Coffee and cherries? It’s not the typical combination that springs to mind when you think of the hallowed bean, like coffee and cream, coffee and sugar, or even coffee and donuts. But coffee and cherries have a surprising and intrinsic connection. As a matter of fact, without cherries there would be no coffee.
You see, the coffea plant, from which coffee beans are grown, produces small cherry-like fruit, or coffee cherries as they’re known in the trade, and it’s these cherries that contain coffee beans. Actually, they’re coffee seeds, not coffee beans, and the cherries are more like berries, but who’s arguing?
A Humble Beginning
The coffee cherry is initially a yellow fruit that turns cooking apple green as it slowly matures and then fire-engine red when it’s fully ripe and ready to be picked. Removing the green coffee seeds from the cherries isn’t as easy as you would think, owing to all the sticky gunk inside the fruit. First, the cherries have to be pulped and then washed thoroughly in water. Then they’re left to ferment, a process that eliminates the fruit’s gummy inner layer. Next, the seeds are washed, then dried and, finally, hulled.
A Tasty End
Now comes the part where the green coffee seeds are transformed, as if by magic, into the black coffee beans that coffee drinkers everywhere know and love and consume in copious quantities. This involves roasting the seeds. Raw seeds would make the coffee so tart you’d gag if you drank it, so roasting is a vital step and, understandably, good for sales. As the seeds are being roasted, moisture is drawn from them. This dries the seeds, which expand from the heat. Some of the sugars in the seeds turn into gas, while others liquefy, giving the coffee beans their singular flavor. It is during this last stage that the seeds change from green to black.
So there you have it. Coffee beans start out as sticky green seeds encased in cherry-like berries. Coffee, like life, is just chock-full of surprises. Now for a cup of hot fresh-roasted. Say, would you like a cherry with that?