I'm Now Officially a Certified Barista!

WARNING: This is a no-photo article... I am currently writing this right after I downed a cup of cappuccino with a scoop of vanilla malt, which I normally don't drink, so please bare with some of my incoherent thoughts.

After about 6 hours of one-on-one training, I can now officially operate an espresso machine sans the coffee art. I am a frustrated artist at heart so I am giving myself one more year to practice the art of drawing with steamed milk in my right hand and with a cup of espresso on the other.

Coffee Training 101
This was a sit-down 1.5 hr powerpoint session that reminded me about business school days. Apologies to my professor. I tried very hard not to yawn too much at 10 in the morning, but I really like learning new stuff, especially since I can now speak intelligently to coffee connoisseurs  :)

Coffee seed species: Arabica vs. Robusta
Arabica beans represent 75% of the world's coffee production and has less caffeine content, 1-1.7%, compared to the darker, harder Robusta plants at 2-4.5%. Growing conditions depends on temperature, rainfall, elevation and shade.

Brazil is the world's largest coffee producing country with 45 million bags/year, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia. Of course, the Americans consume most coffee at 16.2% world consumption followed by the Brazilians at 13.9%, Germans and then the Japanese.

It was my first time seeing the coffee belt map, which looks similar to the earthquake belt. The map mostly includes countries with tropical weather in Latin America, particularly Brazil and Columbia, Asia, such as Indonesia, and parts of Africa, such as Ethopia.

Tidbit #1 (for the coffee nerds out there): this year, the world production of coffee is estimated to be at 125.2 (million 60-kg bags) but estimated world consumption is at 131.8. In 2009, production was at 130.0 and consumption at 125.7. Analyzing the demand-supply economic curve, coffee prices surely will go up (Disclaimer: Author's own drawing using estimates only. Don't use without author's consent.)
Cherry Anatomy
I never knew that the coffee plant is also called a 'cherry' and looks like one too. An unripe cherry is colored light green then becomes red as it ripens. Depulping, which is done within 24 hours of picking, the outer layer of flesh or the coffee cherry reveals the coffee bean. Who would have known that the raw seed is actually colored green (not brown!). The coffee seed turns dark brown after the roasting process.

Tidbit #2: Most coffee growing countries have only one harvest per year, excluding Columbia which has two flowerings per year. 

This is the part for me and for all those who are not fond of caffeine. Coffee can be decaffeinated in two ways:
(1) chemical process- beans are soaked in hot water treated with a chemical that bonds to the caffeine (either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate). This is obviously bad for the environment but most mass producers (e.g. think of the ones in your grocery aisle) utilize this process.
(2) water process using swiss water or mountain- sounds very fancy huh? These are patented decaffeination process involving no chemicals.

Tidbit #3: Coffee seeds are shipped and packaged in 3 different ways depending on what's available in the coffee mill: (1) in a jute bag, (2) vacuum pack or (3) grain pro- a jute bag with a layer of plastic inside to avoid the papery flavor.

Worldwide Buying Practices
I always wondered what fairtrade meant and why consumers are lured to buy packets of coffee with the fairtrade mark. I don't buy coffee, so I admit I am an uneducated coffee buyer (shame on me!).

(1) The common model- there is a total disconnect between buyer and producer, making it impossible to guarantee quality and that the farmers are getting paid a certain amount.
(2) Fairtrade- only co-ops can participate in fairtrade but quality is not guaranteed and no direct communication and education with producers.
(3) Direct trade- there is direct trade price negotiations and interactions with producers/coffee farmers. Thus, quality is guaranteed and there is transparency in the payment chain ensuring higher payout for the farmers.
(4) COE- Cup of Excellence. Read more here

Tidbit #4: Cupping is the international term used to taste coffee.
For more coffee education, check out sweet marias website.

Now it is time for me to practice my coffee art skills. Photos to be posted soon.

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