True Life: I’m a Coffee Bean

Ever wonder how coffee beans go from cherries at the top of a tree to mocha perfection swirling in your cup? We're lucky enough to get our mitts on a bean autobiography written by Senor Bean. Sit down (coffee in hand) and read this fascinating tale of a bean from birth to his arrival at Zoka Coffee.

A Coffee Bean is Born....

I was born deep in the coffee belt - a region that lies between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This is also where my millions of siblings come from. I'm from Brazil - the country that produces the most coffee. My brothers and sisters are scattered across the coffee belt from South America all the way to Indonesia. By the way, if a coffee bean tells you he's from Florida, he's lying. The only US state that produces coffee is Hawaii!

High in the Coffee Trees

Ever stare longingly into the backyard, mug in hand, wishing you had a coffee tree? No more waking up to an empty pot and having to put on those sweat pants, venture out into the chilly air on a quest for brew- you could just fill up whenever you please in the privacy of your backyard. Sounds like a coffee drinker's personal utopia, doesn't it? While coffee beans do grow on trees (I wish I could say the same of money), you won't spot them in the typical suburban backyard. They prefer a warm, tropical setting and can't handle the cold. And if you did have a coffee tree, your obnoxious neighbor would be at your doorstep every morning waiting for fresh whole beans. Not ideal. There are two main types of coffee trees: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta has more bitterness and more kick. I'm Arabica, thank you very much. I might not have the caffeine of a Robusta, but coffee fans dig my serious flavor.

A Wee One Waiting for the Harvest

I wasn't born bean-beautiful and didn't always have this rich mocha color. As a wee bean, I was pale green and spent my days housed inside a coffee cherry. Those were good times, sitting inside a cherry, listening to the rain, just waiting for the harvest. Ahhh, childhood. Despite what my birth certificate says, I'm not technically a bean at all. I'm a seed. I have no idea who started referring to us as beans - my guess: early marketers who couldn't sell coffee seeds and went with the more appetizing name "coffee beans."

It's Harvest Time

The harvest is hectic for us beans. It starts in the dry season when coffee cherries turn vibrant, shiny red and firm. Not all coffee cherries are blessed with perfect seedlings like me. And believe it or not, they're not all red. Arabica coffee trees yield 1 to 1.5 pounds of coffee beans per year and Robusta trees yield 2 to 3 pounds - for such big trees, that's not much. When the cherry is ripe, it's either picked from the tree by hand or with a harvesting machine. Once harvested, some of the coffee cherries are dried and stripped down until there's one green bean left - that's me.

Seattle-bound Bean

After I was harvested, I parted ways with my bean buddies and cruised to Zoka Headquarters in Seattle, WA. At first, I had trouble getting used to the gray skies and slick city pavement - I missed my lush, tropical home. But Zoka takes special care of their beans and I knew I was in good hands. In order to bring out a bean's fantastic flavor, the roastmaster will taste test several small batches to decide on a roast profile. Roasting is like baking. Variables like heat, altitude, the machine, and temperature affect the roast's flavor. Zoka roasts several small batches to make sure they get the flavor just right. I didn't mind being roasted so much. It's warm and feels like being in a sauna. All of my new bean best friends had a great time comparing our tans and seeing who could pop the fastest. That's right - after a few minutes of roasting, a bean pops and doubles in size and a few minutes after, it pops once more.I've always wondered what it feels like to be popcorn. The life of a bean doesn't end here. Stay tuned for our next segment: Life of a Bean: Brewing
Story by Amanda Halm