24. GREEN AND ROASTED COFFEE CHARACTERISTICS
The trade values, bean characteristics, and cup merits of the leading coffees of commerce, with a "Complete Reference Table of the Principal Kinds of Coffee Grown in the World"—Appearance, aroma, and flavor in cup-testing—How experts test coffee—A typical sample-roasting and cup-testing outfit
More than a hundred different kinds of coffee are bought and sold in the United States. All of them belong to the same botanical genus, and practically all to the same species, the Coffea arabica; but each has distinguishing characteristics which determine its commercial value in the eyes of the importers, roasters, and distributers.
The American trade deals almost exclusively in Coffea arabica, although in the latter years of the World War increasing quantities of robusta and liberica growths were imported, largely because of the scarcity of Brazilian stocks and the improvement in the preparation methods, especially in the case of robustas. Considerable quantities of robusta grades were sold in the United States before 1912, but trading in them fell off when the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange prohibited their delivery on Exchange contracts after March 1, 1912.
All coffees used in the United States are divided into two general groups, Brazils and Milds. Brazils comprise those coffees grown in São Paulo, Minãs Geraes, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Victoria, and other Brazilian states. The Milds include all coffees grown elsewhere. In 1921 Brazils made up about three-fourths of the world's total consumption. They are regarded by American traders as the "price" coffees, while Milds are considered as the "quality" grades.
Brazil coffees are classified into four great groups, which bear the names of the ports through which they are exported; Santos, Rio, Victoria, and Bahia. Santos coffee is grown principally in the state of São Paulo; Rio, in the state of Rio de Janeiro and the state of Minãs Geraes; Victoria, in the state of Espirito Santo; and Bahia in the state of Bahia. All of these groups are further subdivided according to their bean characteristics and the districts in which they are produced.
Santos. Santos coffees, considered as a whole, have the distinction of being the best grown in Brazil. Rios rank next, Victorias coming third in favor, and Bahias fourth. Of the Santos growths the best is that known in the trade as Bourbon, produced by trees grown from Mocha seed (Coffea arabica) brought originally from the French island colony of Bourbon (now Réunion) in the Indian Ocean. The true Bourbon is obtained from the first few crops of Mocha seed. After the third or fourth year of bearing, the fruit gradually changes in form, yielding in the sixth year the flat-shaped beans which are sold under the trade name of Flat Bean Santos. By that time, the coffee has lost most of its Bourbon characteristics. The true Bourbon of the first and second crops is a small bean, and resembles the Mocha, but makes a much handsomer roast with fewer "quakers". The Bourbons grown in the Campinas district often have a red center.
As regards flavor, a good Bourbon Santos is considered the best coffee for its price, and is the most satisfactory low-cost blending coffee to be obtained. It is used with practically any of the high-priced coffees to reduce the cost of the blend. When properly made, this coffee produces a drink that is smooth and palatable, without tang or special character, and is suitable to the average taste. When aged, Bourbon Santos decreases in acidity, and increases somewhat in size of bean.
The Santos coffee described as Flat Bean usually has a smooth surface, varying in size from small to large bean, and in color from a pale yellow to a pale green. The cup has a good and smooth body of neutral character, and the bean can be used straight or in a blend with practically any Mild coffee.
Another Santos growth, known in the trade as Harsh Santos, grows near the boundary between São Paulo and Minãs Geraes. It often has some of the Rio characteristics, and commands a lower price than other Santos coffees.
Some trade authorities are of the opinion that Santos coffees are an exception to the rule that most green coffees improve with age. They argue that careful cup-testing will reveal that a new crop Santos is to be preferred to an old crop.
Rios. Rio coffee is not generally liked in the United States, though in former years it had some following even in the better trade. The demand for all grades of Rios has been decreasing, Santos taking their place in the United States. Rio coffee has a peculiar, rank flavor. It has a heavy, pungent, and harsh taste which traders do not consider of value either in straight coffee or in blends. However, its low price recommends it to some packers, and it is often found in the cheapest brands of package coffees and also in many compounds. In color, the bean runs from light green to dark green; but when it is stored for any length of time—a common practise in the past—the color changes to a golden yellow; and the coffee is then known as golden Rio. The bean also expands with age.
All Rio coffee is described by the name Rio; but the American trade recognizes eight different grades, designated by numerals from one to eight. These grades are determined by standards adopted by the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange, and are classified by the number of imperfections found in the chops exported. No. 1 Rio contains no imperfections, such as black beans, shells, stones, broken beans, pods or immature beans ("quakers"). Such a chop is rarely found. No. 2 has six imperfections. No. 3 has thirteen. No. 4 has twenty-nine, No. 5 has sixty, No. 6 has one hundred and ten, No. 7 has two hundred, and No. 8 has about four hundred, although on the Exchange these last two are graded by standard types.
