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Jersey Shore Coffee Roasters
64 Thompson Ave.
(Corner of Rte 36)
Leonardo, NJ 07737

All About Coffee

Brief History | Coffee Characteristics | Tasting Terminology | Coffee Care

A Brief History of Coffee

The coffee tree & its remarkable berries were first discovered growing wild in the region now known as Ethiopia. Coffee was first prepared not as a beverage but as a food. African tribes would use stone mortars to crush the ripe cherries from wild coffee trees, mix them with animal fat & then fashion this exotic blend into round balls, which they consumed on their war parties.

Around 1000 AD the neighboring Arabs began to boil the dried, crushed seeds to make a hot drink. Due to religious, medical, & commercial considerations, prohibitions & powerful restrictions on the export of trees & Cultivatable seeds impeded the spread of the bean through Arabia & subsequently Europe/the Americas.

During the seventeenth and early centuries the habit of coffee drinking spread westward across Europe and eastward into India and Indonesia. First a Muslim pilgrim carried it to India, and then Europeans brought it to Ceylon and Java. From there coffee spread into Amsterdam and Paris. Finally, coffee became an important new crop in the Caribbean and South America. It was also during this time in Vienna that coffee was introduced to its long time companion…milk.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, tools and machinery were simple and most power derived from renewable resources like water and wind. By the end of the century complex machinery changed people's lives and power was provided by coal and oil. Like everything else, coffee was acutely affected by these changes. Among industrialized nations, the United States led in replacing craft roasting with pre-roasted, pre-ground coffee. Preferences for store-bought bread and pre-roasted coffee were driven by the myth of progress and convenience in industrialized society.

The quality of coffee in the U.S. declined after World War II with the widespread introduction of Robusta coffee. This species was developed to improve yields, and grow in marginal conditions. Cheap Robusta coffees were adopted by the giant commercial roaster for mass-market canned and instant blends.

Coffee is the largest traded commodity throughout the world; yes, even greater than oil. Frost, un-seasonal rains, political upheaval, and even volcanic activity can affect the price and availability of green coffee.

A single coffee tree produces about one pound of coffee. If you also consider that a coffee tree may take at least 3 years from planting to becoming viable, you can understand the huge investment on behalf of the grower. Add in all the other factors, such as weather & politics, and it is understandable why these Arabica beans are more expensive, and thus a consumer pays a higher price at the counter.

Coffee Characteristics

Brazil: mildly acidic, medium bodied, smooth flavored. Bourbon Santos, Minas

Colombia: mild, full-bodied balanced flavor. Supremo

Costa Rica: full-bodied, acidic snap, at it best a great hearty coffee. Tarrazu, Tres Rios

Dominican Republic: moderate acidity, light-bodied. Santo Domingo

Ecuador: uninteresting straight coffee, used mostly in blends.

Ethiopia: perhaps the most varied of all coffees. All Ethiopians have the fruity; winy taste that is indicative of that region. Medium to light body, highly acidic, with a winy sweetness and aftertaste. Harrar, Mocha Sidamo and Yirgacheffe are the best although they vary greatly in body and finish.

Guatemala: light-bodied, heavily aromatic, moderately acidic. Should have a slight spicy or smoky flavor. Good cup of coffee. Antigua, Coban

Haiti: fair body and acidity, rich, sweet aftertaste. Strictly high-grown, washed. Bleu

Hawaii: medium-bodied, highly aromatic, fairly acidic, richly flavored, great floral aroma, unique. Kona

India: full-bodied, medium acid, very delicate cup quality. Mysore Monsooned Malabar is extremely mellow, with a delicate syrupy heaviness.

Indonesia: heavily-bodied, sometimes spicy, light to medium acidity. Sumatra Mandheling, Java, Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea

Jamaica: full-bodied, highly aromatic, sweet light aftertaste, lacking in acidity. Blue Mountain Wallensford Estate, Silver Hill Estate Mountain

Kenya: medium-bodied, winy aftertaste, smooth cup quality. AA

Mexico: full-bodied, highly acidic, often used in blends, undistinctive. Coatepec, Pluma, Oaxaca

Panama: medium-bodied, brisk, delicate acidity, floral notes at lighter roasts. Boquete

Peru: light-bodied, light acid. Chanchamayo

Tanzania: medium to heavily-bodied, darkly sweet, may contain a slight winy aftertaste. Kilimanjaro Peaberry

Venezuela: light-bodied, sweet aftertaste. Merida

Yemen: heavily-bodied, almost creamy body, chocolatey aftertaste. Mokha

Zimbabwe: a lesser version of a good Tanzanian or Kenyan.

Tasting Terminology

Acidity: Sharp snappy taste, not sour. Helps give coffees a lively flavor. Acidity in coffee is analogous to the term dry in wine. Adjectives such as bright, sharp, lively, snap tang, vibrant etc are used to denote acidity.

Aroma: Is a product of both the acidity and flavor of certain coffees. Different coffees have subtle differences in their aroma for example; acidic coffees can have a slight acid smell and deep rich flavored coffees will have a deeper aroma. In some coffees, a light floral aroma may be found i.e. Yemen Mocha, Hawaii Kona and some Colombians. Because of the interaction between the olfactory and taste senses, aroma subtleties can generally only be experienced before a particular coffee is tasted.

Body: Is the "mouth feel" that is experienced on the back of the tongue. It can be described as heavy, richness, thickness etc. This is perhaps the easiest of the coffee terms for the novice to experience as it is fairly easy to distinguish between "heavy" and "light" coffees regardless of brewing method. Additionally, heavy coffees are not smothered or overpowered by milk or cream. Sumatra Mandheling is the heaviest coffee and Mexican coffees are the lightest.

Finish: Finish and Aroma are at the opposite ends of the coffee tasting experience. Finish is the aftertaste that remains on the palate after a coffee has left the mouth. Generally, finish is a product of body; the heavier bodied coffees have a finish that remains longer than the light bodied coffees.

Flavor: Is a term that describes the interaction of all other terms with the possible exception of finish. For this reason flavor is a slightly ambiguous term, it can be used to describe the body as rich or the acidity of a Costa Rican as tangy. The three terms generally used by professional tasters are richness, complexity, and balance.

Richness: Describes the fullness of taste one gets as body in an Indonesian, or as the winy acidity of a good Ethiopian or Yemen.

Complexity: Is the delightful interaction between acidity, body and aroma in good coffees these should combine to create an ever changing panorama of taste.

Balance: Is a term used by professional tasters to denote when no single aspect of a coffee overpowers any other. A coffee may be balanced and still be a poor tasting coffee or vice versa.

Coffee Care

How to store... Store your coffee in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. When possible, buy only one week's supply of beans at a time and grind just prior to brewing.

Grinding... Buy whole beans and grind your coffee just prior to brewing to ensure freshness. Always use the proper grind for your coffee maker. Remember; the quicker the brew time, the finer the grind. The slower the brew time the more coarse your grind will need to be.

Brewing Great Coffee Always start with filtered water (never softened water) since coffee is 98% water. Using tap water could impart a taint or distasteful flavor in your coffee. As a starting point, use two (2) level tablespoons per 6oz. of water. Tastes will vary, so adjust the amount to suit your preference. When you are finished brewing, don't forget to clean your brewer. It will last longer and produce a sweeter tasting coffee if kept clean. And last, but certainly not least, avoid leaving coffee on a burner for any length of time, or the coffee will take on a burnt, charred flavor.