Sunday, October 18, 2009

Coffee Beans: A Guide for The Aspiring Gourmet

By Damian Papworth

There's more to drinking coffee than just walking into a shop and asking for a small, medium, or large cup of whatever the house blend is. The amount of time and effort it takes to grow and harvest coffee beans around the world deserves a little more respect from the average consumer, especially since the delicate taste you get has nothing to do with the barista at Starbucks, and more to do with faraway volcanic slopes and mountain ridges.

Furthermore, coffee beans are a bit of a mystery to a lot people, since they only grow in specific regions, due to their finicky nature and need for specific weather patterns. Here's a break-down of some of the most popular beans, and why they make such great coffee.

Kenya AA People around the world know Kenya AA as a type of coffee, but there's actually more of a distinction to be made. Rather than a specific bean, this is a classification given depending on the size of the bean. So really, Kenya AA is letting customers know that they're getting the highest grade of Kenyan coffee beans, which are grown on the high plateaus on Mount Kenya, where the perfect mixture of great soil and suitable weather lead to a bean known for intense flavor as well as a lovely aroma.

Kape Barako One of the types of coffee grown in The Philippines, not many people are familiar with Kape Barako, because of an infestation of Coffee Rust in the 1990s that almost wiped out the plants forever. A type of Liberica species, the coffee, when available, is popular with gourmets, who enjoy a blend where it's mixed with Arabica to get the best tasting coffee with a distinct aroma.

Aloha Island Coffee Pods Some of the best coffee in the world comes from Hawaii, really the only place in the States where coffee beans thrive. The type of beans, Kona, come in many varieties, but the absolute best are produced at a private coffee plantation on the Big Island of Hawaii, located right on the slopes of Mauna Loa, the famous volcano. It's the volcanic soil, coupled with rainfall and tropical sunshine, that makes these beans grow so well here, resulting in a cup of coffee that's incredibly smooth and not at all acidic.

Santos Leave it to Brazil to make one of the most interesting coffee beans in the game. Instead of high acidity, like so many other varieties of Arabica coffee, this bean instead produces a light-bodied brew with surprisingly low acidity. The hot, humid climate in Brazil is what makes the beans so low in acidity, and the lower growing elevation means that harvests can be timed to when the fruit on the plant still smells sweet, which carries over into the beans once roasted.

Remember, while different countries all produce different types of beans, it doesn't mean that the names on this list are the only type of coffee bean grown in that particular country. Furthermore, it is possible that many of these beans have shown up in different names and varieties through United States importers.

Now that you know the history of some of the world's more popular types of coffee, including the coffee beans they're made from, you can hold your own at a number of dinner conversations, as well as make a more informed choice in the grocery store. Best of all, you'll be able to choose beans that lead to a greater cup of morning coffee, for yourself and your family.

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