Victorias. Up to about the year 1917, Victoria coffees were held in even less favor by American traders than were Rios. As a rule the bean was large and punky, of a dark brown or dingy color, and its flavor was described as muddy. Then, the coffee growers began to introduce modern machinery for handling the crops, with the result that the character of the produce has been much improved, and the demand for it has been steadily growing. Many roasters who formerly used Rios straight for their lower grades, have changed to Victorias, not only to improve the appearance of the roast, but to soften the harsh drinking qualities of the low-grade Rios.
Bahias. Until recent years Bahia coffee has been decidedly unpopular in the United States, largely because of its peculiar smoky flavor, due to drying the coffee by means of wood fires, instead of by the usual sun method. This practise has been abandoned; Bahia coffee has shown a marked improvement in quality; and importations into the United States have increased. The Bahia coffee produced in the Chapada district is considered to be the best of the group. The bean is light-colored and of fair size. Other types are Caravella and Nazareth, both of which are below the standards demanded by the majority of the American trade.
Maragogipe. This is a variety of Coffea arabica first observed growing near the town of Maragogipe on All Saints Bay, county of Maragogipe, Bahia, Brazil, where it is called Coffea indigena. The green bean is of huge size, and varies in color from green to dingy brown. It is the largest of all coffee beans, and makes an elephantine roast, free from quakers, but woody and generally disagreeable in the cup. However, Dr. P.J.S. Cramer of the Netherlands government's experimental garden in Bangelan, Java, regards it very highly, referring to it as "the finest coffee known", and as having "a highly developed, splendid flavor." This coffee is now found in practically all the producing countries, and shows the characteristics of the other coffees produced in the same soil.
Among the Mild coffees there is a much greater variation in characteristics than is found among the Brazilian growths. This is due to the differences in climate, altitude, and soil, as well as in the cultural, processing, storage, and transportation methods employed in the widely separated countries in which Milds are produced.
Mild coffees generally have more body, more acidity, and a much finer aroma than Brazils; and from the standpoint of quality they are far more desirable in the cup. As a rule they have also better appearance, or "style", both in the green and in the roast, due to the fact that greater care is exercised in picking and preparing the higher grades. Milds are important for blending purposes, most of them possessing distinctive individual characteristics, which increase their value as blending coffees.
Although it has long been held that green coffee improves with age, and there is little doubt that this is true in so far as roasting merits are concerned; the question has been raised among coffee experts as to whether age improves the drinking qualities of all coffees alike.
Rio coffees should improve with age, as they are naturally strong and earthy. Age might be expected to soften and to mellow them and others having like characteristics. If, however, the coffee is mild in cup quality in the first instance, then it may be asked if age does not weaken it so that in time it must become quite insipid. Several years ago, a New York coffee expert pointed out that this was what happened to Santos coffees. The new crop, he said, was always a more pleasant and enjoyable drink than the old crop, because it was a more pronounced mild coffee in the cup.
Mexicans. Considering those coffees grown nearest the American market first, we come to the coffees of Mexico. All coffees grown in this republic are known as Mexicans. They are further divided according to the states and districts in which they are produced, and as to whether they are prepared according to the wet or the dry method. The types best known in the American market are Coatepec, Huatusco, Orizaba, Cordoba, Oaxaca, and Jalapa. The lesser known are the Uruapan, Michoacan, Colima, Chiapas, Triunfo, Tapachula, Sierra, Tabasco, Tampico, and Coatzacoalcos. Some of these are rarely seen in the markets of the United States.
The coffee most cultivated in Mexico is supposed to have come from Mocha seed. Of this species is the Oaxaca coffee, which is valued because of its sharp acidity and excellent flavor, two qualities that make it desirable for blending. The bean of the Sierra Oaxaca (common unwashed) is not large, nor is the appearance stylish. The Pluma Oaxaca (washed) coffee, however, is a fancy bean and good for blending purposes.
Coatepec coffees are among the finest grown in Mexico, and take rank with the world's best grades. They are quite acidy, but have a desirable flavor; and when blended with coffees like Bourbon Santos, make a satisfactory cup.
The Orizaba, Huatusco, and Jalapa growths resemble Coatepecs, of which they are neighbors in the state of Vera Cruz. They are thin in body but are stylish roasters, and have a good cup qualities. As a class they do not possess the heavy body and acidity of genuine Coatepecs. Some Huatuscos are exceptions. Orizaba is superior to Jalapa. Chiapas and Tapachula coffees are generally more like Guatemalan growths than any others produced in Mexico, which is natural in view of the proximity of the districts to the northern boundary of Guatemala. The Sierra, Tampico, Tabasco, and Coatzacoalcos coffees are uncertain in quality; mostly they are low grade, some of them frequently possessing a groundy, flat, or Rioy flavor.
