There are two major types of coffee produced in the world. These are Arabica and Robusta.
The more common Robusta coffee beans come from hardier plants and are grown at a lower altitude than Arabica beans. They produce a smaller bean and have higher caffeine content than the Arabica bean. Robustas are used predominately in commercial and instant coffees.
Arabica coffee, on the other hand, is grown at high altitudes (4000-6000 feet above sea level) and will only yield approximately ½ pound to 2 pounds of coffee per bush per year. Arabicas need moderate to abundant rainfall, warm temperatures and fertile soil.
Arabica coffee is graded according to the number of defects (or bad beans), the bean size, and the condition of the beans. Based on this grading system, only 5 – 10% of all Arabica beans are considered “specialty grade”.
Every bean that Alakef Coffee purchases are the specialty grade that comes from this top 5-10% of Arabicas.
The first type of process is called the “washed” process. The coffee is picked at the peak of ripeness, and then the beans are squeezed out of their skin (called the cherry) by a pulper with the aid of water. The beans are then fermented for two to three days in order to remove the mucilage or fruity part. After the washing process is finished, the beans are dried in the sun for about three weeks. They are turned several times each day to ensure that all of the beans dry evenly.
The other process used for specialty coffees is sun drying. The coffees are labeled “naturals” or “sun-dried”. After picking, the fruit (cherries) are placed on concrete slabs or tarps and allowed to dry in the sun. After drying, the coffee is transported to mills to remove the dry hulls.