It all begins in the shade. Our coffee is organically grown in the shade of tropical forests. It is all high quality Arabica coffee, carefully cultivated on mountainsides between 600-2700 meters above sea level. Planet Bean only uses the superior Arabica coffee avoiding the cheaper bitter Robusta bean used in most mass market industrial coffees.
A coffee bean is one of two halves of a seed of a cherry that grows on a bush with dark green leaves. The sweet jasmine like aroma from the plant’s ephemeral white flowers signal the start of a new round of the growth of the fruit. As the cherry ages, it changes from a small hard fleshed green fruit, to a deep red, sweet soft ripe cherry. These are then gently hand harvested by, in the case of our coffee, small scale farmer families. The cherries ripen at different times so a tree will have to be visited several times during the harvest. Hand harvesting protects the quality of the coffee by ensuring that it is only harvested when ripe. On large plantations machines are used in the harvest which strip the coffee cherries off the bushes regardless of their ripeness.
On average a bush will produce around 2000 cherries, leading to 4000 beans. There are about 4,800 beans in a pound of roasted coffee.
After harvesting the fruit exterior of the cherry is removed from the seeds. There are two ways of doing this, the wet process or the dry natural process. In the wet process the cherries are soaked in water immediately after harvest and then the cherries are run through a mill which separates the beans from the cherry pulp. This coffee is called washed coffee. The beans are then spread out on large flat pads to dry in the sun. In the dry process the cherries are dried with the bean still inside. The cherries are later mechanically removed.
Each of these processes imparts particular flavour characteristics into the bean. The washed coffees tend to have a cleaner, crisper, balanced flavour while the natural coffees tend to be more wild, complex and robust. Natural coffees can take on the flavour of the cherries and have nuances of blueberry or dark cherry. Washed coffees are often compared to white wines and the natural to red.
After drying, the beans are sorted by size and graded (usually by hand). The beans are bagged and prepared for shipping. Green coffee is very stable and if stored carefully has a long shelf life. It is only when the coffee is roasted that the freshness clock really starts ticking.
From harvest it takes three to four months before the green coffee makes its appearance on our roastery floor.
Coffee originated in Ethiopia but is now grown in tropical regions around the globe. Over time many coffees have developed unique characteristics that make them singular. Single origin is a descriptive term referring to a coffee variety with unique characteristics. Single origin characteristics are influenced by geographical location, altitude, plant variety, soil type, moisture and other variables. The name given to a single origin coffee often refers to a geographic place. Planet Bean has been developing a roster of excellent single origin coffees since we began roasting more than a decade ago.