Everything you need to know about coffee

Spanning a spectrum from botany to economics, coffee, the simple berry of the coffee tree, is grown between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. A few key points will provide a sufficient basis for understanding the essentials of coffee growing.

A vast and all-encompassing universe

A few figures about coffee

Generally

  • 100 million individuals worldwide make their living from coffee growing, essentially in tropical countries;
  • Industrialised countries in the developed world consume up to 70% of production;
  • With 15 billion dollars exchanged every year, coffee is the most important agricultural product and the 2nd most important raw material (in terms of value) marketed worldwide, far behind oil but well ahead of wheat, steel, sugar and cocoa;
  • 1.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world;
  • Two thirds of the planet’s inhabitants consume coffee, essentially in Europe, particularly Northern Europe.

IN FRANCE

  • 88% of French people drink coffee for breakfast, 74% after lunch and 15% during the afternoon.
  • Coffee is the second-most consumed drink on a daily basis after water.

Botanical data

  • The lifetime of a coffee plant is around 70 years;
  • A coffee tree produced on average every year 2.5 kg of berries, making 500 g of green coffee and 400 g of freeze-dried coffee;
  • The flower of the coffee plant is very short-lived and only lives for 24 to 36 hours (it looks and smells like jasmine flower);
  • It then takes 7 to 9 months for the fruit of this flower, called the berry, to ripen

An unplanned discovery

 

Historians think that coffee originally came from Ethiopia. Legend tells that it was discovered by a young shepherd called Khaldi. He was intrigued by the behaviour of his goats, who were leaping and racing around after eating the red berries from a particular bush. Roasting also has its own curious story, from Yemen this time. One very rainy day, two farmers had the idea of placing their wet harvest inside a chimney to dry it out. While they were praying, the grains didn't just dry out, they roasted... But the aroma the grains gave off was so delicious that from then on they would toast their grains before making their drink.

From picking to the preparation of green coffee

Coffee picking is the first key step in the delicate process that leads to the finished product. The choice of picking method is highly significant. The most recommended practices are the most pain-staking and most labour-intensive ones. The ideal method (and the one which Malongo uses) is of course the 100% manual harvest, or picking, which involves taking the berries one by one according to their level of maturity. For example, no fewer than seven visits to the plant are necessary in Kenya. A soft, wide-toothed comb is used to pick off the ripe berries while the green ones resist and remain on the branch. As for "stripping", this involves taking the branch in the left hand and pulling everything off with the right, removing the green berries (which will give grains with no aroma or flavour), yellow berries (mediocre quality) and red berries (the only ones that are truly ripe). Finally, certain producers use mechanical methods: vibration machines placed on the trunk shake the plants to make the ripe berries fall off.

The choice of the grain extraction method is also vital. There are actually only two solutions, and here again the best method is the most complicated and costly one. This is the damp method (which Malongo uses all the time): removal of the flesh from the mature berries, fermentation, washing of the grains, and drying to leave café parche; unlike the dry method: the berries are dried in the sun with the coffee still in the shell, before shelling to leave green grains.

Finally, it is important to realise that green coffee is not without faults and must be sorted to eliminate the slightest waste in order to obtain materials that deserve to be roasted.

Looking for, preserving and sharing everything to do with coffee growing

Coffee and health

Contrary to what we are told, caffeine has many effects that are beneficial for health:

  • It combats migraines;
  • It delays the onset of tiredness;
  • It improves recovery after jetlag;
  • It facilitates digestion by activating contractions of the bowel and gall bladder;
  • It combats diabetes and Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases;
  • It acts as an antioxidant;
  • It is a precious ally in combating dehydration in elderly people;
  • It improves individuals' moods by making them more lively and sociable;
  • And it has virtues for the skin (Japanese people bathe in coffee powder).

Labels to distinguish between coffees

Two labels that are recognised worldwide are vital for highlighting coffee that respects certain values:

  • Max Havelaar: guarantees fair trade that provides a decent income for producers in developing countries;
  • AB: representing organic farming, provides a guarantee that the product contains at least 95% of ingredients from organic production methods, i.e. farmed using practices that respect natural balance and the environment.

The memory of coffee

Malongo is an exceptionally rich source if you really want to know everything about coffee. Since it was created, the brand has strived to search for, preserve and share everything to do with coffee growing. Through the numerous actions it carries out in this field, the company has acquired the status of a guardian of coffee's heritage.