Cordoba coffees lack the acidity and tang of the Oaxacas, but make a handsome roast. They are considered too neutral to form the basis of a blend, but can be used to balance the tang of other grades.
Central Americans. Central American coffee is the general trade name applied to the growths produced in Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, the countries comprising Central America.
Guatemala. This country sends the largest quantity to the United States, and also produces the best average grades of the Central American districts. Guatemalas are mostly washed and are very stylish. The bean has a waxy, bluish color. It splits open when roasting and shows a white center. Low-grown Guatemalas are thin in the cup, but the coffees grown in the mountainous districts of Cobán and Antigua are quite acidy and heavy in body. Some Cobáns border on bitterness because of the extreme acidity. The Antiguas are medium, flinty beans; while Cobáns are larger. Both grades are spicy and aromatic in the cup, and are particularly good blenders. Properly roasted to a light cinnamon color, and blended with a high-grade combination, Cobáns make one of the most serviceable coffees on the American market.
Guatemalas are generally classified as noted in the Complete Reference Table.
Honduras. While the upland coffee of Honduras is of good quality, the general run of the country's production seldom brings as high a price as Santos of equal grade. Nearly all Honduras coffee consists of small, round berries, bluish green in color. Very little of this growth comes to the United States; the bulk of the exports going to Europe, where it commands a high price, especially in France.
Salvador. Salvador coffee is inferior to Guatemala's product, grade for grade. Only a small proportion is washed; and the bulk of the crops is "naturals"; that is, unwashed. The bean is large and of fair average roast. The washed grades are fancy roasters, with very thin cup. The largest part of the production goes to Europe; some twenty-five percent of the exports are brought into the United States through San Francisco.
Nicaragua. The ordinary run of Nicaragua coffee (the naturals) is looked upon in the United States as being of low quality, though the washed coffees from the Matagalpa district have plenty of acid in the cup and usually are fine roasters. Matagalpa beans are large and blue-tinged. Germany, Great Britain, and France take about all the Honduras coffee exported, only about six percent of the total coming to the United States. These coffees are described more in detail in the Complete Reference Table.
Costa Rica. Good grades of Costa Rican coffee, such as are grown in the Cartago, San José, Alajuela, and Grecia districts at high altitudes, are highly esteemed by blenders. They are characterized by their fine flavor, rich body, and sharp acidity. It is frequently declared that some of these coffees are often acidy enough to sour cream if used straight. Due to careless methods of handling, sour or "hidey" beans are sometimes found in chops of Costa Ricans from the lowlands.
Panama. Panama grows coffee only for domestic use, and consequently it is little known in foreign markets. The bean is of average size and tends toward green in color. In the cup it has a heavy body and a strong flavor. The coffee grown in Boquette Valley is considered to be of fine quality, due no doubt to the care given in cultivation by the American and English planters there.
Colombians. Colombia produces some of the world's finest coffees, of which the best known are Medellins, Manizales, Bogotas, Bucaramangas, Tolimas, and Cucutas. Old-crop Colombians of the higher grades, when mellowed with age, have many of the characteristics of the best East Indian coffees, and in style and cup are difficult to distinguish from the Mandhelings and the Ankolas of Sumatra. Such coffees are scarce on the American market, practically all the shipments coming to the United States being new crop and lacking some of the qualities of the mellowed beans. Compared with Santos coffee, good grade Colombians give one-fourth more liquor to a given strength with better flavor and aroma. They are classed and graded as noted in the Complete Reference Table.
Medellins are a fancy mountain-grown coffee, and are esteemed for their good qualities. The beans vary in size, and the color ranges from light to dark green, making a rather rough roast. In the cup they have a fine, rich, distinctive flavor, and in the American grading are regarded as the best of the Colombian commercial growths.
Manizales rank next to Medellins, and have nearly the same characteristics.
Bogotas of good grade are noted for their acidity, body, and flavor. When the acidity is tempered with age, the coffee can be drunk "straight" which can not be done with many other growths. The Bogota green bean ranges from a blue-green bean to a fancy yellow. It is long, and generally has a sharp turn in one end of the center stripe. It is a smooth roaster, and has a rich mellow flavor.
Bucaramangas, grown in the district of that name, are regarded favorably in the American markets as good commercial coffees for blending purposes; the naturals have heavy body, but lack acidity and decided flavor, and are much used to give "back-bone" to blends. The fancies sometimes push the superior East Indian growths hard for first place.
