Updated: Nov 2, 2020
This article first appeared in the 2/7/20 edition of the Davis Enterprise.
Many of us start each morning with a cup of coffee to get us through the day. Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, with the U.S. importing more coffee than any other nation and is the leader of the consumer of coffee in the world. Where does this drink come from?
Coffee starts as a seed of the Coffea plant, which grows in the warm, tropical areas surrounding the equator. The two most common coffee varieties are Arabica and Robusta. Both plants grow similarly, but the Robusta requires a slightly higher temperature to grow. Both varieties of coffee tree require heavy rain early in growth, and less as the tree ripens. The trees can grow between 15-30 ft height and produces a red or purple fruit, similar to a cherry. Like most stone fruit, the coffee cherries have large seeds in the middle. Coffee cherries have a paired seed, rounded on one side and flat on the other. Coffee ‘beans’ are the seeds inside the coffee cherries, they are not, however, truly beans but are named so because of the resemblance.
When the coffee fruit is ripe it is picked off the trees and is gone through one of two methods for processing. One method is to separate the flesh of the berry from the seed. The seeds are soaked in water for a few days to soften the sticky pulp that surrounds the seeds and are then washed. The other method is to lay the berries out in the sun to try for several weeks, being turned regularly to completely dry.
The caffeine in the seeds is a defense mechanism, helping to protect the seed from being eaten by insects and animals. This defense mechanism is what human crave and need to get us through the day. After the beans are dried and their pulp removed, they are packaged and sent to facilities to be roasted and used to make the coffee drink we all know and love.
Our educators don’t mind getting a cup of coffee when we travel to area schools to provide fun, hands-on science programs! There is still time to reserve an Explorit program for your school! Call us as (530) 756-0191 or go online at http://www.explorit.org/ to find out more.
Think you can tell the difference between coffee, chocolate, and tea? Take Explorit's Chocolate, Coffee, or Tea Quiz to find out!