Picking up a bag of coffee beans and reading words like "caramel" or "chocolate" leads some to believe that the coffee contains added flavouring to achieve this feat. However, this is often not the case with specialty coffee.
Achieving that nuttiness or chocolate flavour notes in a cup of coffee can be done naturally, through proper cultivation and processing. Factors such as growing location, processing methods, variety, and the way it’s roasted and brewed are all pieces of the coffee flavoured puzzle.
Before we ever even get to the processing or roasting of the coffee beans, a great deal of the flavour maturation originates in the growing of the beans themselves. Characteristics such as coffee variety, the altitude at which it’s grown, and the ripeness of the bean carry a great deal of influence.
Several regions around the world are infamous for the distinct flavour their growing region produces, whether this is the chocolatey aroma and cherry flavour indicative of a Papua New Guinea crop or the nutty aroma and caramel flavour that’s synonymous with Columbian grown beans.
Location isn't everything, though. The altitude of the growing region is just as if not more important, as this impacts the complexity as well as the flavour and quality of the coffee. Growing coffee at higher altitudes generally produces more complex and flavourful coffee than those grown at lower altitudes. Take a look at the origin of our coffee beans.
Coffee is derived from cherries, known as coffee cherries. They grow on trees and contain seeds, which we know as coffee beans. Before we can move onto processing, proper selection of coffee cherries is a crucial step.
Some farmers taste the coffee cherries in an attempt to select the highest quality coffee beans. This is based on the belief that the riper cherries are darker in colour and contain more developed sugars.
The more layers of coffee cherry left on the beans for drying, the sweeter and fruitier the coffee beans will be. The options for processing consist of either dry or wet processing, also known as washed processing.
Drying is natural and involves laying out the coffee cherries in the sun, intermittently turning them over. Once completely dried, they're ready to be depulped. Naturally dried coffee beans have a fuller body and intense flavours like dried stone fruits or berries. Acidity can be inconsistent, yet more intense. There is also less clarity (the ability to distinguish flavours in coffee).
The washing process involves mechanically depulping ripe cherries, which removes most of the fruit flesh. They are then submerged in water and undergo fermentation to remove the remaining flesh. This usually produces citrus or pomme fruit flavours. The body is often smoother and possesses a higher quality acidity.
You've probably familiarized yourself with terms like light, medium, and dark roast coffee. We see them all the time on packages in the grocery store. A common misconception is that dark roast contains more caffeine, but this merely refers to the degree of colour change caused by the roasting process.
An important aspect of the roasting process is the length of the roasting time. Longer roasted beans have more time to undergo change and more time to become flavourful. Beans shouldn’t be roasted too short or too long.
There’s a sweet spot in roasted coffee that prevents the weak, acidic coffee that can result from short roasting times and the loss of unique characteristics that results from beans roasted for too long.
Brewing coffee is when hot water is poured over ground coffee beans, resulting in the extraction of hundreds of unique compounds from the beans. There are many different methods of brewing coffee, varying from pour-over devices and French Presses to Moka Pots or Aeropress.
The difference between these devices is the grind size of the coffee beans, extraction time, water temperature, and the ratio of water to coffee. Highly acidic coffee is produced from short extractions, while longer brews result in bitter, astringent coffee. High-temperature water extracts the grounds faster than cold water. This results in increased body and sweetness.
Here at Breeze Valley, we do cup tasting for every batch of coffee beans, checking for sweetness, after taste, body, and acidity. Various coffees are tasted and evaluated using the coffee taster's flavour wheel and then scored accordingly.
The coffee taster’s flavour wheel is a useful device used to determine flavour notes present in coffee. You start at the centre of the wheel and work your way outward. The centre of the wheel contains more basic descriptors like sweet, nutty, floral.
As you move outwards, the descriptors become more specific. Do you taste cocoa, vanilla, or dried fruit? After determining the present flavours, we score them based on sweetness, after taste, body, acidity, and other factors. Scores are out of 100 and those that receive at least an 80 are referred to as specialty coffee beans.
The Final Verdict on Coffee Flavour
Coffee tastes delightful when properly sourced, grown, and produced. The result is a perfectly balanced batch of coffee, from taste and body to acidity and aroma, and of course the flavour. Drinking coffee is the start of many people’s day so it’s no wonder it’s also become the ultimate task to achieve the perfect cup. Try one of our specialty coffee beans and taste the difference for yourself.