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understanding coffee

The Origins of Coffee

Where does coffee come from? And why do different coffees taste different?

Read our expert guide to where coffee is grown, the types of bean and the all-important roasting process.

The humble coffee bean is capable of truly amazing stuff. Starting off nestled in the centre of the cherries found on the coffee plant, the beans are a hidden treasure cherished by people all over the world. But despite this world-renowned love, people rarely stop to consider what are the origins of the beans I’m drinking and why do different coffees taste so different?

At NESCAFÉ, we’ve put together this guide to tell you all about where coffee comes from, the difference between beans such as Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans and the all-important roasting process.

coffee bean parallax image

Where does coffee come from?

Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries around “the coffee belt”, including locations such as Africa, Latin America and Asia. These areas have just the right combination of altitude, soil and weather, providing the perfect climate for growing the most delicious beans.

  • Africa

    African coffee is thought to be some of the best in the world due to its wonderfully distinctive flavour. Traditionally African coffee boasts the following characteristics:

    • Syrupy
    • Medium acidity
    • Light to medium roast
  • Latin America

    Thought to be one of the coffee capitals of the world, coffee from Latin America makes up most of the blends found on supermarket shelves today. The flavour is universally enjoyed which is mostly attributed to its well-rounded taste. A few of the key characteristics Latin American coffee possesses are:

    • Nutty
    • Low acidity
    • Light or medium roast
  • Asia

    Asia is home to some of the most unique coffee blends with bold, unique flavourings unlike any other. Typically, you can expect Asian coffee to be:

    • Earthy
    • Gentle acidity
    • Dark roast

Get to know your coffee beans

It may surprise you to learn that coffee beans actually come from the fruit (called “cherries”) of the coffee plant. The cherries are edible but taste absolutely nothing like coffee, in fact, they possess a mild and slightly sweet flavouring – a far cry from the rich and flavoursome coffee beans inside.

There are over 120 varieties of coffee plants and each variety has its own distinct flavour. Most of the coffee we drink comes from either Arabica or Robusta coffee beans, or a blend of the two.

Arabica
Arabica

Arabica coffee beans is one of the most popular types and it’s believed to be one of the first coffee species ever grown with roots dating back to 100 years. Known for their vibrant and complex flavours, these beans are loved by coffee connoisseurs b...

Arabica coffee beans is one of the most popular types and it’s believed to be one of the first coffee species ever grown with roots dating back to 100 years. Known for their vibrant and complex flavours, these beans are loved by coffee connoisseurs because of their smooth and less acidic taste.

There are two types of Arabica coffee bean, Typica and Bourbon. Typica is also sometimes known as Sumatra and Arabigo and it is this type which is thought to be the first bean ever discovered. Bourbon on the other hand is considered to be a natural mutation of Typica and offers a more balanced and slightly sweeter favour, making it a popular choice amongst coffee lovers.

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Robusta coffee beans
Robusta coffee beans

Commonly grown in Africa and Indonesia, Robusta coffee beans have a higher caffeine content and as such, offer a much deeper and stronger taste than the Arabica variety. It’s a popular choice for espressos due to the rich flavour and layer of crema i...

Commonly grown in Africa and Indonesia, Robusta coffee beans have a higher caffeine content and as such, offer a much deeper and stronger taste than the Arabica variety. It’s a popular choice for espressos due to the rich flavour and layer of crema it gives and is also widely used in instant coffee.

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Why is coffee roasted?

  • Light Roasts

    A light roast has a mild and toasted grain taste with a light body, pronounced acidity and no oil on the surface of the beans. The lightest roast is called Light Cinnamon.

  • Medium Roasts

    A medium roast will have more body and less acidity than a light roast, but also has no oil on the bean surfaces. It’s commonly known as American Roast.

  • Dark Roasts

    A dark roast is the most intense and bitter and is far less acidic than other roast types. They can have a smoky or chocolatey sweet taste too

 

Roasting is the process of heating coffee beans to bring out the rich and aromatic flavour that we know and love. Fresh off the plant, coffee beans are actually green in colour and possess a grassy smell, then when they’re roasted, chemical changes occur as a result of the beans being brought to a high temperature very quickly. This change also causes them to turn into a deep brown colour with a wonderfully earthy smell. Once they’re roasted, they’re ready to be ground and brewed into your favourite blends.

 

The final magic is in the brew

The final magic is in the brew

Once the beans have been grown, picked and roasted. What happens next is just as important if you want to find your perfect cup. Want to find out more about the rich and complex flavours of coffee? Read our guide to coffee tasting.

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