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Green Coffee Origins And Regions

Coffee Origins

Every single bean of every single cup of coffee you drink is connected to the original coffee plants of Ethiopia.  

Coffee was discovered over 1000 years ago in Africa in the Kaffa region.  The legend goes that a goat herder named Kaldi saw his goats eating some red berries then getting very excited afterwards.  He then tried them himself and he too got very excited.  So the very first time a human consumed coffee, it was as a fruit.  Kaldi then shared his discovery with some local monks who feared they were the devil’s work and promptly tossed them in the fire.  When they started to roast in the fire, a wonderful aroma emerged so they went back and retrieved the hot beans.  They soaked them in water to cool them and then decided to drink the water and – voila coffee!  

There are only two commercially available species of coffee: Arabica and Robusta.  Arabica is the #1 species by a wide margin.  Robusta may be the weaker cousin, but it does have twice the caffeine per bean in comparison to Arabica.  The downside (why is there always a down side?) is that it tastes woody, has very strong earthy flavours – think wet grass and straw and is an acquired taste.  There is a reason Robusta is used for instant coffee and is found in concentrations of up to 20% of “espresso blend” coffee beans.  Robusta is the Chevy of the industry and Arabica is the Rolls Royce.  

There are actually 129 species of coffee and within those species, another 50 to 60 varieties alone in the Arabica family.  

The three major coffee growing regions of the world are Africa, Central/South America and Middle East/South East Asia.  Of course there are many more regions but these are the big three.  All of the coffee growing regions are between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.  

There are essentially three types of coffee farms in all coffee growing regions: Forest coffees, Garden coffees, and plantation coffees.  Plantation coffee produces coffee beans from large scale, tree-dense, commercial farms using growing techniques like fertilizer application, weed and pest control, and other commercial levels techniques.  Garden coffees are those planted in close proximity to the farmer’s home.  This is where the vast majority of African coffees come from (especially Ethiopia).  Most garden coffee farms use organic fertilizers.    Forest coffee comes from guess where?  Yup, the forest.  This coffee is grown in the wild under shade cover of other forest trees.  All the trees live with mutual benefit and ecological balance.  

There are way too many coffee regions to discuss in detail – a whole book could be and has been written on that alone (a book that we have) so if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.  

We will be posting the origins for each bean that we buy and roast so that you know where they came from and how we roasted them and what to expect when you drink it.  We can even roast you some coffee that is going to taste like berries. 

Green Coffee: Grading and Processing

Coffee beans are a commodity.  Just like grading of fruit (Fancy, extra Fancy, Canada Fancy, Canada Commercial and others) coffee has a grading scale as well.  

Generally, the higher the elevation the bean is grown, the higher the quality and grading.  Equally, the larger the coffee bean, the higher the grading.   

Coffee traders use graduated sifter scales to determine bean size. The screens all have different sized holes measured in increments of 1/64th of an inch. So a 15 grade coffee means that the holes in the screen are 15/64ths around. Most green coffee is between grade 12 and 19.  This system can be done manually or with professional graders that use air pressure to sort the beans.  

Green coffee is also sorted based on colour and density.  These three elements make up most of the grading techniques for green coffee.  There are no universally accepted standards though and each country does things their own way with their own nuances. The main reason for this is language.  

Now that we have that out of the way, what are the actual grades?  There are two grades that apply to green coffee: bean size and number of defects with the coffee.  

Bean Size Grading (remember the bigger the bean the bigger the grading): 

Africa: AA (the biggest beans), AB then A 

Columbia/Central America: Premium (largest), Supremo, Excelso, Peaberry

Bean Height grading (remember the higher the elevation the better the bean):

Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) grown above 4500 feet above sea level and very dense

Hard Bean (HB) grown between 4000 and 4500 feet above sea level

Strictly Soft Bean (SS) grown under 4000 feet above sea level.

Defect Grading:

 Grade 1: Specialty Coffee Beans.  This is the highest grade allotted and given to beans that have no inherent defects but are permitted up to three defects. There are no quakers (ie. unripe beans) in this grade.

Grade 2: Premium Coffee Beans. This is a premium coffee bean and can have up to six defective qualities.  

Grade 3: Exchange Coffee Beans.   These are beans that are 50% above the screening level and should not have more than 5 Quakers. The large majority of supermarket coffee use this grade of beans and they can have between 9 to 23 defects.

Grade 4: Standard Coffee Beans.  These are not good beans!  They won’t roast well or taste good.  They can have between 24 to 86 defects.

