This guest post is written by Andrew Russo, owner of Craft Coffee Institute. Craft Coffee Institute conducts a unique and innovative program that gives students the opportunity for peer learning, hands-on experimentation, and live lectures from the comfort of their own homes. They are committed to helping all levels of coffee professionals and enthusiasts expand their knowledge of the coffee as a plant, a roast, and a beverage.
Coffee has moved in waves. It’s an industry description that describes the progression of coffee from canned and pre-ground products of the 19th and 20th centuries into the artisan beverage persona it now carries. The term “Third Wave” is defined by the growth of Specialty Coffee. Coffee is no longer just 100% Arabica grown in Brazil; it is an estate, from a region, from a country, roasted to bring out nuances in most cases. Some roasters even source and roast coffee using the type of plant as a guide; much like wine can be defined by the grape.
The beverage we love comes from a plant in the genus Coffea. The highest quality coffee comes from the Arabica plant, which has seen changes from both mutations and crosses between species. Human tinkering that results in a new coffee plant is referred to as a cultivar. Varietals are natural offspring. Arabica itself is a finicky plant requiring great care and dedication to produce a high quality seed that consumers will eventually enjoy.
It grows best between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in a region known as the Torrid Zone. The ideal growing conditions are where frost is not present, where high altitudes can contribute to a slow and dense development, where the soil provides essential and abundant nutrients, and where rainfall and sunlight are available in the right mixture. Even when these conditions are met, it may take up to five years for a coffee plant to reach maturity.