Coffee beans come from red cherries

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     Recently, I sat down with Connie Blumhardt, founder and publisher of Roast Magazine, based here in Portland, Oregon.

It was a great question-and-answer session, but we couldn’t help but get a little scattered in our discussion, and the topic came up of just how misunderstood the origin of coffee is with many coffee drinkers.  Connie asked if most coffee drinkers even knew that the coffee bean comes from a red cherry.

Read: Profile: Roast Magazine

The first time it came to my attention that I really knew nothing about coffee was when I first stepped into a Starbucks many years ago.  For all of my good-hearted badgering of Starbucks on Facebook and Twitter, they truly did raise more awareness of coffee’s origin and diversity than anybody before them.  I only buy coffee from local roasters, but even they owe some credit to the attention that Starbucks brought to specialty coffee.

     There was a 3D diagram in that Starbucks location that showed the progression of a coffee cherry, first yellow, then green, then red, and within that cherry, two raw green coffee beans that are roasted before they are ground and brewed.  It was too much at once.  I remember half-rejecting it in my head because I had never heard of this red coffee cherry business before.

On my first trip to Hawaii, I toured the Ueshida Coffee farm in the Kona region of the Big Island.  As you can see by this picture, I saw my very first coffee cherries.  This picture captured shades of three levels of cherry ripeness, including the perfect dark red color at which point the cherry is ready to be picked.

Read: Profile: Ueshida Coffee Corp (Hawaii) 

     Within each coffee cherry is a seed made up of two coffee beans as we know them.  In this stage, they have yet to be dried out and roasted before they look like the coffee bean that we all know.  In this picture, I’ve busted the cherry open to reveal the two “beans” inside.

There are some things that I take for granted when it comes to coffee.  My conversation with Connie was a great reminder of that.  When I first learned of the coffee cherry in a Starbucks location, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Years later, I’m used to it, but shouldn’t forget that it’s nice to revisit coffee’s origin for those who don’t take it for granted.


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