Tolimas are considered a good grade average coffee, and are characterized by a fair-sized bean, attractive style, and good cup quality.
Cucuta coffees, though grown in Colombia, are generally classified among the Maracaibos of Venezuela, because they are mostly shipped from that port. They are described, accordingly, with the Venezuelan coffees.
Venezuela. The coffees of Venezuela are generally grouped under the heads of Caracas, Puerto Cabello, and Maracaibo, the names of the ports through which they are exported. Each group is further subdivided by the names of the districts in which the principal plantations lie. La Guaira coffee includes that produced in the vicinity of Caracas and Cumana.
Caracas coffee is one of the best known in the American market. The washed Caracas is in steady demand in France and Spain. The bean is bluish in color, somewhat short, and of a uniform size. The liquor has a rather light body. Some light-blue washed Caracas coffees are very desirable, and have a peculiar flavor that is quite pleasant to the educated palate. Caracas chops rarely hold their style for any length of time, as the owners usually are not willing to dry properly and thoroughly before milling. When, however, the price is right, American buyers will use some Caracas chops instead of Bogotas. At equal prices the latter have the preference, as they have more body in the cup. Puerto Cabello and Cumana coffees are valued just below Caracas. They are grown at a lower altitude, and are somewhat inferior in flavor.
Not less than one-third of Puerto Cabello coffees come across the thirty-mile gulf to the westward from the port of Tucacas, in a little steamer called the Barquisimento, which is famous all along the coast as the "cocktail shaker." C.H. Stewart solemnly asserts that "Barky" can do the "shimmy" when lying at anchor in quiet waters.
Merida and Tachira coffees are considered the best of the Maracaibo grades, Tovars and Trujillos being classed as lower in trade value. Though Cucuta coffee is grown in the Colombian district of that name, it is largely shipped through Maracaibo; and hence is classed among the Maracaibo types. It ranks with Meridas and fine grade Boconos, and somewhat resembles the Java bean in form and roast, but is decidedly different in the cup. Washed Cucutas are noted for their large size, roughness, and waxy color. They make a good-appearing roast, splitting open, and showing irregular white centers. New-crop beans are sometimes sharply acid, though they mellow with age and gain in body.
Until recent years, Tachira coffee was always sold as Cucuta; but now there is a tendency to ship it under the name Tachira-Venezuela, while true Cucuta is marked Cucuta-Colombia. Tachiras closely resemble the true Cucutas, grade for grade. Up to about 1905 the coffees grown near Salazar, in Colombia, came to market under the name of Salazar; but since then, they have been included among the Cucuta grades and are sold under that name.
The state of Tachira lies next to the Colombian boundary, and its mountains produce much fine washed coffee. This has size and fair style, as a rule, but does not possess cup qualities to make it much sought. It ages well and, being of good body, the old crops, other things being equal, frequently bring a tidy premium.
The Rubio section of Tachira produces the best of its washed coffees. Here are several of the largest and best-equipped estates in all Venezuela. Washed when fresh, the coffees from these estates are usually sold somewhat under the fancy Caracas; but the trillados of the Tachira rank with the best of the country, owing to their large bean, solid color, and good quality. They roast well, and cup with good body, though not much character. Good Tachira trillados are sold on the same basis as the Cucutas, which they resemble.
The Meridas are raised at higher altitudes than Cucutas, and good grades are sought for their peculiarly delicate flavor—which is neither acidy nor bitter—and heavy body. They rank as the best by far of the Maracaibo type. The bean is high-grown, of medium size, and roundish. It is well knit, and brings the highest price while it still holds its bluish style, as it then retains its delicate aroma and character. The trillados of Merida run unevenly.
Tovars rank between Trujillos and Tachiras. They are fair to good body without acidity; make a duller roast than Cucutas, but contain fewer quakers. They are used for blending with Bourbon Santos. Boconos are light in color and body. They are of two classes; one a round, small to medium, bean; and the other larger and softer. Their flavor is rather neutral, and they are frequently used as fillers in blends. Trujillos lack acidity and make a dull, rough roast, unless aged. They are blended with Bourbon Santos to make a low-priced palatable coffee. Some coffees of merit are produced at Santa Ana, Monte Carmelo, and Bocono in Trujillo.
The coffees from other South American countries, even where there is an appreciable production, are not important factors in international trade. The coffee of Ecuador, shipped through the port of Guayaquil, goes mostly to Chile, a comparatively small quantity being exported to the United States. The bean is small to medium in size, pea-green in color, and not desirable in the cup. The coffee is about equal to low-grade Brazil, and is used principally as a filler. Peru produces an ever-lessening quantity of coffee, the bulk of the exports in pre-war years going to Germany, Chile, and the United Kingdom. It is a low-altitude growth, and is considered poor grade. The bean ranges from medium to bold in size, and from bluish to yellow in color. Bolivia is an unimportant factor in the international coffee trade, most of its exports going to Chile. The chief variety produced is called the Yunga, which is considered to be of superior quality; but only a small quantity is grown. Guiana's coffee trade is insignificant. The three best-known types are the Surinam, Demerara, and Cayenne, named after the ports through which they are shipped.
