use for 1 year. Cup of Excellence is an Oscar in the world of coffee.

The most expensive coffee in the world?

As we have already mentioned, the most expensive does not mean the best. So what affects the price of coffees such as Kopi Luwak or Jamaica Blue Mountain?

These are undoubtedly the most expensive coffees in the world. Most of their price, however, comes from the legend attributed to the species.
Jamaica Blue Mountain is famous primarily because it is packed in wooden barrels instead of jute sacks and actually comes from Jamaica, which sounds better than Panama or Brazil.

Kopi Luwak has a slightly more interesting history. This is coffee from Indonesia, which grains were eaten and then excreted by an animal called Asian palm civet. Then, of course, they are washed, cleaned and burned. Kopi Luwak has widely gained the status of “best coffee in the world”. This is definitely a unique coffee, due to the process of creation, however …

A dozen years ago, the Asian palm civets lived wild on plantations, they chose only the most ripe coffee fruit that they ate, leaving behind them “ugly”, i.e. slightly digested seeds, i.e. coffee beans. They are currently kept in cages and fed by force. So, present, Kopi Luwak is not a coffee selected by an animal, and its price is 90% legend and strain.

So what grains should I choose?

If you fancy something more than scorched beans from industrial plantations, it is worth targeting coffees with the “specialty coffee” sign, which price is not excessive, but they were made in a traditional way, and their attractive essential oils did not evaporate in the roasting process. Browse our store offer or look into the coffee roaster if you have one in the area. The offer is rich and it is worth experimenting to find your own taste.