You probably have heard about “flavor notes” of a coffee and is normal to think that there are flavors added to the beans, but the truth is…NOPE! Coffee beans can have up to 100 flavors and aromas and there are several factors that will influence the flavor of you cup. Flavored coffee, however, has indeed flavors added, those artificial flavors are sprayed or poured over the cooling coffee beans after they come out from the roaster and that gives the coffee the aroma and slight flavor of.. you name it! (peppermint, vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, etc)
Let’s start with very interesting information: Mexico is one of the largest coffee producing countries, and it's the FIRST producer of organic coffee in the world. Mexican coffee beans are grown in some of the most fertile and plentiful soils in the world, giving them a uniqueness and a richness in flavor that is found in no other coffee.
People think that Mexican coffee is way to smooth or flavorless and they blend it with other coffees to enhance its flavor. That is so wrong! We can have the boldest, richest, and most well-rounded cup of pure Mexican Coffee.
There are several things that will influence if the flavor of a coffee, let me quote you some of the most important:
1) Variety: What does it mean 100% Arabica? And what’s Robusta?
It's not as simple as Arabica vs. Robusta but I will summarize it for you:
We'd generally recommend staying away from Robusta since it tends to have double caffeine than arabicas, is more acidic for your stomach and is since it grows in low altitudes it tends to be more resilient to plagues and therefore, it is cheaper and very commercial, that’s why some companies love to sell the strongest coffee in the world with cheap coffee that will definitely keep you awake all night long!.
Within the species Arabica, there are dozens of known varieties, Mexico produces all of them being the main ones: Typica, Caturra, Bourbon (generally sweeter), Maragogipe (largest beans of all coffees). These beans grow higher and tend to have more fruity flavor notes, are smoother, less caffeinated and have higher quality of the beans and flavors.
2) Geographical Location.
We all know that coffees from Mexico generally taste different to coffees from Kenya. We also know that coffees from Guatemala can have similarities to coffees from Mexico. Some aspects influencing the flavors of the coffees are:
- Soil type
- Soil micro-biome
3) Coffee Plantations: What’s “Traditionally Grown? Or Shade Grown Coffee?
Well, In Mexico coffees are grown under a shade of trees simulated a cultivated forest. The cultivation systems that predominate in Mexican caficulture are the diverse polycultures under shade trees. These plantations have a vegetation structure comprising trees that are not very tall, with a large quantity of young fruit, timber and introduced shade trees. This produces rich forests with a great variety of trees, including introduced species that are not from the region.
Why are coffee plantations under shade trees important?
They are important for the conservation of microclimatic conditions and for the development of extremely high-quality coffee.
They generate a diversified production of consumables such as fuel wood, timber, different fruits, insects, edible herbaceous plants and fungi, honey, small mammals for meat, ornamental foliage and flowers, spices, soil for nurseries, medicinal plants, and nuts. These alternative products to the coffee form a part of the local and regional economic systems and can be found in markets and local stalls.
They are optimal for the conservation of biodiversity and preservation of environmental services such as water, soil, cleansing of the air and regulation of temperature. They mainly utilize Arabica varieties, with wet processing, which produces high quality coffee.
Coffees in Mexico are handpicked, which means it is picked at optimal ripeness one at a time! We do not have large equipment to pick the coffee with machines which makes our coffee even more special.
4) Processing: Washed process? Honey process? What’s that?!
The way a coffee is processed plays a huge roll on the flavor and quality. Everything from the use of chemicals to planting patterns & pruning regimen are ultimately going to affect the nature of the crop
- Natural or dry-processed coffees
In this method, the coffee is dried while still in its fruit. This has the benefit of not requiring large amounts of running water and allows more of the natural sugars of the coffee cherry to wind up in the bean that gets roasted. As appealing as it sounds, Natural Processing is not the optimal method to control quality since it is hard to determine size, color, defects, and uniformity of the coffee beans.
- Washed or wet-processed coffees. This is the one to go!!
This more modern style of processing involves briefly fermenting the coffee cherries and then removing the seeds from the fruit or pulp - 'washing'. Washed coffees tend to have higher acidity (not tummy upsetting acidity) and more uniformity. For coffee roasters and producers washed process is better to offer the best quality of the beans. (which is controlled by hand counting how many defected beans do find in one certain amount of coffee)
- Honey processing
Honey -processed coffees are dried with some but not all the outer layer of the coffee cherry and mucilage (sugar) removed. They are “sweeter” and very trendy but again, quality can be very compromised since it hard to determine the condition, shape, size, and defects of each beans.
Did you know that a good roaster can enhance or destroy the natural flavor notes of a coffee? It is hard to imagine that we can manipulate the flavors in a way that you will perceive those chocolate notes, or fruity hints. Coffee Roasting is an art, it takes years to be able to achieve perfect cups without burning and throwing lots and lots of coffee pounds into the trash. We have been doing this for over 30 years and we make sure our team is constantly trained and up to date to the new trends! You must love coffee to enjoy this process, that moment when you hear the first crack, then the second and finally you open the roaster and see those amazing beans coming out!
Finally, even the most talented roaster can take poor quality green and make it taste delicious, but an un-skilled roaster can certainly ruin a great lot.
The roaster has to fine tune variables like roast time, charge temperature, rate of rise, drum speed, air flow & cooling speed, while responding to data like temperature logs, first and second crack timing, and most importantly sensory experience.
After sourcing and selection, the roaster helps to realize the full potential of the coffee by carefully crafting a roast profile that will suit that set of beans. This is not as simple as light or dark - on the contrary, roast color can be misleading.
Last but certainly not least, brewing is the final stage in the process from soil to palate, which can also have an important influence on coffee flavor. One mistake that new coffee lovers make is assuming that the exact same brewing parameters will bring out the best in every coffee. "What's your Aeropress recipe?" is certainly a common question among new aficionados.
Some years ago, “barista” was not a profession yet, I worked in Germany and we learned from very high skilled Italian baristas who used to tell us that the brewing variables need to match the coffee your brewing as well as the brew method. There’s not “standard” recipe that will fit all brewing methods.
There are several factors that will influence the flavor, aroma, and body such:
- water-coffee ratio,
- humidity of the beans,
- roasting level,
- whether the beans are high grown (usually harder) or low grown (usually softer)
- The coffee machines.
Nevertheless, the best coffee for you will be the one that you enjoy the most! You do not have to be a master or a professional, just feel that happiness on that first morning cup of coffee and prepare it with love!