Grade 5: Off-Grade Coffee Beans. The name says it all.  Good for fertilizer or maybe instant coffee (they’re the same thing, right?)

So, what is the best coffee you can buy?  The answer to that is the freshly roasted, local and high quality coffee of Chin Chin.

Roasting and Roast Levels

Roast Levels and Robotics

Everybody loves a good roast.  In the coffee roasting world, we use different terms for roasting than what you see on the packaging.  Consumers need a way to easily identify the roast level of the coffee to help them quickly make a decision.  Who wants to spend hours reading a label trying to figure out roasters terminology?  

What do consumers know and see?  

  • Light Roast
  • Medium Roast
  • Dark Roast 
  • French or Vienna Roast 

See a particular roast missing from the list?  I’ll bet you’re thinking “espresso roast”, right?  Well, this is coffee college so we are here to tell you that espresso is neither a roast level, nor a bean type.  Espresso is a way to make coffee using an expresso machine.  More on this under the “Brewing Methods” tab in Coffee College.    

In the roasting world, we have these roasting levels:

  • Cinnamon.  Beans temp is 1960 C when they are removed from the roaster just as first crack starts.  This is equivalent to a light roast 
  • City.  Beans temp is 2050 C when they are removed from the roaster in the middle of first crack.  This is equivalent to a light-medium roast 
  • City +  Beans temp is 207-2100 C when they are removed from the roaster at the end of first crack.  This is equivalent to a medium roast.
  • Full City.  Beans temp is 210-2210 C when they are removed from the roaster after first crack but before second crack. This is equivalent to a full medium roast.
  • Full City +  Beans temp is 218 - 2240 C when they are removed from the roaster right at the start of second crack.  This is equivalent to a dark roast. 
  • Vienna Beans temp is 221 - 2270 C when they are removed from the roaster right in the middle of second crack.  This is as dark as coffee can get before it burns and scorches.  

Dark roasts and Vienna roasts are tricky and require a lot of attention to smell, sights, and sounds to get it right.  As little as 15 seconds too late and your batch is ruined.  

We are using a full Artisan Scope roasting software set up to be able to precisely chart and observe all of the critical roasting points.  We are also using a Hermetheus roaster co-pilot servo (look at us using technical lingo – woot woot!) to ensure we get the same repeatable finished product roast after roast.  

Coffee Storage

Coffee Storage

The coffee you order from Chin Chin will be incredibly fresh and will be carefully bundled up in an air tight package complete with a carbon dioxide off gassing valve that lets carbon dioxide escape and keeps air out.  This will help preserve your coffee for a long time.  We recommend that you use our coffee within one to two weeks to enjoy the absolute ultimate in freshness. 

What happens after you open your Chin Chin Coffee bag?  Oxygen is the enemy of coffee freshness. For this reason, we recommend that you buy an air tight coffee container that has an off gassing valve.  You can get them on Amazon for between $20 and $30.  They will keep your coffee at its peak of freshness for the week that you want to use it.  

If you don’t have an air tight coffee container – fear not.  After you open your Chin Chin coffee, squeeze the air out of the bag then re-seal it.  This will definitely help extend the life of your coffee. 

No matter what you do – even if you leave the beans spread out on your kitchen counter – your Chin Chin Coffee is going to be waaaaaay fresher than any commercial supermarket coffee. 

How do we store our green coffee?  We have food grade, Canadian Food Inspection Agency certified 5 gallon drums with food grade and CFIA certified gamma seal lids.  These are the top of the line lids (three times the cost of the drums!) but they keep the green coffee at its absolute freshest.  Coffee stored this way can last up to 1 year.  

We won’t be storing roasted coffee because all of our coffee will be freshly roasted to order – no stale supermarket coffee here. 

One last word on coffee storage.  There is a lot of back and forth in the coffee community about freezing roasted coffee beans.  Some say do it and some say never do it.   The research we have done and the coffee experts that I trust say to never freeze ground coffee.  Ground coffee, when fresh, loses its peak freshness 48 hours after it is roasted.  Yup – 48 hours later.  Freezing ground coffee will guarantee that it will not be fresh when you want to use it.  

Whole beans can keep fresh for months when properly packaged.  Chin Chin says that if you must, go ahead and freeze whole beans but make sure you have a vacuum sealer to take out all of the air from the freezer bag and only use food grade, certified freezer bags that are air tight.  

Myths and Misunderstandings