Coffee – A Thousand Variations!
After water, coffee is the most popular drink in the world. There are literally thousands of variations on the simple cup of coffee. Coffee beans grown in different parts of the world have different flavors, and coffee connoisseurs will only drink the finest regional coffees such as Hawaiian Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain. More common coffee can be flavored with oils during the roasting process to give it unique flavors. Many flavors such as Cinnamon, Hazelnut and vanilla can be found in any grocery store, but other more exotic flavors such as daffy taffy and cookiedoodle can only be found at specialty shops or online. The brewing process can also change the flavor of the coffee, creating even more variations. Interestingly, although there are thousands of types of coffee, all coffee beans are grown on just two different species of coffee plants, Arabica (Coffea Arabica) and Robusta (Coffea Canephora).
Originally from the mountains of Ethiopia, Yemen and Sudan, Arabica (Coffea Arabica) was the first coffee to be cultivated and harvested. It has been grown in its native regions for over a thousand years, and is still grown there today. Arabica coffee plants require high elevations and cool temperatures to produce the best coffee beans, and can only be successfully grown in specific areas of the world. Although it can be difficult to grow, over seventy percent of coffee beans produced in the world are Arabica due to its superior flavor compared to Robusta.
Robusta (Coffea Canephora) is the other type of coffee plant that is used to make coffee. Originally from central and western Africa, it is more robust than Arabica and can be successfully grown in many more areas than Arabica. It is also more resistant to disease and produces harvestable amounts of coffee beans in a much shorter time. Although it is much easier to grow Robusta, the beans have a “burnt” and bitter taste that is not popular with most coffee drinkers. Robusta beans are usually mixed with Arabica or used in coffee products where the subtleties of flavor are not an issue.
Dark Roast vs. Light Roast
The roasting process can significantly change the flavor of coffee. Coffee is classified as dark roast or light roast, with variations in between. The type of roast is determined by the amount of time the green coffee beans are roasted, lighter beans being roasted for a shorter time and darker beans roasted for a longer time. Roasting a coffee bean imparts its own flavor to the coffee and for this reason; coffee beans that are prized for their flavor, such as Jamaican Blue Mountain are usually given a light roast so the nuances and subtle flavors of the coffee itself are not removed. Arabica / Robusta blends and other everyday canned coffees are often given a dark roast to give the final product more of the “roast” flavor and less of the specific “bean” flavor. Cans of generic coffee found at supermarkets are often dark roasts. Most people intuitively think that darker roast coffee has more caffeine because it often tastes stronger, but the roasting process breaks down caffeine, so lighter roasts tend to have more.
Flavored coffees are simply coffees that have had additional flavors added during or after the roasting process. Most commonly, the flavors are in the form of oils that are added after the beans have been roasted, but before they are ground. The oils used can evaporate rapidly once they are exposed to air, flavored coffee is often sold in tightly sealed or vacuum packed containers. Coffee can also be flavored after the brewing process by adding flavored syrup to the brew. Many coffee connoisseurs look down on flavored coffee, but for the average coffee drinker it is a tasty variation of a cup of coffee.