Coffee either is, or can be, grown practically everywhere in the West Indies; but the chief producing districts are found on the islands of Porto Rico, Haiti (and Santo Domingo), Jamaica, Guadeloupe, and Curaçao. Coffees coming from these islands are generally known by the name of the country of production, and may be further identified by the names of the districts in which they are grown.
Porto Rico. Since the United States took possession of Porto Rico, soil experts have endeavored to raise the quality of the coffee grown there, especially the lower grades, which had peculiarly wild characteristics. Today, the superior grades of Porto Rican coffees rank among the best growths known to the trade. The bean is large, uniform, and stylish; ranging in color from a light gray-blue to a dark green-blue. Some of these are artificially colored for foreign markets. The coffee roasts well, and has a heavy body, similar to the fanciest Mexicans and Colombians. Its cup is not as rich, but it makes a good blend. Porto Rican coffees command a higher price in France than in the United States, which accounts for the larger proportion of exports to Europe, excepting when the French market was cut off during the World War.
Jamaica. Jamaica produces two distinct types of coffee, the highland and the lowland growths. Among the first-named is the celebrated Blue Mountain coffee, which has a well developed pale blue-green bean that makes a good-appearing roast and a pleasantly aromatic cup. It is frequently compared with the fancy Cobáns of Guatemala. The lowland coffee is a poorer grade, and consists largely of a mixture of different growths produced on the plains. It is a fair-sized bean, green to yellow in the "natural", and blue-green when washed. In the cup it has a grassy flavor, but is flat when drunk with cream. It is used chiefly as a filler in blends, and for French roasts.
Haiti and Santo Domingo. The coffees of these two republics have like characteristics, being grown on the same island and in about the same climatic and soil conditions. Careless cultivation and preparation methods are responsible for the generally poor quality of these coffees. When properly grown and cured, they rank well with high-grade washed varieties, and have a rich, fairly acid flavor in the cup. The bean is blue-green, and makes a handsome roast.
Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe coffee is distinguishable by its green, long, and slightly thick bean, covered by a pellicle of whitish silvery color, which separates from the bean in the roast. It has excellent cup qualities.
Martinique. This island formerly produced a coffee closely resembling the Guadeloupe; but no coffee is now grown there, though some Guadeloupe growths are shipped from Martinique, and bear its name.
Other West Indian Islands. Among the other West Indian islands producing small quantities of coffee are Cuba, Trinidad, Dominica, Barbados, and Curaçao. The growths are generally good quality, bearing a close resemblance to one another. In the past, Cuba produced a fine grade; but the industry is now practically extinct.
Arabia. For many generations Mocha coffee has been recognized throughout the world as the best coffee obtainable; and until the pure food law went into effect in the United States, other high-grade coffees were frequently sold by American firms under the name of Mocha. Now, only coffees grown in Arabia are entitled to that valuable trade name. They grow in a small area in the mountainous regions of the southwestern portion of the Arabian peninsula, in the province of Yemen, and are known locally by the names of the districts in which they are produced. Commercially they are graded as follows: Mocha Extra, for all extra qualities; Mocha No. 1, consisting of only perfect berries; No. 1-A, containing some dust, but otherwise free of imperfections; No. 2, showing a few broken beans and quakers; No. 3, having a heavier percentage of brokens and quakers and also some dust.
Mocha beans are very small, hard, roundish, and irregular in form and size. In color, they shade from olive green to pale yellow, the bulk being olive green. The roast is poor and uneven; but the coffee's virtues are shown in the cup. It has a distinctive winy flavor, and is heavy with acidity—two qualities which make a straight Mocha brew especially valuable as an after-dinner coffee, and also esteemed for blending with fancy, mild, washed types, particularly East Indian growths.
As in other countries, the coffees grown on the highlands in Yemen are better than the lowland growths. As a rule, the low altitude bean is larger and more oblong than that grown in the highlands, due to its quicker development in the regions where the rainfall, though not great, is more abundant.
While Mocha coffees are known commercially by grade numbers, the planters and Arabian traders also designate them by the name of the district or province in which each is grown. Among the better grades thus labeled are, the Yaffey, the Anezi, the Mattari, the Sanani, the Sharki, and the Haimi-Harazi. For the poorer grades, these names are used: Remi, Bourai, Shami, Yemeni, and Maidi. Of these varieties, the Mattari, a hard and regular bean, pale yellow in color, commands the highest price, with the Yaffey a close second. Harazi coffee heads the market for quantity coupled with general average of quality.
