Coffee beans are grown in more than 80 countries spread throughout Central and Southern America, including Brazil — which is the largest coffee exporter — and the Caribbean; Africa, including Ethiopia, which produces some of the most flavorful coffee beans in the world; and Asia, including Vietnam, which rose in popularity in the late 1990s.
Once planted, coffee trees take between three and four years to begin bearing fruit, which is usually picked by hand. Some countries that have large, flat coffee tree groves, like Brazil, opt to strip pick their beans, picking all of the cherries at once. Other countries with smaller groves, like Ethiopia, tend to prefer selectively picking, where only the ripe cherries are picked and pickers return every eight or ten days to gather fruit at its ripest.
From there, the seeds must be extracted by using either the dry or the wet method. The first method involves spreading the cherries in the sun to dry, raking them throughout the day, and covering them at night and when it rains. This process takes a while, but yields nicely dried beans. With the wet method, the pulp is removed from the cherry, immediately, and the bean is dried with the parchment skin still on.
Once the beans have been extracted, they are dried, milled, exported and roasted, before coffee businesses grind them to make you a drink and roasters make them available for you to grind at home.
Next time you grab a brew or pick up some beans, think about how far they’ve come to be in your cup — and enjoy!