In the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, coffee farmers produce high quality Arabica “altura” coffee beans. Arabica, as opposed to Robusta, is a high-altitude growing plant. It is indigenous to the elevated mountains of Ethiopia. From this native region in eastern Africa, the coffee, by way of Arab nomads, then made its way over centuries to North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and on to other countries in the Middle East. Later, with trade routes widely used by oversea shipping channels, the coffee made its way to Italy, hence the Latin name Coffea Arabica. From Italy coffee passed into the rest of Europe as well as east to the Asian Pacific.
Within this dispersion, the coffee bushes began to take on their own unique characteristics. Different soil and minerals, changing climates and new farming methods allowed the creation of new varietals. These Arabica varietals eventually made their way to the ports of Central and South America. Some of these plants ended up in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chiapas, Mexico where today the cooperatives that we work with grow several different varietals of Coffea Arabica, including Typica and Bourbon.
Arabica contains less caffeine (0.8- 1.4%) than its distant cousin Robusta (1.7- 4.0%). However with the trade in caffeine comes a highly concentrated, less bitter flavor than its counterpart. The plants need to reach the age of 3 or 4 years old before they start producing coffee cherries, and can grow seven to twelve meters tall (about as tall as a two story building). The Arabica plants grow best at a high altitude of about 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level or around 3200 to 6500 ft; with the preferable elevation around 1,300 to 1,500 meters above sea level. The plants can handle low temperatures but not frost and thrive best at around 15-24° Celsius, with an ideal temperature hovering around 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit).
The Arabica plant prefers to grow in light shade and send its roots deep into the ground. These needs for the plant go hand in hand with the farming practices of the farmers: not destroying the natural canopy of the forest, mulching in compost and a strict use of no pesticides. These practices provide for a healthier environment where nature and man can live harmoniously together instead of the dominant coffee farms and plantations that commonly strip the landscape of any such balance.
After the rains, a sweet jasmine scent is released by the plant's many blooms, which eventually form small green cherries. These cherries take around nine months to fully develop from green to yellow and orange, and finally settling on a bright red to purple tone. These cherries, once ripe, can be tickled off the plant, thereby only allowing the ripest cherries to be picked. Eventually the plants produce 0.5- 5 kg. of dried beans each. This process is a labor-love intensive that can’t be replicated by a machine.
Keeping Coffee Fresh
Coffee contains oils that, like any others, may become rancid if stored improperly. For the freshest cup, we suggest freezing any coffee you plan to keep for a month or longer. The key to freezing is to only pull out what you are going to brew at that time (or a day or two's worth). You want to avoid taking beans in and out of the freezer since condensation will kill flavor. Aroma and taste are pretty much the same molecule, so what you smell, you are not going to taste later on. No matter what temperature you choose to store your beans, make sure to transfer them into an airtight container because coffee loses its freshness through contact with oxygen. For optimum flavor, it’s best to consume your fresh-roasted coffee within two months of the roasting date.
Better Beans Makes Better Coffee
Most coffee drinkers are not aware that Europeans buy a higher grade of coffee than Americans do. European grade coffee beans cost more and have half the defects (2% vs. 4%) of American grade beans. A defective bean is off-color, sour, broken or the wrong size. Bad beans burn faster than the rest of the batch, producing a bitter taste. Coffee connoisseurs agree that European grade coffee has a richer, smoother taste, with no bitter bite. There are two main varieties of coffee trees, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are more flavorful and contain less caffeine than Robusta. The best-flavored Arabica beans come from the highest altitudes (3,000 feet up to the frost zone). Royal Blue Organics imports only European grade, certified organic, high altitude ("altura"), Arabica beans grown by indigenous farmers, producing the best cup of coffee around.
Swiss Water Process Decaf
People drink decaffeinated coffee for a variety of reasons. However, it’s important to know that decaffeination methods vary. Most methods use chemical solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to strip caffeine molecules from the green coffee bean. And some leave behind more caffeine than you would think. The SWISS WATER® Process uses water from the pristine environment of the coast mountains of British Columbia, Canada to gently remove the caffeine until the coffee beans are 99.9% caffeine-free, while maintaining the bean’s distinctive origin and flavor characteristics. It’s decaffeinated coffee without compromise. For more information check out SWP's website at www.swisswater.com.