Indian and Ceylon. Coffees from India and Ceylon are marketed almost exclusively in London, little reaching the American trade. Of the Indian growths, Malabars, grown on the western slope of the Ghaut mountains, are classed commercially as the best. The bean is rather small and blue-green in color. In the cup it has a distinctive strong flavor and deep color. Mysore coffee ranks next in favor on the English market. It is mountain grown, and the bean is large and blue-green in color. Tellicherry is another good grade coffee, closely resembling Malabar. Coorg (Kurg) coffee is an inferior growth. It is lowland type, and in the cup is thin and flat. The bean is large and flat, and tends toward dark green in color. Travancore is another lowland growth, ranking about with Coorg, and has the same general characteristics.
Ceylon, although it once was one of the world's most important producers, has been losing ground as a coffee-producing country since 1890. Ceylon coffees are classified commercially as "native", "plantation", and "mountain". The native is a poor-grade, lowland growth, with large flat bean and low cup quality. The plantation, so named because more carefully cultivated on highland plantations, is a stylish roaster, and gives a rich flavor and strong fragrance in the cup. The mountain, grown at high altitudes, is a small, steel-blue bean, and is considered by British traders as equal to the best varieties grown anywhere. It was formerly shipped to Aden to be mixed with Mocha.
French Indo-china. The coffee of French Indo-China is highly prized in France, where the bulk of the exports goes. The coffee tree grows well in the provinces of Tonkin, Annam, Cambodia, and Cochin-China. Tonkin is the largest producer, and grows the best varieties. In the cup, Tonkin coffee is thought by French traders to compare favorably with Mocha. Of the several varieties of Coffea arabica grown in Indo-China, the Grand Bourbon, Bourbon rond, and the Bourbon Le Roy, are the best known. The first-named is a large bean of good quality; the second is a small, round bean of superior grade; and the third is a still smaller bean of fair cup quality.
PRINCIPAL VARIETIES OF GREEN COFFEE BEANS,
Abyssinia. The coffee grown in Abyssinia is classified commercially into two varieties: Harari, which is grown principally in the district around Harar; and Abyssinian, produced mainly in the provinces of Kaffa, Sidamo, and Guma. Harari coffee is the fruit of cultivated trees; while Abyssinian comes from wild trees. The first-named produces a long and well-shaped berry, and is often referred to as Longberry Harari. The bean is larger than the Mocha, but similar in general appearance. Its color shades from blue-green to yellow. Good grades of Harari have cup characteristics resembling Mocha, and by some are preferred to Mocha, because of their winier cup flavor. The Abyssinian coffee is considered much inferior to Harari; and chops generally contain many imperfections. The bean is dark gray in color. Little Abyssinian coffee comes to the United States.
Many other African countries produce coffee; but little of it ever reaches the North American market. Uganda, in British East Africa, grows a good grade of robusta coffee which is valued on the London market. Liberian coffee, grown on the west coast, used to be mixed with Bourbon Santos to some extent; but it is generally considered low grade, although it makes a handsome, elephantine roast. The product of Guinea is a very small bean, half-way between a peaberry and a flat bean, and has a dingy brown color. It is considered worthless as a drink. A medium-sized, strong-flavored bean that is rich in the cup, is grown in the African Congo district. In Angola a fair quantity of coffee is produced. In the cup it has a strong and pungent flavor, but lacks smoothness and aroma. Zanzibar produces a pleasing coffee in very limited quantities. The bean is medium size, and regular in shape. Mozambique's coffee is greenish in color, of medium size, and mellow. The production is small. Madagascar produces an insignificant quantity for export, although the coffee is considered fair average, with rich flavor, and considerable fragrance. Bourbon coffee, grown on the island of Réunion, commands a high price in the French market, where practically all exports go. It is a small, flinty bean, and gives a rich cup and fragrance.
Some of the coffees from the East Indian islands rank among the best in the world, particularly those from Sumatra. East India coffees are distinguished by their smooth, heavy body in the cup, the fancy grades giving an almost syrupy richness.
