Do you know where your coffee comes from?

No matter where you go visit in the world today, you will find a coffee shop or cafe.  The big commercial shops now popular in the States, the unique coffee houses of the Middle East, and the traditional quaint cafes of Europe and Latin America.  Coffee has become the drink of choice for most people around the world.  But I wonder how many people actually know the hard work and long journey behind those tasting little beans.


Like most things in nature, the coffee plant is very unique in where is grows.  As a tropical plant, it only grows in areas around the Earth’s equator between the tropical zones. After about 3-4 years, the now mature coffee tree gives clusters of beautiful, fragrant white flowers that become the coffee berry almost a year later. Inside the little red or sometimes yellow coffee cherry is the 2 bean seed that we use to make coffee. Each little tree will provide the farmer with only about a pound of beans, crazy right.  The two most commonly grown varieties are Arabica and Robusta, and the one you want to drink as a specialty coffee fan is always Arabica.  You know all those labels and descriptions that talk about the altitude the coffee was grown in, well that is because Arabica only grows up high and that is what gives those little beans such unique flavors and sweetness. Robusta beans are usually used for the large commercial store brands and other coffee uses.  Enough about the plant, that was my gardener side coming out.


So as you may have already guessed, coffee is actually grown in a ton of places, but most are lower income countries.  Each country and each region within a country gives us very unique flavors.  Most growers are small coffee farmers who together with their families and farming neighbors harvest the cherries over three times as they ripen.  The important thing to learn here is that coffee farming is a slow process that requires tons of hard work but in the end does not pay the farmers much. More on that in the next post.  


Once the cherry is ripe, most coffee crops are picked by hand. That is because that awesome tasting coffee we love grows in the hills and mountains and tractors don’t work well up there.  The hard working laborers/farmers who pick the coffee are in really good shape, they pick up to 100-200 pounds of those cherries a day.  They are then paid for the total weight of coffee they picked.  And you would never know that in most countries the laborers are women. Impressed yet!


So now you have a bunch of coffee fruit that needs to be processed in one of three methods to get the beans out.  The Dry (Unwashed or Natural Process) method is the traditional way and simply involves drying the cherries in the sun, while turning them during the day for several weeks.   If you like a smooth and heavy-bodied cup of coffee, then look for coffees with this process.  In areas where water is more available, they use the Wet (Fully washed) method that pulps the fruit off the beans and is then fermented in water to remove the remaining pulp.   This type of coffee is for those of you who prefer a less acidic balanced coffee with more of the fruity notes. The newer less common Honey method (Semi-washed/wet or Pulped natural) is basically a mix of the two previous methods, partial wash and then left out to dry.  But the Semi-washed varies from region to region, sometimes it’s fermented a little, sometimes it’s washed a little more. Now the result is more of an earthy, heavy bodied, coffee with mild acidic Each method really just depends of what is available to the farmer and yes each method creates a unique flavor profile in the beans.  


At this point, we have green fresh coffee beans that are usually sorted by hand and get to export.  The final product is exported through different means either directly by the farmer, through farming cooperatives, and in most cases by large coffee export-importers.   Then they arrive at the coffee roaster who roasts the beans in large or small batches. Each batch of processed green coffee must be carefully roasted to bring out its unique flavor characteristics.  The fresher the roasted coffee, the best flavor the coffee will give you.  


Now you know everything about where your cup of coffee comes from!  Well almost everything.  So go and explore all those different speciality coffee beans, you will be surprised at the uniqueness grown  and processed in each country and region.


It Was A Sad Day

Me: Dude…we should have bought more coffee


Dave: Where is that?

Me: Bean Crazy

Dave: Are they done?

Me: Place is empty

Dave: Well that really sucks

This was the actual exchange that my co-worker and I had Friday via text. It was Friday the 13th after all, things like this happen. I went to get a coffee in the morning and stopped by the coffee shop I wrote about in our first blog post. There were no chairs outside and the “open” sign wasn’t on. I figured that the barista was late (it’s happened before). So I parked my car and walked to the door. When I saw the signs on the door (see above), I felt sick to my stomach.

One can only guess what happened. I looked at their Facebook page and there wasn’t any additional information there. I guess having a big, commercial coffee house right around the corner didn’t help. There is also a bagel shop that serves coffee so that didn’t help either.

The strip mall (or promenade, as the patrons of that strip mall might call it) where the big coffee house and bagel shop were located was much newer and in a better location. They had a fountain and outdoor seating area. If you got tired of coffee and bagels you could get a juice at the juice bar. But all this fluff doesn’t make the coffee taste better. The people that hang out there go there for the atmosphere. They want to be in the “cool place”. Unfortunately the people here wouldn’t know good coffee if Alfred Peet served it to them.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all had coffee from the big guys. What I don’t get is why people don’t look for better coffee after they’ve had the commercial stuff? Granted, the small coffee shop doesn’t have the fancy cups and sugar laden caramel drinks. All they had was good coffee!
This post might sound like I’m bitter. If so, I guess I’ve written it right. I guess my whole point is, if someone offered you the choice of getting a Cadillac you could drive around a busy street or a Rolls Royce you could only drive up and down your street (for the same price as the Cadillac) why would you pick the Cadillac??? So make it a point to shop “small business” that take really take pride in their work because not everyone gets to drive around in a Rolls!

Can We Manage Life and Starting A New Business

There are 24 hours in a day and we might need to use every single one of them. If life wasn’t busy enough for us, we’ve decided to add more responsibilities to it. Starting a new business can consume you. You are the ultimate decision maker. Success and failure are yours alone. If you’re not careful, it won’t leave time for anything else. Our situation isn’t unique. Many people have started a business with more responsibility than we have. Full time job, children, marriage all require lots of time to succeed. The trick is making time for all of them.


It was important from the get go that my wife and I agreed that if this was going to succeed we would have to put the business first. Most people would say that family should be first and they would be correct, kind of. Our underlying reason for starting the business is family security and happiness. All the hard work and time we spend on the business is by default for our family. So for us, our business success will be to benefit our family’s future.


Our main issues with this are changing our paradigms on security and time. We like that we have “9-5’s” that pay us on a regular schedule and we also like that we can schedule our lives around our “9-5’s”. This is not the mindset you need to start a business. When you start a business, the lines between personal life and business life are blurred if not erased. You have to become your business and to some level let it engulf your life. You are the business, and it depends on you.


Since we have 3 small children, we have to limit this time so we can be together as a family. And because we are currently employed, we have to make time for that too. What this means is that with the time left, we have to make it count. We have to use our time that is left over very wisely. We have to burn the candle on both ends.


This might be difficult in the beginning. Making sure you make time for everything and using your time wisely is tedious. Delayed gratification is boring. But giving up something now to get something better later is the way successful people operate. Good things are a result of hard work. I’m sure it’s going to be tough in the beginning. I’m positive we’ll want to give up at some point. Knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and keeping our eye on the prize it what’s going to keep us going. We’re not sure what’s going to happen but what we do know is that we’re not going down without a fight.