Java. Java coffees are generally of a smaller bean than those from Sumatra, and are not considered as high grade. The bulk of the new-crop growths have a grassy flavor which most people find unpleasant when drunk straight. Under the old culture system, coffee was bought by the government, and held in godowns from two to three years, until it had become mellow with age. In late years, this system has been abandoned; and the planters now sell their product as they please, and in most cases without mellowing, excepting as they age during the long sea voyage from Batavia to destination. Before the advent of large fleets of steamers in the East Indian trade, the coffee was brought to America in sailing vessels that required from three to four months for the trip. During the voyage, the coffee went through a sweating process which turned the beans from a light green to a dark brown, and considerably enhanced their cup values. The sweating was due to the coffee being loaded while moist, and then practically sealed in the vessel's hold during all its trip through the tropical seas. As a consequence, the cargo steamed and foamed; and as a rule, part of the coffee became moldy, the damage seldom extending more than an inch or two into the mats. Sweated coffees commanded from three to five cents more than those that came in "pale".
Before the Java coffee trade began to decline in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Coffea arabica was grown abundantly throughout the island. Each residency had numerous estates, and their names were given to the coffees produced. The best coffees came from Preanger, Cheribon, Buitenzorg, and Batavia, ranking in merit in the order named. All Java coffees are known commercially either as private growth, or as blue bean washed, the former being cured by either the washing or the dry hulling method, while the latter are washed. Private growths are usually a pale yellow, the bean being short and round and slightly convex. It makes a handsome even roast, showing a full white stripe. The washed variety is a pale blue-green, the bean closely resembling the private growth in form and roast. These coffees have a distinctive character in the cup that is much different from any other coffee grown. Their liquor is thin.
All the better known coffees of Java, which are designated by the districts in which they are grown, are listed in the Complete Reference Table. Coffee from few of the many districts comes to the North American market. Among those that are sold in the United States are the Kadoe and Semarang, both of which are small, yellowish green; and the Malang, a green, hard bean which makes a better roast than Kadoe and Semarang, but is inferior to them in the cup.
Sumatra. Sumatra has the reputation of producing some of the finest and highest-priced coffees in the world, such as Mandheling, Ankola, Ayer Bangies, Padang Interior, and Palembang. Mandheling coffee is a large, brownish bean which roasts dull, but is generally free from quakers. It is very heavy in body, and has a unique flavor that easily distinguishes it from any other growth. The Ankola bean is shorter and better-appearing than Mandheling, but otherwise bears a close resemblance. Its flavor is only slightly under Mandheling; and, like that coffee, is recommended for blending with the best grades of Mocha. While the Ayer Bangies bean is somewhat larger than the other two just mentioned, it is not so dark brown in color, and is not quite so heavy in body; the flavor is very delicate. These three growths are known in the trade as the "Fancies" and are considered the best of Sumatra's production.
The Sumatra coffee best known to the American trade is the Padang Interior, which is shipped through the port of Padang on Sumatra's west coast. The bean is irregular in form and color, and makes a dull roast. However, the flavor is good, although it lacks the richness of the Fancies. Another celebrated coffee grown on the west coast is the Boekit Gompong, grown on the estate of that name near Padang. It is a high-grade coffee, making a handsome roast, and possessing a delicate flavor. The foregoing coffees are produced on what were formerly termed government estates, and during the heyday of government control were sold by auction and came mostly to the United States.
Among the private estate coffees, Corinchies take first rank for quality, some traders saying that they are the best in international commerce. They closely resemble Ankolas, but range a cent or two lower in price. Next in order of merit is Timor coffee, grown on the island of that name. It is not as attractive in appearance, roast, or cup quality as the Corinchie. A grade below Timors is Boengie coffee, which is seldom seen on the North American market. Kroe coffee is better known and more widely used in the United States. The bean is large, but has an attractive appearance. Kroes are of heavy body, of somewhat groundy flavor when new crop, and are good roasters and blenders. Other East Indian coffees are Teagals, Balis, and Macassars, all of which are second-rate growths as compared with the bulk of Sumatras, grade for grade. The Macassars are produced in the district of that name on island of Celebes. The best coffee grown in Celebes comes from the province of Menado, and is known by that name. It is thought to be of a superior quality, and commands a high price in Europe.
The Philippine Islands have not figured in international coffee trade since 1892, although in preceding years the Philippines exported several million pounds of an average good grade of coffee. While coffee is one of the shade trees used by householders in Guam, none of the fruit is exported. Coffee production is an unimportant industry in Samoa, Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, and other Pacific islands, and none is grown for export.
Hawaii. Since the beginning of the twentieth century the Hawaiian islands have taken a position of increasing importance, shipping some two million pounds of good quality coffee to the United States, their biggest customer. Coffee grows to some extent on all the islands of the group, but fully ninety-five percent is raised in the districts of Kona, Puna, and Hamakua on the main island of Hawaii. All Hawaiian coffee is high grade; and is generally large bean, blue-green in color when new crop, and yellow-brown when aged. It makes a handsome roast, and has a fine flavor that is smooth and not too acid. It blends well with any high-grade mild coffee. Kona coffee, grown in the district of that name, commands the highest price. Old-crop Kona coffee is said by some trade authorities to be equal to either Mocha or Old Government Java.
Before the beginning of the twentieth century, practically all the coffees bought and sold in the United States were judged for merit simply by the appearance of the green or of the roasted bean. Since that time, the importance of testing the drinking qualities has become generally recognized; and today every progressive coffee buyer has his sample-roasting and testing outfit with which to carry out painstaking cup tests. Both buyers and sellers use the cup test, the former to determine the merits of the coffee he is buying, and the latter to ascertain the proper value of the chop under consideration. Frequently a test is made to fix the relative desirability of various growths considered as a whole, using composite samples that are supposed to give representation to an entire crop.
The first step in testing coffee is to compare the appearance of the green bean of a chop with a sample of known standard value for that particular kind of coffee. The next step is to compare the appearance when roasted. Then comes the appearance and aroma test, when it is ground; and finally, the most difficult of all, the trial of the flavor and aroma of the liquid.
Naturally the tester gives much care to proper roasting of the samples to be examined. He recognizes several different kinds of roasts which he terms the light, the medium, the dark, the Italian, and the French roasts, all of which vary in the shadings of color, and each of which gives a different taste in the cup. The careful tester watches the roast closely to see whether the beans acquire a dull or bright finish, and to note also if there are many quakers, or off-color beans. When the proper roasting point is reached, he smells the beans while still hot to determine their aroma. In some growths and grades, he will frequently smell of them as they cool off, because the character changes as the heat leaves them, as in the case of many Maracaibo grades.
After roasting, the actual cup-testing begins. Two methods are employed, the blind cup test, in which there is no clue to the identity of the kind of coffee in the cup; and the open test, in which the tester knows beforehand the particular coffee he is to examine. The former is most generally employed by buyers and sellers; although a large number of experts who do not let their knowledge interfere with their judgment, use the open method.
In both systems the amount of ground coffee placed in the cup is carefully weighed so that the strength will be standard. Generally, the cups are marked on the bottom for identification after the examination. Before pouring on the hot water to make the brew, the aroma of the freshly ground coffee is carefully noted to see if it is up to standard. In pouring the water, care is exercised to keep the temperature constant in the cups, so that the strength in all will be equal. When the water is poured directly on the grounds, a crust or scum is formed. Before this crust breaks, the tester sniffs the aroma given off; this is called the wet-smell, or crust, test, and is considered of great importance.
Of course, the taste of the brew is the most important test. Equal amounts of coffee are sipped from each cup, the tester holding each sip in his mouth only long enough to get the full strength of the flavor. He spits out the coffee into a large brass cuspidor which is designed for the purpose. The expert never swallows the liquor.
Cup-testing calls for keenly developed senses of sight, smell, and taste, and the faculty for remembering delicate shadings in each sense. By sight, the coffee man judges the size, shape, and color of the green and roasted bean, which are important factors in determining commercial values. He can tell also whether the coffee is of the washed or unwashed variety, and whether it contains many imperfections such as quakers, pods, stones, brokens, off-colored beans, and the like. By his sense of smell of the roast and of the brew, he gauges the strength of the aroma, which also enters into the valuation calculation. His palate tells him many things about a coffee brew—if the drink has body and is smooth, rich, acidy, or mellow; if it is winy, neutral, harsh, or Rioy; if it is musty, groundy, woody, or grassy; or if it is rank, hidey (sour), muddy, or bitter. These are trade designations of the different shades of flavor to be found in the various coffees coming to the North American market; and each has an influence on the price at which they will be sold.
The up-to-date cup-tester requires special equipment to get the best results. A typical installation consists of a gas sample-roasting outfit, employing at least a single cylinder holding about six ounces of coffee, and perhaps a battery of a dozen or more; an electric grinding mill; a testing table, with a top that can be revolved by hand; a pair of accurately adjusted balance scales; one or more brass kettles; a gas stove for heating water; sample pans; many china or glass cups; silver spoons; and a brass cuspidor that stands waist high and is shaped like an hour glass.
Since the World War, there have been some notable changes in the buying of coffees, particularly in European markets. For example, the old idea of buying fancy coffees at fancy prices is probably gone for good in Europe.
In the middle of the picture is a standard revolving table (31⁄2 feet in diameter), with scale mounted over the center, and with a "Mitchell Tray" for holding one cup independent of the table-top movement. There are two cuspidors, a double kettle outfit, a 6-cylinder sample roaster and a motor-driven sample grinder; also a set of sample separator sieves in the overhead rack, a bag sampler (lying on the lower shelf of the counter), and some coffee crushers (one on the end of the counter and one on the revolving table)